It is undeniable that much of the global news media today thrives on negativity. But the Western media’s negative outlook on events in India – especially regarding Hindu society – borders on the obsession and descends to the level of propaganda. Their reporting on the controversial feature film, The Kerala Story raises a pertinent question: are they professional journalists or just paid spokespersons of the Islamic State (ISIS)? In their coverage and reviews of the megahit movie, all objectivity has been thrown into the trash bin to portray Hindus as intolerant while whitewashing the role of ISIS terrorists and their followers.
The Kerala Story primarily focuses on the stories of three Kerala women – Nimisha Sampath, Sonia Sebastian, and Merin Jacob Pallath, who converted to Islam and traveled with their husbands to Afghanistan to join ISIS between 2016 and 2018. The movie has had a phenomenal run so far, making it one of this year’s biggest blockbusters. The film has resonated well with audiences in India and abroad (including Western audiences) because it has a powerful narrative based on a real and widely known phenomenon – radical Islamists’ entrapment of non-Muslim women. Also known as Love Jehad, it has shattered the lives of thousands of families globally.
Predictably, the left ecosystem in India has panned the movie, with some, like NDTV, giving it a ridiculous 0.5 rating and calling it “consistently cringeworthy.”To debunk the movie’s central premise (entrapment of innocent girls into ISIS), they quickly latched on to its teaser, which claimed the film was about the “heart-breaking and gut-wrenching stories of 32,000 females” from Kerala.
Writes the film critic of The Hindu, which has been criticized on social media as a virtual mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party: “Sen’s treatment is guided more by local politics than cinematic sagacity….The thoughts about Islam and conversion seem to have been sourced from hate-filled WhatsApp groups.”
The Indian Express, which offers space to jihadis like Javed Miandad to pen badly worded editorials, reviews it as “nothing but a poorly-made, poorly-acted rant which is not interested in interrogating the social complexities of Kerala, an India state (sic) proud of its multi-religious, multi-ethnic identity.”
The Western media was not far behind. According to the British state media outfit BBC, it is a propaganda film and “an attempt to destroy religious harmony.” French newspaper Le Monde’s New Delhi correspondent writes: “The Kerala Story joins the ever-growing list of films instrumentalized by Hindu nationalists…..The film’s theme reinforces a myth dear to Hindu nationalists, that of the “love jihad.” The theory, fomented by extremists, is that Muslim men court Hindu women solely aiming to convert them.”  CNN quotes an Indian author saying that movies like these are “custom-made to spread hate, trigger Islamophobia and justify violence against Muslims.” The writer concludes: “There is no room for cinema like this in the civilized world because my freedom of expression ends when it begins to threaten your freedom to exist.” Time magazine, which is read by only a handful of people in India, asks if films like The Kerala Story and The Kashmir Files “have raised the question of whether Indian cinema is going through a new trend that amplifies stories that stoke the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist agenda since Modi came to power in 2014”. By quoting Jehadi, the fact “chucking” website Alt News claims there is no evidence to back The Kerala Story’s allegation that 32,000 Kerala girls are victims of Love Jehad, TIME has lost its last ounce of credibility.
Missing the point
However, the focus of the movie isn’t numbers. It documents how the lives of innocent Hindu and Christian girls – and that of their wider families – have become a tragedy due to their joining the world’s most dangerous terrorist group.
The numbers are by no means exaggerated. The Kerala Story is a metaphor for the tens of thousands of girls who have ended up in Syria and Iraq through enticement, entrapment, and raids on non-Muslim populations. For instance, in a 24-day operation in September 2022, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces rescued “tens of thousands of women and children linked to the Islamic State .”The Syrian forces were also filmed rescuing two Yazidi girls kidnapped from Iraq as sex slaves years ago. The girls were found chained at the Islamic State’s Al-Hol facility northeast of Damascus and had been subjected to torture. Similarly, ‘The Return: Life After ISIS’ documents the story of about 64,000 women and children being held in the Roj camp in northeast Syria.
“The 32,000 figure doesn’t matter,” says director Sudipto Sen. “Even if one girl faced conversion, the story needs to be told. You have watched the film; does the number actually matter? The 32,000 figure is an arbitrary number but backed with some facts.”  Producer Vipul Shah adds: “We wanted to tell a story that needed to be told. It was never about numbers. It didn’t matter whether 32 or 32,000 women went through this experience. What matters is that this (religious conversion) happened. And this story had to be brought into the public domain.”
So how did the Western media get it so wrong about The Kerala Story? There are two reasons. First, the so-called liberal media in the West has a deep-rooted bias against Hindus. From the colonial era onwards, the country has been a metaphor for poverty, slums, violence, and chaos. Also, blaming Hindus while ignoring the crimes of other groups is the Western media’s default position. In January 1948, when Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated, the headline in the New York Times was “Gandhi Killed by A Hindu.” Even when Indians achieve something spectacularly successful, the reaction in the West has been of snide condescension. For instance, in 2014, when India became the first nation to reach Mars in the first attempt, the New York Times published a cartoon showing an Indian farmer with a cow knocking on the door of the elite space club.
Secondly, when reporting from India, Western journalists take their cue from India’s mainstream media, which is largely run by leftists and fake news artists specializing in spinning news to give it an anti-Hindu spin. Few Western reporters have their noses to the ground, doing the hard yards of news journalism independently. It’s easy to kick back in their air-conditioned hotel rooms and copy-paste quotes from the Times of India or the Indian Express. That gives them plenty of free time to hit the bar in Delhi’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Belgian Indologist and author Koenraad Elst has explained how this incestuous system works. When covering a controversial news topic, the leftist or ‘liberal’ Indian journalist writes an entirely fake story, misquoting the authorities and portraying Hindus, Hinduism, or India negatively. These journalists could be employed by any of the usual suspects – The Times of India, Indian Express, The Telegraph, and so on. The Western journalists at the NYT, NPR, BBC, Washington Post, and Reuters will cite these reports in their stories without fact-checking with the authorities, parties concerned, or neutral observers. The same Indian journalists who created the fake news in the first place will then do follow-up articles, citing the Western media as credible proof. The loop of lies is thus complete.
So what’s the truth?
Every character in The Kerala Story is real, and mainstream media have extensively covered their horror stories. Let’s take the pivotal character of Shalini Unnikrishnan, played by actress Adah Sharma. It is inspired by the life of Nimisha Sampath, a Hindu girl who converted to Islam and became Fathima Isa. She disappeared from her dental college in Kasaragod in November 2015 after being radicalized in Kerala by a man named Abdul Rashid. She is currently imprisoned in Afghanistan after her ISIS terrorist husband was killed in an attack.
Sonia Sebastian, a Christian, became Ayisha and left to join ISIS along with her husband and their two-year-old child in 2016. A resident of Kasargod, she is currently in captivity in Afghanistan. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) says, “The couple held secret classes in support of ISIS and jehad, as propagated by it, during the last part of Ramadan, sometime in the month of July 2015 in Padanna and Kasaragod.” 
Merrin Jacob Pallath changed her name to Mariyam after converting to Islam to marry a childhood sweetheart, also a convert. Now 29, she has been widowed twice since coming to Afghanistan and has two children, aged six and three.
Then there is Sajjad Rehman, the real-life Muslim boyfriend of Nimisha Sampath. While the woman languishes in an Afghanistan jail, Rehman runs a chain of successful pizza restaurants in Kerala.
The character of the Muslim woman Asifa, who befriends Hindu girls and introduces them to professional ISIS recruiters for entrapment and transportation to ISIS strongholds in the Middle East, is a real character too.
What is surprising about the Western media’s completely biased coverage of The Kerala Story is that the events in the film are not isolated at all. Similar incidents have been happening in Europe and the US for decades. The case of ISIS Brides – who once left everything behind to join ISIS in Syria but are now desperate to return home – has been well documented. Hailing from the UK, US, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, these women have been stripped of their citizenship. They are stateless and waiting in Syria while lawyers petition their governments to let them come home. The likes of the BBC, NPR, The Guardian, and other mainstream outfits have offered in-depth programs and detailed articles on the ISIS Brides. The highly anti-Hindu Wikipedia, which regurgitates the leftist media’s negative reviews of The Kerala Story, has an entire page that lists the vast number of European women who became ISIS Brides. When the story is about European women, their coverage is spot on.
The Kerala Story is yet one more instance where the Western media deserves a big ‘F’ for the total absence of journalistic integrity. However, their lies no longer have legs. With the arrival of social media and highly popular and unbiased new media outfits such as The Jaipur Dialogues, Chanakya Dialogues, Swarajya, and OpIndia, it takes just minutes to expose the disinformation doled out by the left ‘liberal’ ecosystem.
The natural outcome of habitually and consistently lying is that both the Indian mainstream and the Western media have seen their viewership and readership plummet over the years. TIME, which used to be one of India’s most popular foreign magazines, has ceased to be a media player that matters. The New York Times finds it hard to find subscribers in India because not only does it take a hardline against Hindus, but is notorious for its job ad that brazenly invited anti-Hindu and anti-Narendra Modi journalists to join its team. 
The Western media has no credibility left in India. As Bollywood lyricist Nitin Sawant comments: “Foreign journalists in India are fast realizing their white skin offers zero privilege against their black lies in India now.”
Unless these foreign media houses learn to shed their biases and start reporting the truth, their only direction is down.