The Kerala Story: Dozens Held in Maharashtra After Islamic State Film Row


Over 100 people have been arrested in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after one person died and eight others were injured in communal clashes.

Reports say the violence, which took place in Akola city, was triggered by a social media post on a controversial film, The Kerala Story.

Authorities cut internet services and imposed a curfew to bring the situation under control.

A female constable was among those who were injured in the clashes.

Police said that violence first began on Saturday when members of a community gathered outside a police station in Akola to protest against a social media post about the film.

Reports say it was a screenshot of a conversation between two residents which was shared on Instagram by one of them. A police official told The Indian Express newspaper that some messages in the chat “hurt the religious sentiments” of the other person, but did not give any details.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s office appealed for peace and instructed the state police to take strict action against those who participated in the violence.

The Kerala Story, which released in theatres on last week, had sparked controversy months before its release. The film depicts a fictional story of three Indian women from the southern state who join the Islamic State group.

Opposition politicians have criticised the film, calling it propaganda. But the makers say the film is based on years of research and true events.

The film has also found support from leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including at least two federal ministers, and was praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally this month.

The government of West Bengal state has banned the film, while two states – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, both governed by the BJP – have made the film tax-free.

On Sunday, clashes over the film also broke out in a medical college in Jammu district in Indian-administered Kashmir. At least two students were injured in the violence, which was reportedly triggered by a post on the film shared on a student WhatsApp group.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti blamed the federal government for the unrest and accused it of encouraging violence “through movies stoking communal fires”.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation