The Uttar Pradesh government will make the film The Kerala Story tax-free, Chief Minister Adityanath announced on Tuesday.
The chief minister and his Cabinet colleagues will watch the film at a special screening, ANI reported.
The movie, directed by Sudipto Sen, was released on May 5. It claims to depict how women from Kerala were converted to Islam and recruited by Islamic State terrorist groups. The filmmakers had initially claimed that 32,000 women from Kerala had joined the Islamic State, but when asked for evidence, they altered the trailer to state the movie was a “compilation of the true stories of three young girls”.
The announcement by Adityanath came three days after Madhya Pradesh became the first state to announce a tax break for the film. While announcing the move, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said: “We have already made a law against religious conversion in Madhya Pradesh. Since this film creates awareness, everyone should watch this film. Parents, children and daughters should watch it.”
When a film is made tax-free, entertainment tax is not levied on it, which makes ticket prices cheaper. Usually, films that are exempt from taxes deal with historical themes or social causes that the government wants to push.
On May 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the movie exposed terror conspiracies in Kerala and accused the Congress of having a covert political understanding with people holding “terrorist mindsets”. He made the statement at a rally in poll-bound Karnataka.
On the other hand, several Opposition leaders have alleged that the film promotes communal hatred and presents a distorted picture of Kerala.
On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the state government will ban the screening of the film. The Trinamool Congress chief said that this was being done to avoid any incident of hatred and violence and to maintain peace in the state.
Banerjee claimed that the film was made to defame the state of Kerala.
“Why did they make The Kashmir Files? To humiliate one section,” Banerjee said on Monday. “What is this Kerala Story? If they can prepare Kashmir files to condemn the Kashmiri people...now they are defaming Kerala state also. Every day they are defaming through their narrative.”
The West Bengal chief minister’s comments were in reference to the film, The Kashmir Files, which deals with the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir in the 1990s. The movie, released on March 11 last year, was also endorsed by Modi and many other senior BJP leaders. Critics, however, had dismissed the film as “propaganda” and a “vulgar movie”.
The Kerala Story has also received a backlash in Tamil Nadu, where the state multiplex association has stopped its screening citing potential law and order problems. The film was pulled out a day after the Naam Tamilar Katchi party held protests in Chennai, Coimbatore, Vellore and Puducherry against its screening.