Dr. Ambedkar was adept in understanding the mindset of political Islam and he rightly evaluated the Malabar Rebellion, popularly known as Moplah Rebellion, as an outbreak to establish the Kingdom of Islam in Malabar by overthrowing the British Government and non-believer Hindus. But Marxist historians painted these upheavals as insurgences against landlords and colonial rulers, in tune with their class war theory. Thus Dr. Ambedkar’s warnings were neglected and undivided India suffered.
KC Sudhir Babu
In the long history of communal conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in India Dr. Bhimrao Ram Ambedkar marked the span of twenty years from 1920 to 1940 as “a record of twenty years of civil war between the Hindus and Muslims in India.” It was while narrating the atrocities inflicted on Hindus by the fanatic Muslims during this civil war that Dr. Ambedkar mentioned the act of most heinous monstrosity performed on the Hindus of Malabar by the Muslim Moplahs during the notorious Moplah Rebellion in 1921.
The Muslim Moplahs in Malabar were the progeny of the Muslims, who came to Kerala for trade and business, married, with or without the sanction of local custom and law, to Hindu women and settled in Malabar. Very many uprisings organised by the Moplahs against the local authority and land lords were frequent in Malabar since the invasion of Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan in eighteenth century. The general nature of these uprisings was reflected in the observation made by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the status of communal conflicts perpetrated all over India by Muslims against Hindus. Dr. Ambedkar observed,” There was carnage, pillage, sacrilege and outrage of every species, perpetrated by Hindus against Musalmans and by Musalmans against Hindus, more perhaps by Musalmans against Hindus than by Hindus against Musalmans. Cases of arson have occurred in which Musalmans have set fire to the houses of Hindus, in which whole families of Hindus, men, women and children were roasted alive and consumed in the fire, to the great satisfaction of the Musalman spectators. What is astonishing is that these cold and deliberate acts of rank cruelty were not regarded as atrocities to be condemned but were treated as legitimate acts of warfare for which no apology was necessary.”(Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. Pakistan or The Partition of India. Pages. 206-207.)
It is very difficult to find any supporting proof or document from the biographies of Dr. Ambedkar to show that he nursed a secret animosity against Islam as a religion. But it is very evident that he studied Islam thoroughly and understood the character and convictions, commitments and allegiances of Islamic faith and religion. He was forced to express his convictions about Islam and their acts in India, since the days of Muhammed bin Quasim who invaded India in the eighth century, when Muslim league, under the instigating leadership of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, demanded the partition of India. After narrating the long and dark days of Islamic Imperialism in India and Islamic onslaught on Indian culture and Hindu life Dr. Ambedkar marked those twenty years from 1920 to 1940 as a period of civil war between Hindus and Muslims. It was in the course of this narration that he described the abominable and shocking episodes of Moplah atrocities unleashed against the Hindus in Malabar in 1921.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar wrote on the Moplah uprising that,”there occurred in that year in Malabar what is known as the Moplah Rebellion. It was the result of the agitation carried out by two Muslim organizations, the Khuddam-i-Kaba(servants of the Mecca Shrine) and the Central Khilafat Committee. Agitators actually preached the doctrine that India under the British Government was Dar-ul-Harab and that the Muslims must fight against it and if they could not, they must carry out the alternative principle of Hijrat. The Moplahs were suddenly carried off their feet by this agitation. The outbreak was essentially a rebellion against the British Government. The aim was to establish the kingdom of Islam by overthrowing the British Government. Knives, swords and spears were secretly manufactured, bands of desperados collected for an attack on British authority. On 20th August, a severe encounter took place between the Moplahs and the British forces at Thirurangadi. Roads were blocked, telegraph lines cut, and the runway destroyed in a number of places. As soon as the administration had been paralysed, the Moplahs declared that Swaraj had been established. A certain Ali Musaliyar was proclaimed Raja, Khilafat flags were flown, and Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat Kingdoms. As a rebellion against British Government, it was quite understandable. But what baffled most was the treatment accorded by the Moplahs to the Hindus of Malabar. The Hindus were visited by a dire fate at the hands of the Moplahs. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women such as ripping open pregnant women, pillage, arson and destruction – in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism, were perpetrated freely by the Moplahs upon the Hindus until such time as troops could be hurried to the task of restoring order through a difficult and extensive tract of the country. This was not a Hindu-Muslim riot. This was just a Bartholomew. The number of Hindus, who were killed, wounded or converted, is not known. But the number must have been enormous.”(Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. pages.183-184.)
The idea that India was not a suitable land to lead a religious life for Muslims, that India became a Dar-Ul-Harab for Muslims since the beginning of British rule in India, took away the imagination of the Muslims and in turn, it prompted them to join hands strongly with the Khilafat movement to protect their religious sentiments than join the Indian Independence Movement. Dr. Ambedkar wrote,” According to Muslim Canon Law, the world is divided into two camps, Dar-ul-Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar-ul-Harab (abode of war). A country is Dar-ul-Islam when it is ruled by Muslims. A country is Dar-ul-Harab when Muslims only reside in it but are not rulers of it. That being the canon law of the Muslims, India cannot be the common mother land of the Hindus and the Musalmans. It can be the land of the Musalmans- but it cannot be the land of the‘Hindus and the Musalmans living as equals’. Further, it can be the land of the Musalmans only when it is governed by the Muslims. The moment the land becomes subject to the authority of a non-Muslim power, it ceases to be the land of the Muslims. Instead of being Dar-ul-Islam, it becomes Dar-ul-Harab”. (Dr. Ambedkar.Page-322.)
Dr. Ambedkar continued to warn that the views of Dar-ul-Islam and Dar-ul-Harab should not be considered as only of academic interest because it was capable of becoming an active force strong enough to influence the behaviour of the Muslims. During the Moplah Rebellion this idea of India being Dar-ul-Harab invigorated and energized the Khilafat movement and enraged the Muslims in Malabar to rebel against the British government as non-muslim rulers and the Hindus as non-believers and aides to the British authority.
Dr BR Ambedkar registered his warnings in his book 'Pakistan or The Partition of India'
He continued to warn the reader that this view should not be considered as only of academic interest because it was capable of becoming an active force strong enough to influence the behaviour of the Muslims. During the span of Moplah Rebellion this idea of India being Dar-ul-Harab invigorated and energized the Khilafat movement and enraged the Muslims in Malabar to rebel against the British government as non-muslim rulers and the Hindus as non-believers and aides to the British authority. After the British occupation of India, wrote Dr. Ambedkar, that “at once the question was raised whether India was any longer a suitable place of residence for Muslims. A discussion was started in the Muslim community, which Dr. Titus says lasted for half a century, as to whether India was Dar-ul-Harab or Dar-ul-Islam. Some of the more zealous elements, under the leadership of Sayyed Ahmad, actually did declare a holy war, preached the necessity of emigration (Hijrat) to lands under Muslim rule, and carried their agitation all over India.”(Dr.Ambedkar.pages-322-323)
Dr. Ambedkar was an adept in understanding the mindset of political Islam and he rightly evaluated the Malabar Rebellion as an outbreak to establish the Kingdom of Islam in Malabar by overthrowing the British Government. But Marxist historians like K. N. Panikkar painted these upheavals, in tune with their class war theory, as repeated insurgences against landlords and colonial rulers culminating in the armed revolution of 1921 in Malabar. A lot of documents are available now to show that the details of inhuman acts, as described by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, performed on Hindus by Moplahs during the rebellion were true. But Marxist historians have tried to conceal these facts of religious animosity and fanatic outbursts of Islamic faith as they had tried in the case of medieval Indian History. But Dr. K. T. Jaleel, a historian in the Marxist clan, a Muslim by religion and currently a minister in the left government in Kerala, in his well researched work ‘Malabar Rebellion-A Re-reading’ did agree with Dr. Ambedkar in regard to the intension of the rebels. K. T. Jaleel wrote, “the aim of the rebels was to sabotage the British Government with the help of armed force and to establish a Khilafat administration”. And they succeeded in their attempt and established a Khilafat Raj. As Dr. Ambedkar said a certain Ali Musaliar was proclaimed Raja, Khilafat flags were flown and Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat Kingdoms in Malabar. These findings reject the Marxist argument that the Malabar Rebellion was part of the Indian Independence Struggle. K. Madhavan Nair, former KPCC President and a person who lived through these chilling experiences wrote the history of Malabar Rebellion immediately after the rebellion and he has never wrote anything that supported the arguments of the leftwing historians. The Moplah Muslims in Malabar fought an armed revolution against the British authorities was a fact, not to win freedom for India but to realise the intensions of Political Islam.
Dr. Ambedkar was baffled by the attitude and treatment accorded to the Hindus in Malabar, irrespective of their social status, by the Moplah rebels during the course of their action against the British authority. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women such as ripping open pregnant women etc. were the barbaric atrocities committed by the Muslim rioters. A cooked up story of a pregnant Muslim woman being ripped open was floated during the communal riots in Gujarat some years back. But the real incident of ripping open a pregnant Hindu woman took place in Malabar during the Moplah Rebellion in 1921. No leftwing historian had mentioned anything about the incident so far. But Annie Besant was in Malabar then and she wrote about the bloodbath taking place around her. She wrote, “Wilful murders of Hindus and arson were first begun in my own place. This contagion began to spread like wildfire and we began to hear of murders daily. Within a fortnight cold-blooded murders of Hindus became very common......A pregnant woman carrying seven months was cut through the abdomen by a rebel and she was seen lying dead on the way with the dead child projecting out of the womb. How horrible! Another, a baby of six months was snatched away from the breast of his own mother and cut into two pieces. How heart-rending! Are these rebels human beings or monsters?” These shocking words of Annie Besant were published in New India, 6th December 1921. Annie Besant continued to describe the deplorable incident of a respectable Nayar lady who was stripped naked and raped by the rioters in the presence of her husband and brothers, who were forced to stand close and watch with their hands tied behind. C. Sankaran Nair, the former President of Indian National Congress and author of the book ’Gandhi and Anarchy’ wrote that, “For sheer brutality on women, I do not remember anything in history to match the Malabar Rebellion.”(Page 30)
Dr. Ambedkar was baffled by the attitude and treatment accorded to the Hindus in Malabar, irrespective of their social status, by the Moplah rebels during the course of their action against the British authority. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women such as ripping open pregnant women etc. were the barbaric atrocities committed by the Muslim rioters.
Hundreds of Hindus were killed, thousands were wounded and converted, and Hindu women were raped by Muslim rioteers during the 1921 Moplah riots in support of the Khilafat movement.
The Marxist historians have tried to dress up these inhuman acts of the rioters in class war theory and present the whole atrocities as natural incidents in a struggle against Lord and the State. As Dr. Ambedkar wrote the blood-curdling atrocities committed by the Moplahs in Malabar against the Hindus were indescribable. The number of Hindus who were killed, wounded or converted is not known. Regarding the forced conversions of Hindus in Malabar K.N.Panikkar found out that some leaders of the rebellion thought that the conversions would help to reinforce the rebelling troops whose number was getting emaciated by the British army. It was while narrating the history of 20 years of civil war between Hindus and Muslims in India that Dr. Ambedkar cited the intensity of anti-Hindu mindset of Moplah Muslims which found expression in the Malabar Rebellion. He had strong apprehensions about the nature of Muslims. His biographer Dhananjay Keer wrote, “Another mark of the character of the Muslim mind he was surprised to note was that the Muslim leaders were not only self-centered but also narrow minded and regressive in their social attitude.”(Dhananjay Keer. Page-223) Dr. Ambedkar assessed these agitations including the Malabar rebellion as atrocities done on the Hindus by the Muslims who were severely inflicted with the virus of Khilafat dreams; all these atrocities were rooted in the ideas of Khilafat movement, grown and developed through the two nation theory of Jinnah and culminated in the partition of India.
What were the achievement and the social impact of Moplah Rebellion? K.N. Panikkar wrote that the most unfortunate consequence generated by the rebellion was the communalization of the social fabric of Malabar in the twentieth century. This has created an insurmountable deep chasm in between Hindus and Muslims in Malabar. These communities became more and more estranged due to their skeptical and unbelieving attitude towards each other. Above all, the disheartening memories of the atrocities done during the rebellion had a deep impact on the later political scenario in Malabar. (K. N. Panikkar. Against Lord and the State) If these were the result and achievement of an agrarian revolution led by the tenant against the landlord, of a battle fought between haves and have-nots in the fashion fixed for class war, it would be better not to try for any further agrarian revolutions in India.
In a recent episode in Kerala, a hartal was declared by Muslim fundamental forces, in the pretext of protest and justice for Asifa who was assaulted and killed by a gang in Kashmir. Roads were blocked, passengers in cars and other vehicles were checked for loyalty and allegiance to their cause, anyone who had a subtle expression of dissent or objection was harassed in the presence of state police. This type of targeted attack was severe in all districts where the Muslim population is in majority. It was an effort in trial to re-enact the past episode of Moplah Rebellion all over Kerala to show the Islamic strength and threaten the Hindus in the state. Moreover, the Muslim Youth League has put forward a demand to make the Malappuram district a separate state for Muslims.
1)Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Pakistan or The Partition of India. Samyak Prakashan. 2013.
2)K.N. Panikkar. Against Lord and the State.
3)Dr. K.T. Jaleel. Malabar Rebellion A Re-Reading. (Malayalam) Chinta Publishers. 2015.
4)C. Sankaran Nair. Gandhi and Anarchy. Chettur Sankaran Nair Foundation. 1922.
5)K.Madhavan Nair. Malabar Kalapam.(Malayalam) Mathrubhumi Books. 2016.
6)Dhananjay Keer. Dr. Ambedkar. Life and Mission.