ISLAMABAD (APP): The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which made the controversial and anti-Muslim film ‘The Kerala Story’ tax-free, has the record of second highest cases of missing women in the country after West Bengal due to reasons other than conversion.

According to a 2021 report by Indian National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), the state has failed to track down 36,104 missing women, including 2,830 minor girls so far. With 40,719 victims, West Bengal tops the index of missing women in India, Kashmir Media Service reported on Saturday.

The controversial film ‘The Kerala Story’ – accused of distorting figures and peddling hate – was endorsed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Karnataka election campaign.

According to the filmmakers, the movie was a compilation of stories of three young girls who were allegedly systematically converted, radicalised, and their lives were destroyed.

The filmmakers who earlier claimed it was a story of 32,000 women missing from Kerala, reduced it to three after the Kerala government rebuffed their claims. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a strong statement, termed it a fake story, which is “the product of the Sangh Parivar’s (RSS) lie factory to spread their propaganda.”

The film was made tax-free in BJP-ruled states while it’s facing pushback from non-BJP-ruled states. The Madhya Pradesh government, which exempted the tax for a month, withdrew it within five days triggering controversy. It was restored after the political backlash.

A day after the film was released on May 5, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan praised the film for its portrayal of the alleged systematic conversion of three young women.

The four-term CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s announcement came at a time when 25,209 minors have been reported missing between 2019 and 2021 in the state. Of them, 2,830 minor girls can’t be traced or recovered by the police. It includes overall untraced cases from previous years. With this, Madhya Pradesh became the third state (excluding the union territory of Delhi) with the highest cases of missing girl children after Bihar and West Bengal. In Bihar, 5,366 minors can’t be traced after they were reported missing. And with 5,609 cases, West Bengal tops the chart according to the NCRB.

As far as cases of missing women are concerned, between 2019 and 2021 in Madhya Pradesh, as many as 99,119 women reported missing. With the recovery rate fluctuating between 47% and 51%, the state recovered over half of the missing women while 33,274 couldn’t be traced or recovered, the report reveals.

In the same period, Kerala, in which the film was made, reported 24,258 missing cases. It includes 2,837 cases of missing girl children. With over 90% of recovery rate, according to the NCRB data, the Kerala police retrieved the majority of the missing women and minor girls. As of 2021, the state has 366 women and 32 untraced minors, unlike Madhya Pradesh which has over 36,000 untraced females or minors.

Making a sharp comment over CM’s statement, Safiya Akhtar, state convener of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said, “By making ‘The Kerala Story’ tax-free, the chief minister is trying to claim that conversion or terrorism are the reasons behind the high rise in the cases of missing or untraced women when there is no data to support his wild claims.”

Apart from Kerala, Madhya Pradesh is way behind Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, and Rajasthan when it comes to the retrieval of missing women or minors.

Elaborating on the close linkage between missing girl children to organised crimes, Puja Marwaha, CEO of Child Rights and You (CRY) said, “It is deeply disturbing that our children go missing and we can’t bring them back home. The evidence on the ground and numbers indicate that a large number of missing children are actually trafficked, kidnapped, abducted or for other reasons.”

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