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Coexistence, not hatred, is the real Kerala Story

Hate propaganda like the 'Kerala Story' is not new; in recent times, ahead of every election, some people have been spreading such fake propaganda with the support of some political parties. The opening of a Christian church compound in the Malabar region, which has a century-old history, as a venue for Eid prayers on this year's Eid day was a major news item in the Malayalam media. The CSI Nicholas Church compound in Manjeri, Malappuram district, was opened to Muslim devotees in the area. They used to hold Eid prayers at a school ground in the town. But this time, with the election approaching, they couldn't secure the place. It was then that they spoke to the church authorities, and with the special interest of the Metropolitan Bishop, permission was granted for Eid prayers. Another similar model of love is seen in Kannur. Another Eidgah of religious harmony took place in the Chaala Amalolbhuva Mata Church compound. In fact, nothing is surprising in any of this. For centuries, this is how things have been in Kerala; places of worship are opened to other believers on many occasions, and friendly visits and dialogue of mutual love and respect are organized. These are all common occurrences in Kerala. Keralites are heir to such 'Kerala model’. Even then, if one asks why then all this is celebrated as a big event, the answer is simple: when 'The Kerala Story' of hatred and alienation is written to break the above-mentioned 'Kerala model' and it is propagated with the connivance of the government, it is through the celebrations of such stories of love that Kerala poses a creative political resistance to it.

Also Read:Eid message in Kerala: Spreading compassion against hate of ‘Kerala Story’

About a year ago, the movie "The Kerala Story," written and directed by Sudip Sen, was released with the tagline "The heartbreaking story of 32,000 women in Kerala." For several years, Sangh Parivar organizations across the country have been propagating the baseless allegation that non-Muslim girls were being subjected to forced conversions and to widespread ISIS recruitment in Kerala. "The Kerala Story" is a visual representation of this fabricated claim. Naturally, this propaganda film sparked controversy. Falling well below average even by the standards of film standards and aesthetics, the film failed miserably at the box office and subsequently on OTT platforms. Yet, the government embraced this false narrative. Leaders like Modi himself deliberately and repeatedly referred to the film in their election speeches. And then came the government's decision to screen the Malayalam version of the film on Doordarshan. With the decision of some, including the Idukki diocese, to screen the film in churches, the reprehensible politics of hate-mongering has taken on a new form. It is clear who this move is intended to benefit as we approach a crucial general election. This can only be described as an unfortunate spectacle of a group of priests degrading themselves into mouthpieces of Hindutva fascism, with their propagation of lies and misinformation.

Secular Kerala must resist this narrative. Hence, all major political parties and social organizations, excluding the Sangh Parivar, have unanimously protested against this toxic politics. Furthermore, it is heartening that some priests from the same churches have joined this protest. They have also creatively countered the issue by screening documentaries depicting the Manipur massacre and exposing Sangh Parivar's terrorism. In recent times, during every election season, some individuals with the support of political parties have been engaging in fake propaganda. During the 2021 state assembly elections, some leaders of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) raised the 'love jihad' controversy. With the belief that Muslims can be alienated and some more votes could be garnered, LDF candidate Jose K. Mani also made a statement that love jihad is real. It was around the same time that some priests and their supporting newspapers came forward with the false allegation that madrasa teachers were receiving unauthorized funds from the government. The state government and the minister remained silent despite the fact that this was an allegation against the state's minority affairs department. In other words, a recent trend has emerged in the state of Kerala of forsaking the secular glory of this land for mere political gains. The Sangh Parivar is capitalising on this situation effectively. They often portray Kerala as a paradise for Muslim extremists. To counter this regressive politics, it is imperative to uphold and reiterate Kerala's legacy of religious harmony by showcasing the true picture of Kerala, such as the Eidgah on the Christian church premises. This will serve as a reminder by itself and a warning to hate-mongers.

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TAGS:EditorialThe Kerala StoryKerala ModelEid prayer in church compound
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