Malabar is the territory to the north of Bharathapuzha till Kasargod in the state of Kerala. Historians say that Muslim missionaries came to Kerala along with the Arab traders since 9th century AD. Islamic preachers like Malik Bin Dinar, Sarabh Bin Malik etc. came like this. Even the Zamorin who became rich with foreign trade, had many Muslims in his army. The Zamorin granted Muslim elites even the status given to Hindu aristocrats. Zamorin granted the Muslims not only the position of ‘gun and firearm officer’ (ThokkumVedikkar) of the army but also the status of ‘thuramarakkar’ (sabandarkoya) who had the power to collect sea and land tolls. The Zamorin’s navy was filled with Muslims. In short, the Muslim people of Malabar were a society with power and dignity from ancient times. The Muslim population in North Malabar began to grow as the Arab businessmen started marrying the local Muslim women. In 1498, the Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama sailed to the shores of Panthalayani, and a new challenge arose for the Arab merchants. The Zamorin took a generous approach to the Portuguese traders. This angered the Muslim traders and they had clashes with the Portuguese. In Calicut, the Arab Muslims had to engage in fierce trade competition with them. The Arab traders realized that in order to gain the support of indigenous Muslims , they had to change their behaviour, way of life and faith. Thus an attempt was started to Arabize the Muslims of Malabar. The Arabs began to interfere in the political affairs of the country using the native Muslims. This was the situation which led to the confrontation of the fourth Kunjalimarakkar (who was the sea-captain of Zamorin) with Zamorin .
Islam’s desire for religious state
Arakkal Dynasty, known as the first Islamic dynasty of North Malabar, was founded by a Hindu named Arayankulangara Nair who got converted to Islam. Arakkal Ali family initially existed as a vassal of the Chirakkal dynasty. But later a desire aroused for the Sultan of Arakkal to become the Sultan of Malabar. He started efforts to defeat Hindu kings Kolattiri and the Zamorin to become the Sultan of Malabar. It was with this intention Arakkal Ali evoked Hyder Ali of Mysore in AD 1766. Hyder Ali entered Kerala via Mangalore with ten thousand soldiers. The armed indigenous Muslims, in support of Hyder, carried out Hindu assassination, temple demolition and forced conversions. According to the famous historian KM Panikkar, it was Hyder Ali who disarmed the Nair soldiers of Malabar and enacted the law that anyone could kill them. To convert the Hindus who were unwilling to change their religion Hyder Ali centring at Manjeri, made a human hunt. After Hyder Ali, his son Tipu Sultan took charge of the Hindu hunt of Malabar. He appointed an army governor Mir Ibrahim to Malabar. They murdered the unconverted Hindus and seized their property. Not only that but Tipu imposed a religious tax called ‘Asaranna’ to Hindus of Malabar. Tipu Sultan who travelled from Mysore via Wayanad in 1789 reached Kozhikode after demolishing Ganapathivattam temple and Jain temples. Muslims became a majority in Malabar because of the attacks and forced religious conversions of Hyder and Tipu.
Those who try to portray the Mappila Riots as a peasant revolt and freedom struggle are reluctant to admit that these riots were communal riots
The beginning of the Moplah Riots
The Mappila (Moplah) Riots that followed were the inevitable consequence of the vicious attacks of Tipu in Malabar. Under the rule of Hyder and Tipu, the Muslims of Malabar enjoyed exclusive privileges. However, with Tippu’s death at the battle of Srirangapatna, Malabar came under British rule. The British rulers did not reserve the exclusive privileges of the Muslim elites in Malabar. The British did not trust the Moplahs of Malabar as they supported Tipu. The Hindus did not believe in the Muslims of Malabar who were trying to destroy their temples and convert their ancestors. During Tipu’s attack, many Hindu landlords had left their property and fled to Travancore. Muslims acquired their property and became elites. Some of the Moplah elites cheated the English who were uncertain about the landowners in Malabar. Unnimoosa from Illambulaassery, near Mannaarkkad, caused a riot arguing that he was the ruler of the land before the arrival of the English. On May 8, 1794, he was recognized as the village chief and was paid a thousand rupees per month as ‘Malik khan’ by the British. Subsequently, many such claims emerged into riots. The British ruthlessly suppressed such riots. Realizing that they could not fight the British, the Moplahs revolted against the Hindu landlords. The Hindu feudal lords took refuge with the ruling British. Before the Moplah riots of 1921, there were fifty riots under British rule. All these were of very similar nature. Violent acts of insurgency include attacking Hindu landlords, forcible conversion, brutal killing of those who do not convert, destruction of temples and idols, and burning of Illams (traditional homes) and houses. “The common nature of these riots was that the Moplahs alone or in groups, killed Hindu landlords and destroyed Hindu temples,” states A SreedharaMenon in his “Kerala History”. William Logan states an event of 1841 in his Malabar Manual as follows: “Last year, in the month of Medam, when Moitheen, a Moplah youth of Alathaankuzhi , was working in the paddy field, he felt someone coming to him and asked to stop work and do Namaz. He informed this to the Thangal (Islamic religious head). Thangal told Moitheen that he had seen the representative of Allah. Then he got ‘Syed’ (Ha).
Moplahs like this are considered as sacred men. The killing of the Hindus and the destruction of the temples were considered sacred by such people. A judge named T L Strage who was appointed to investigate the Moplah riots described the riots as conscious acts of fanaticism. At his behest, the Malabar Special Police (MSP) was formed in 1855 to suppress such riots. The Moplahs of Malabar had amassed large quantities of arms at that time. Mosques served as storehouses of weapons. Magistrate Conolly, who was appointed to put an end to the escalating Moplah riots in Malabar, seized 7,000 daggers used for war. According to William Logan in the Malabar Manual, 17,295 firearms were found in Muslim centres during the Malappuram riots of 1884. Conolly who tried to quell the riot was brutally murdered in his Bungalow on September 12, 1855 (Malabar Riots, K Madhavan Nair, Page 42). British attempts to quell the rebellion didn’t ultimately succeed. “Between 1883 and 1885 there were five riots. One of the most serious of these was the riot of 1884. A Thiyya named Kannanchery Raman had earlier got converted. But he returned to Hinduism again.” (Malabar Riots, K. Madhavan Nair p. 44). The attempt to assassinate Kannanchery Raman turned out to be a riot.
Ambedkar had no doubt that the Khilafat movement was not the least of the Hindu massacre in Valluvanad and Eranad taluks
Those who try to portray the Moplah riots as a peasant revolt and freedom struggle are reluctant to admit that these riots were communal riots. Answer for them can be found in K. Madhavan Nair’s book. “There is no doubt that many Moplahs of Eranadu have the superstitious belief that if a Kafir is killed Paradise will be granted” (Malabar Riots, K. Madhavan Nair p. 26). In his book, K. Madhavan Nair substantiates that the Moplahs Riots of 1921 was a continuation of the anti-Hindu communal riots that began in the days of Haider Ali and Tipu. “The seeds of the Moplah riots were first planted in Malabar by Tippu’s Chela riots.” (Malabar Riots, Madhavan Nair. P. 28)
Khilafat and Moplah Riots
The word Caliph means representative. The Sultan of Turkey was the World Muslim Caliph. Britain occupied Turkey in World War I. Britain, France, Greece and the Jews shared the Arabian Peninsula which included the holy shrines of the Muslims. Muslims who lost their sacred lands started their holy war (Khilafat) against Britain. In the 1921 Nagpur Congress session, Mahatma Gandhi tried to link the Khilafat movement with the Indian independence movement. Gandhiji’s aim was to bring the Muslim community into the struggle for independence, which had not yet played a significant role in the Indian independence movement. So Mahatma Gandhi declared a non-cooperation struggle for the Khilafat. Congress leaders from Malabar like U. Gopalamenon, K Madhavan Nair and others became the frontline fighters of the Khilafat struggle. Since the Muslims of Malabar never believed in the Gandhian method of Ahimsa, the Congress leaders started preaching about non-violence and Hindu-Muslim unity.
The policy of the British authorities was to crush the Khilafat agitation in Malabar. On August 20, 1921, the collector besieged a large mosque in Tirurangadi. News of this was spread in places like Thanur and Parappanangadi as Mambarath mosque was shot down by the police. Thereafter the rioting Moplahs started the armed struggle. They fought with the army. Railroads and large trees were cut down, traffic was blocked and police stations were looted and arms were robbed. The rioters then turned towards Hindus. The khilafat volunteers were dressed up in Turkey hat with a crescent symbol, khaki shirt and full-trouser. The rioters who held white flags which had a crescent moon and Quranic verses in it never used a tricolour flag or Gandhi cap. In the initial days of the riots, Muslims had the upper hand. This led to the desire for an emergence of the Islamic State in the heart of the Malabar Muslim community. They got delighted with their first victories and were under the illusion that everyone in Malabar are going to convert to Islam. With this, Ali Musaliar, one of their leaders, began to rule as per Quran with Thirurangadi mosque as their centre. Jihadis led by him attacked the Tirurangadi police station and looted weapons. Another group led by VaryamkunnathKunjahammed Haji went on with forced conversions and the Hindu genocide. They looted the treasury at Manjeri and Perinthalmanna, demolished police stations and seized weapons. The ManjeriKovilakam was attacked and looted by a gang led by VaryamkunnathKunhahammed Haji. Another leader was SeetikoyaThangal of Kumarambathoor. He declared himself as the governor of the Khilafat state. The Islamic rule in Malabar was started proclaiming Alimusaliyar as King, Kunjalavi as Commander and Lavakutti as Minister. Another insurgent, ChembrasseryImbichikoyaThangal, with 4000 followers set up an Islamic court at a hill east of Tirur and prosecuted the Hindus. Khilafat leader K Madhavan Nair with his family, escaped to Kozhikode via boat.
Notification issued on August 26 by then district Magistrate Thomas says like this: “‘Insurgents looted and destroyed houses and kovilakams, killed Hindus, forcefully converted them to Islam and destroyed railway routes”. Near Manjeri, there is a place called Arukiizhaya where Hindu teachers, schoolmasters and lawyers lived as a group. The Muslim rioters invaded and looted everything there, leaving no home. One of the most tragic incidents of the Moplah riot took place in Thuvvur. Hundreds of Hindu houses were surrounded by Muslim insurgents at night. Men’s hands and feet were tied and they were taken to a place called CherikkammalKunnu and then to Pangodu. The houses were completely burned. VaryamkunnathKunjahammed Haji and Chembrassery Thangal prosecuted Hindu men near a rock on the slope of the hill. 36 Hindus were beheaded and thrown into a well here. This is the infamous Thuvvur incident. Mohammed KoyaThangal, an insurgent who had pledged to annihilate Hindus, converted more than 1,000 Hindus in just a few months. Those who refused to convert were ruthlessly killed.
There are some historians who argue that the Moplahs attacked Hindus because they helped the army and the police. The truth is that Hindus have been attacked since the early days of the riots. Only 15 days after the riots, the army and police began to move inland.
Whitewashing the Moplah Riots
Left historians and academicians have tried to portray the Moplah riots as a feudal agitation, agrarian uprising and freedom struggle. In a publication released by the Government of Kerala in 1957 related to the Indian Independence Movement, it was attempted to portray the Moplah riots as part of the freedom struggle. Kelappaji, who was also known as Kerala Gandhi, said that it was ridiculous to make this riot a part of the freedom struggle. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s unscrupulous measures for Hindu-Muslim unity was the linking of Khilafat agitation to the Indian Independence Movement. Dr Ambedkar says: “Mr Gandhi has never called the Muslims to account even when they have been guilty of gross crimes against Hindus,” (Dr. Ambedkar Complete Works, p. 178). Ambedkar had no doubt that the Khilafat movement was not the least of the Hindu massacre in Valluvanad and Eranadtaluks. He said : “A certain Ali Musaliar was proclaimed Raja, Khilafat flags were flown, and Ernad and Valluvanad were declared Khilafat Kingdoms. As a rebellion against the 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 .......The number of Hindus killed, wounded or converted is unknown.” (Dr. Ambedkar Complete Works, vol.15)
Even the leftist historian K. N. Panikkar, who claimed that the Moplah riots in Malabar was a peasant uprising, admitted the communal nature of the riots. “The conversion initiatives were not limited to four leaders. Many of the riot groups were actively involved in taking up the task. This was often done by forcefully taking Hindus to the nearest Islamic priest. The priest accompanied some riot groups and was able to perform the conversion in real-time. The conversion did not meet the criteria of being rich, destitute, upper caste or subordinate. Those who have been converted included the Namboodiris, the Nayars, the Ezhavas, theCherumars, the aristocrats, the tenants and the agricultural laborers.” (Malabar Riots Against Dictatorship and Monarchy, K M Panikkar p.196)
In the light of facts, it can be seen that the Moplah riots of 1921 in Valluvanad and Eranadtaluks were a continuation of the Islamic Jihad started by Hyder Ali and Tipu. The distortions in history today are part of the denial of justice for Hindus who have been victims in this era of democracy in order to satisfy the organized Muslim vote bank. The democratic regimes continue to wage war on the Hindu society by giving freedom movement pensions and building memorials to the Islamic Jihadis who have ruthlessly hunted down their ancestors. If studied deeply with factual historical documents, it can be understood that Moplah riots of 1921 was the anterior form of the modern Jihad.
(The writer is Chief Editor, Kesari Weekly)