On 21st August 2021, Malayalis all over the World celebrated Onam. Happy Onam to every Malayali celebrating the festival. One day before that was the anniversary of another event from Bharat’s history, a gruesome and very painful memory for a lot of Hindus in Kerala.
It was something that started a 100 years ago on 20th August 1921 and continued for more than 6 months. At the end of it hundreds of Hindu men, women and children were murdered, hundreds of women were raped and thousands were converted to Islam at the edge of a sword. Thousands more were left homeless and rendered refugees in their own land.
And when Bharat became free, Independent Bharat’s historians relegated these victims of Islamic terror to collateral damage of freedom struggle. Their genocide was whitewashed as peasant rebellion. All this in the name of preserving the mythical secular fabric of our wondrous nation.
In this deep dive, I will tell you what happened to Hindus of Malabar in 1921. This is the real story Malabar Hindu genocide, based on first hand accounts of victims and witnesses. This is not what’s written by Marxist historians in textbooks.
Malabar was the region in the north of Kerala, consisting of the present day districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad. Before I tell you what happened in 1921, we need to go a little further back in the history, to the time when Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan invaded Malabar.
It is during this time that Malabar witnessed violent jihad for the first time, including forced conversions. Hindus who did not renounce their faith were either murdered or had to run away and take refuge in the neighbouring Hindu kingdom of Travancore. The lands and property belonging to Hindus who so escaped were confiscated and distributed among converts.
As per some estimates, almost a quarter of the Nair population in Malabar was murdered during Tipu’s invasion. To punish Travancore for giving shelter to Hindu refugees, Tipu declared war in December 1789. The Nair army of Travancore along with the British forces resisted the tyrant and pushed him back.
Following the third Anglo-Mysore war, Tipu was defeated and Malabar came under the control of British East India Company. Once under British rule, the lands redistributed by Tipu were restored to their original, rightful owners following due judicial process in courts. This did not go down well with the Moplahs, as the Muslims of the area are called. What followed was a series of violent outbreaks which included rape, forcible conversion or murder of Hindus, desecration of temples by slaughtering cows in the premises and decorating the idol with the murdered animals remains.
The primary objective of these outrages by the Moplahs was to terrorize Hindus of the area into converting as it was considered their sacred duty to establish an Islamic state, just like in today’s times. That is what Mr. T.L Strange, who was appointed as Special Commissioner in Malabar to enquire into the causes of these outrages, said in his report.
Details of these pre-1921 Moplah outrages are given in the book “The Moplah Rebellion 1921” written by C Gopalan Nair who was a civil servant in the region at that time.
It was in this climate that Mahatma Gandhi and Congress party announced support for the Khilafat movement in collaboration with rabid Islamists like Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, both of who later went on to join Muslim league and spearheaded the partition movement. Khilafat movement had nothing to do with India or the independence movement. It was intended to create a pan-Islamist constituency across Bharat and pressure the British to protect the interests of the Sultan of Turkey who lost most of his power and territory after suffering a defeat in World War-I.
Gandhi offered unilateral support of Congress to the Khilafat movement in a hope that this would draw Muslims into the freedom struggle. Till then, there was very little participation from Muslims in independence movement.
In Malabar region, the Khilafat movement was spearheaded by Islamic preachers, with Congress leaders providing support. The Moplah masses were attracted into the Khilafat movement with a promise that once the British are driven out from Bharat, a Khilafat government would replace them with the Khaliph as its head.
So while the Congress’s objective was Swaraj, the objective of the Khilafatists was very specific, to establish an Islamic state in Bharat. On 18 August 1920, Mahatma Gandhi along with Shaukat Ali addressed a massive meeting in Calicut which put the Khilafat movement in Malabar on a high gear.
Though Congress party’s participation in the Khilafat movement was expected to bring Hindus and Muslims on a common platform against the British, because of the history of the region, with Moplah outrages that went as far back as mid-1800s, the alliance was extremely fragile. The Khilafat Committee meetings would often end up in clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
After one such meeting on 31st March 1921 at the Pannur mosque, a fight broke out with the Moplahs on one side and the Hindu Nairs and Thiyyas on the other. Following this, a gang of Moplahs attacked and destroyed a local temple.
One of the prominent Khilafat leaders in Malabar was a preacher from Thirurangadi named Ali Musliyar. In July 1921, after the All India Khilafat conference at Karachi, Ali Musliyar and his followers started making preparations for an armed uprising against the British. They even started recruiting volunteers for this purpose who would be sworn on the Koran that they would be ready to die for the cause of establishing Khilafat rule.
These Khilafat troops of Ali Musliyar would parade through the streets in their Khakhi uniforms, carrying guns and swords and terrorize anyone who did not support Khilafat. These weapons that Ali Musliyar and followers carried were primarily obtained by looting either the local police stations or the houses of Hindu landlords.
In one such incident, a gun was stolen from Pookotur Palace. When police searched the house of a local Khilafat leader named Vadakkeveettil Muhammad for the missing gun, hundreds of Moplahs armed with knives, swords and spears gathered from the neighbouring villages, attacked the palace and held the residents hostage for several hours.
On 20th August 1921, the District Magistrate received information that a number of weapons were stored in a mosque at Tirurangadi. He went there to investigate and, after the searches, arrested Ali Musliar and 2 other collaborators. This event is generally considered the beginning of Moplah riots.
Runners were dispatched to summon Ali Musliyar’s troops from neighbouring villages. To drum up religious hysteria, like it happens even to this day, rumours were spread that the police had desecrated the famous Mambram mosque. But the truth was that the said mosque was on an entirely different side of the river and police didn’t even go near it.
Soon a mob of several hundred Moplahs surrounded the magistrate and his troops. In the resulting clash, two British officers were murdered. What followed was days of unbridled, uncontrolled reign of terror, arson and loot.
In the beginning, British officers and administrative bodies were attacked; courts and police stations were vandalized; public buildings and records were destroyed; telephone lines were cut; railway stations and bridges were demolished. The civil administration ceased to exist and most villages under Eranad, valluvanad and ponnani taluks, were declared independent and part of a Khilafat kingdom.
Khilafat leaders like Ali Musliyar, Variankunnath Kunjahammad Haji, Seethi Koya Thangal and Chambarasseri Thangal declared themselves as Khilafat Kings and started imposing taxes and making laws.
Once the British administration was driven out, the Moplahs turned their full attention to their old foes, the Hindus of Malabar. Murders, dacoities, forced conversions and outrages on Hindu women became order of the day. Hundreds of temples were razed to ground. Hundreds of Hindus were murdered. Thousands were converted under the threat of the sword.
During those months of mayhem, wells in Malabar overflowed, not with water or rain but the severed heads, limbs and half-dead bodies of Hindus.
This is what Madras Mail reported on 18th November 1921:
In the point of magnitude, organization and the atrocities committed by the rebels, this rising in the Moplah country is unparalleled in the history of Malabar, or for the matter of that in the history of the whole of India. This reign of terror lasted for several months and ended only in January 1922 after the so called Khilafat King, Variankunnath Kunjahammad Haji, was captured.
Eventually, the British imposed the martial law in Malabar and army marched in to bring things under control. Most of the Khilafat Kings were captured, tried and put to death. Some 2337 jihadis were killed, another 1652 injured and more than 45,000 imprisoned, most of them were shipped off to Kala Paani.
However, the pain and persecution of Hindus in Malabar did not end with this. The British did their duty, even if belatedly, by suppressing the violence and protecting Hindu victims. But the same cannot be said of our historians and politicians, especially those who came to power after 15th August 1947.
The way Malabar Hindu Genocide of 1921 has been documented by Marxist historians, is nothing short of a tragedy and no less than a continuation of the atrocities heaped on Hindus by the Moplahs. Just like terrorists in Kashmir are romanticised as sons of headmasters or aspiring football players, or the way media is right now trying to romanticize the gun totting terrorist from Delhi riots, Marxist historians invented justifications to project the Moplah terrorists in a sympathetic light.
Islamist bigots like Ali Musliyar and Variankunnath Kunjahammad Haji were portrayed as patriots fighting for freedom from the British rule. Murderers, rapists, arsonists and terrorists were converted into freedom fighters. So much so that even today, the Town Hall in Malappuram Municipality is named after Variankunnath and movies and dramas are produced that eulogize the mass murderer.
The Hindu victims on the other hand have been turned into some sort of villains who deserved the punishment; the evil Jenmi landlords who exploited the working class; the informers who collaborated with the British; the Savarna fascists who deserved to be looted, raped and chopped to pieces. This is despite numerous reports clearly establishing that it was not an agrarian distress or the ideals of freedom struggle that motivated the Moplahs but a fanatical hatred of the Kafirs and an intention to establish Islamic state.
Despite the fact that most victims of Moplah violence belonged to Dalit castes and were landless labourers and marginal farmers, the Leftist establishment expended every resource available at its disposal to turn the victims into aggressors and aggressors into freedom fighters. And this fake history is taught to our children to this day in schools creating generation after generation of Hindus caught in a guilt trap and accepting our own oppression as deserving.
You may be wondering how is this discussion relevant now; you may think if there is any value in digging a 100 year old wound. The Hindu genocide that Moplahs carried out in Malabar is a direct outcome of the Khilafat movement and it is the Khilafat movement that eventually resulted in partition of our motherland and the consequent bloodshed.
The ideology that caused the partition is still alive in Bharat. If anything the dilly-dallying and kid-glove approach of the Indian state towards such elements has emboldened them even more. That is why something like Shaheen Bagh happened in our national capital just last year; that is why we heard slogans like Hinduon se azaadi and Hindutva ki khabar khudegi during anti-CAA protests.
In fact, it is because of the mindset that lead to partition that there are protests against a law like CAA which would not have a negative effect on even a single Bharatiya citizen. Even now, there are entities in our country like PFI and SDPI which take out rallies in Kerala to celebrate Malabar riots and slogans like “swords that were taken out in 1921 are still with us” are shouted.
Just in the last few days, police in different parts of the country have registered several cases against those making social media posts or public announcements or taking out rallies in support of Taliban. In fact, the spiritual and ideological inspiration of Taliban is right here in Bharat, the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh.
Therefore, if another partition of our homeland is not to happen, it is important that we understand the ideology that lead to Malabar Hindu Genocide and identify its proponents.
-by Madhavan Chalat
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