When Bindu Sampath played the video attached to a forwarded message she received on WhatsApp last month, her jaw dropped. The video—a teaser trailer for an upcoming movie, Kerala Files, by director Sudipto Sen—showed a burqa-clad woman calling herself Fatima, claiming to be an aspiring nurse from Kerala who was forcefully recruited into the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency.
The main character, albeit fictional, seemed to be based on Sampath’s own daughter, Nimisha, who also changed her name to Fatima before she left for Afghanistan to join the IS-Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Islamic State’s regional militant group.
In 2015, Nimisha, who was studying to be a dentist, converted to Islam, changed her name to Fatima, and married another convert—Bestin Vincent. Vincent took the name Isa, and had been radicalized by fundamentalist groups in Kerala, according to family members. A year later, Fatima and Isa, along with 19 other youths from Kerala left for Afghanistan to join ISIS.
Several of the Indian foreign fighters in Afghanistan had either been captured or killed in operations by former U.S.-backed Afghan forces. Nearly 1,400 foreign fighters, including several women, were reported to be in Afghan jails at the start of 2020. Among them were Nimisha and the daughter she had with Vincent.
While the movie claimed to follow the “true stories” of women like Nimisha from India, the trailer has already generated a lot of controversy and legal action for spreading misinformation. The trailer states that nearly 32,000 women and girls from the Indian state of Kerala—governed by the Left Democratic Front, rival to the center Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)—were forcefully converted and radicalized to join the militant group.
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