In my search for the recorded narratives and testimonies of the 1921 Malabar Hindu Genocide, my archival journey outside India took me to the Australian depository of the historical newspapers. A non-expert cursory examination of the publically available database regarding the 1921 Malabar revealed two things. First of all, it shows the international interest along with the outrage of what was happening in a corner of British India. Secondly and more significantly, the evidence and narratives of the extermination of the Hindu religion.
One of the most striking news reports was from the Telegraph, published from Brisbane, dated 30 July 1920. On page 11 there was a report titled, ‘Damaging a Place of Worship: A Malabar Disturbance’ (See the image). It was about the conviction of 6 Muslims from Payvanoor, North Malabar in a case regarding the demolishing of a Hindu temple maintained by the Thiyyas, an OBC community. The Muslims had objected to the annual procession of the Hindu God in front of the mosque. Apparently, the procession was hurting the sentiments of the Muslims so they did not want the Thiyyas from performing their religious service. Tolerant Islam seems to be a myth. This was a re-enactment of the religious intolerance, rather it was a recurring phenomenon in Malabar.
The passing of a Hindu wedding outside a mosque sparked attacks from the Muslims when they refused to change the route. It was reported by the Advertiser, published from Adelaide on 10 April 1894. On the same day, a Tasmanian newspaper Launceston Examiner reported Religious Riots. Muslims in the Malabar district murdered several Hindus and destroyed their temples. It was called a fanatical uprising wherein Muslims were the aggressors.The Bahujan politics of contemporary Islamic activists seems to be based on a false history of shared oppression under upper-caste Hindu landlords of Malabar!
This incident had happened a year before the greatest tragedy of the Hindus in Malabar. In 1921 the religious intolerance had reached new heights. The Advocate, a North Tasmania newspaper on 01 September 1921, ran a piece of disturbing news under the headlines, “Malabar Rebellion - A Religious War, Severe Attack on Hindus”. The newspaper reported that every temple in the Eranad zone of Malabar has been razed and there has been a tremendous attack on the Hindus. The rebels were deterred from attacking the coastal town of Ponnani only by the British threat of warship bombardment.
Newcastle Morning Herald on 24 October 1921 quotes a report from Daily Telegraph, London to say that the 1921 Malabar riots were quite distinct from the earlier ones – 1873 at Kolatur, 1885 at Trikkalur, 1894 at Mannarakkai and 1895 at Manjeri. Earlier ones were based on economic grievances and resistance to the reconversion of Muslims. The present one was in connection with the Caliphate. The report describes the murder ritual of how after prayer at the mosque they go about killing Hindus and destroying the temples. Incidentally, when they are pursued by the British they hide in hilltop temples. Other reports from 1921 cover the butchery of Hindus at Mannarghat, slaughtering and flaying of Hindu women, the forcible conversion of nearly 2000-2500 Hindus, conversion of prisoners released during jailbreaks, looting and destruction of wealthy temples at Walluvanad
I wonder what more horror stories are covered in other archives and personal records. What amazes me is the refusal to accept the enormity of the attack on Hindus. Nowhere in colonial India has seen we see this degree of barbarity. The silences of the historians and other social scientists about these obvious facts speak volumes of the politics of knowledge. I think it is time for people like us, non-professional historians and enthusiasts to delve into records and archives. At least the next generation will not forget the enormity of the problem that we confront.
(The writer is Director, Centre for South India Studies)