In English, propaganda was originally a neutral term for the dissemination of information in favour of any given cause. Today, propaganda means information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause. It assumes different forms and is used for political and commercial purposes. The film titled The Kerala Story, due for release on May 5, has once again raised the subject of films becoming tools of propaganda. One of the earliest such films was Leni Riefenstahl’s film titled The Triumph of the Will. It played a significant role in the emergence of Adolf Hitler in German politics and promotion of the pure-race theory. True, the director claimed with some measure of truth that she did not use any anti-Semitic slogans in the film. Nonetheless, it was considered an exquisite propaganda film.
The Kerala Story is based on the propaganda that there has been a concerted attempt by radical Muslims to entice Hindu and Christian girls, marry them and take them to places like Syria to be cadres of the Islamic State. There are no verifiable details of women who have left Kerala to fight for the Islamic State.
In any case, their number is in single digits. Yet, rumours are spread about thousands of Hindu and Christian girls falling victims to, first, love jihad, and, then, recruitment as IS cadres. In one celebrated case, which went right up to the Supreme Court, it was proved that the Hindu girl married a Muslim youth of her own volition and she wanted to stay with him, not her parents. Finally, the apex court had to let the married woman have her way. Similarly, there is no basis for the phenomenon called Love Jihad, though it is often mentioned by vested political and religious spokespersons.
If The Kerala Story seeks to give substance to the theory that there is a concerted move to entice non-Muslim women, it will certainly be a matter of concern. This is because, unlike the written word, a visual has greater appeal and stays in the mind of the viewer, as depicted in the multi-lingual film Drishyam, originally produced in Malayalam. That is why the film The Kashmir Files evoked a negative response, as it sought to divide, not bridge, the gap between the two communities in Kashmir, nay India. The minimum that the Censor Board should have done was to mention that the film was fictional, rather than real. Alas, propaganda is valued more than truth!
First Sikh to head World Bank
It is a matter of pride for Indians that Ajaypal Singh Banga has been chosen as the 14th president of the World Bank for a five-year term. He is the first person of Indian origin to reach this position. Though he was nominated by US President Joe Biden, he was selected under a newsystem of recruitment, based on due diligence and interview by the board of directors. In other words, he was appointed purely on merit. Banga brings to the new office considerable experience in heading international organisations like General Atlantic and Mastercard, where he showed his social commitment, not just business acumen. A student of St. Stephen’s, Delhi, considered the Alexandria of the East, he studied management at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
The success of Banga, who has no godfathers, proves beyond a shadow of doubt that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Indian education system. He could succeed, despite having to study that the Mughals ruled the country for hundreds of years. He studied at St Stephen’s when the management enjoyed certain autonomy in running the institution. Neither the syllabus followed nor the educational rights the minorities enjoyed were impediments to imparting education. True, to succeed, he had to leave the country and find new pastures where he was not discriminated against.
That a turbaned Sikh holds such a big post will go a long way in removing the prejudices some sections of white Americans hold against Americans of African and Asian origin. It was only a few years ago that the first Sikh police officer in America was killed in Texas, USA. India recognised Banga with Padma Shri and the world with the Ellis Island Medal of Honour. Success begets success.