The Story of Malabar: From India to Pakistan to ‘Kerala’ to RaGa’s seat

1906: At the turn of last century, Malabar had hitherto remained a Congress bastion with charismatic Gandhian leaders such as Muhammad Abdur Rahiman and Moidu Maulavi at the helm. While the All India Muslim League was founded in 1906 itself, however, there was not a single unit of that party in Kerala for a long time to come. The populace, despite a large percentage of Muslims, is primarily committed to India.

1921: Gandhi decides to play with Khilafat fire. Ali Musliyar, a Muslim who had recently moved into the Kerala region, sparks the fire of Islamic chauvinism, riding on the Khilafat movement. Through a series of meetings, decide to rebel. Both against the British as also against the Kafirs. The Mappilahs, who had a long-standing simmering resentment, in thousands took up arms against the British and reportedly upper-caste Hindu landlords. They kill in thousands. This is known as the Mappilah revolution/riots. The British replied with brute force. Around 10,000 died and more than 50,000 were imprisoned.

Given the level of violence perpetrated by the Muslims on Hindus, during the ‘Mopplah Riots’, K. B. Hedgewar creates the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a defence against such ‘Jihads’.

The Mappilah now decide to sway towards the Muslim League.

(1921 is a seminal year in India. This is the year of the formation of Taghliqi Jamat, Jalianwalah Bagh, the return of Shurwardy to India…etc, but that is best dealt separately)

1931: The first all Muslim party is formed, known as Kerala Muslim Majlis, which soon joined the federal set up of All India Muslim League. Soon, there was a Malabar Muslim League that happily endorsed the AIML demand for Pakistan and there were even demands of a separate Mappilastan.

1937: The All India Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had established a unit in Malabar at a conference in Thalassery in 1937. However, even at this stage, its influence was only marginal among members of the community.

1945: At the outbreak of the war, most Congress leaders were put in jail while the Muslim League and Communist activists remained free to continue their political work. They swayed the whole populace. In Kerala, the entire region resounding with the slogan ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, in an expression of frenzied anti-Congress feelings that had gripped the Muslim community. When freedom fighters such as Muhammad Abdurahman, tried to sway things back, they were severely intimidated. AIML wanted Pakistan.

1946: Muhammad Ismail led the Madras State Muslim League in the 1946 Assembly elections when the league won 28 seats (all the seats reserved for Muslims in the Presidency). Championing Pakistan.

1947: Partition is announced. There’s no Mapilastan. The champions of Pakistan now decide to stay back in Kerala. In November 1947, in Calcutta, All India Muslim League (AIML) leader HS Suhrawardy invited Muslim leaders from across the country to decide the fate of the League. He argued that since AIML had achieved its mission of a separate Pakistan for Muslims, it should be disbanded forthwith. Suhrawardy moved a resolution to this effect. But Muhammad Ismail and KM Seethi Sahib — argued the League should be reshaped as the political agency of Indian Muslims. They carried the day, and as his resolution was defeated, a bitter Suhrawardy is said to have remarked: “These two Dravidians from the South have foiled our plans!

1948: The Indian members of the League finally deciding to not migrate to Pakistan, formed the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Ismail became its first president. Indian Govt allows it. Allowing that very party, which had broken up India, along with its ideology to stay on and flourish.

1952: Muhammad Ismail is elected to the Rajya Sabha. While in Rajya Sabha, he supports and ensures the retaining of Sharia law for Indian Muslims. He used to run a ‘Meat and leather’ business. When India was supposed to ban cow slaughter, as an agreement given to the cause of freedom movement, he, as a member of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Hides and Skins Section), persuades that this section is a foreign exchange earner and revokes implementation of ban on cow slaughter.

1956: The State of Kerala is formed from the Madras confederacy. Ismail shifts to Kerala politics. Here IUML decides to set up its base and retain hold over Malabar. Here it flirts both with Congress and Left.

1959: IUML demand of 10 percent to Muslims within the 35 percent reservations for OBC communities. There’s turmoil brewing in Kerala. With the agitation led by EMS Namboodiripad. IUML, however, continues to play between the Left and Congress.

1969: Finally, for it playing its cards right, IUML supports the right side in 1969, ie the Left and forms the United Front (Remember Indira Gandhi came into power then). In response to the demands of IUML in Kerala, and as a reward for its political support, the United Front Ministry of E.M.S. Namboodiripad gerrymanders and redraws the boundaries of Kozhikode and Palghat districts so as to carve out the new, predominantly Muslim district of Malappuram. Denounced by its opponents as ‘the illegitimate child of the Two-Nation theory’, Malappuram – ‘Mopalastan’ to its critics – combined within a single district those taluks which forty-eight years before, in 1921, had been the scene of the Mapilla rebellion. Malappuram, the most populous district in Kerala, which is home to about 12.3% of the total population of the state. This will ensure that IUML always retains a hold in Kerala politics. As also a presence in the Parliament.

1971: In the year when India went to war with Pakistan, C. Achutha Menon, the CM of UDF got the Government of Kerala to officially recognised the active participants of the Moplah Riots as “freedom fighters”, thus, erasing the communal nature of the riots as also providing the rioters a pension as “Freedom Fighters”.

1979: With the churn continuing between Congress and the Left Front, finally IUML makes it as the Chief Minister of Kerala. In the form of C. H. Mohammed Koya. From ‘King Maker’ to ‘King’.

1985: Shah Bano case breaks out in India. Rajiv Gandhi capitulates. However, EMS Namboodiripad takes an aggressive stance on these matters, seeking teh emancipation of women. To the great disappointment of AIML leaders. AIML leave the Left Front, and on 18 July, 1985, they announced the decision to quit the Left Front and sit in the Assembly as a separate block.

1987: A strong Hindutva Right-Wing makes its presence felt in Kerala, as a third force in the state’s political landscape. It used to be there in the form of Bharatiya Jan Sangh and other groups, but they were not able to gain sizable support in the Hindu community or make any impact on electoral politics. However, with the growing Muslim assertiveness, post the Shah Bano case, the Hindu identity starts to congeal in the state.

2003: Eight Hindus are killed by a Muslim mob on 2 May 2003 at the Marad Beach of the Kozhikode district, Kerala. The judicial commission concludes that IUML was directly involved in both the conspiracy and execution of the massacre. That “Muslim fundamentalist and terrorist organisations involved”. 62 were sentenced to life imprisonment for committing the massacre, in 2009 – most of whom belonged to IUML, CPIM, People’s Democratic Party, and NDF.

2014 and 2016: The Islamic identity which had started growing in the 80s, further bolstered by a number of Keralites finding work in the Gulf has consolidated. Gulf money into Mosques has helped radicalization. There’s a steady rise in Salafist mosques and madrassas. With the crisis in Iraq/Syria, youths start travelling from Kerala attempts to join ISIS.

2017: More than100 individuals had joined IS in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. USA drops a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (known as MOAB, or the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’) in the mountains regions of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province targeting ISIS Khorasan Province (ISKP) and its fighters. Many Indians from Kerala die in it.

2019: May. Connections are established between Sri Lankan bombing attacks and Kerala. National Investigation Agency raided the homes of several individuals in Kerala, including Riyas Aboobacker from Pallakkad. Riyas had reportedly been following the speeches and videos of the mastermind of the Sri Lankan attacks, Zahran Hashim. The growing trend in Kerala has prompted the state’s police to establish its own Anti-Terrorism Squad to tackle rising fundamentalism and terrorist activity.

2019: In the same year, in May, Lok Sabha elections are held. IUML puts up a good show. Helps RaGa achieve record margin in Waynad. Its votes from its strongholds of Eranad, Wandoor and Nilambur were instrumental in Rahul Gandhi scripting his record margin of 4.3 lakh votes. IUML’s supporters celebrate RaGa’s victory with reported “Pakistani flags”, but they were the IUML flags. The original Muslim League flags. they weren’t Pakistan’s flag. They were the original Muslim Flag, from which Pakistan’s flag was derived…by adding a white band (an accommodation of minorities, they say).

2019: August. The police in Perambra, a town in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, registered a case against 30 Muslim youngsters, belonging to the Muslim Students Federation (MSF)—the student’s wing of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), for anti-national activities. They had allegedly waved a Pakistan national flag.

2020: March. Sikhs are massacred in a Gurudwara in Kabul. Abu Khalid Al-Hindi claims responsibility as the leader of the team. It is the ‘nom de terrorism’ of an Indian ISIS member. The real name of Abu Khalid al-Hindi, is Mohammed Sajid Kuthirulmmal. He is from Padne area of Kasargod in Kerala who was wanted in a 2016 NIA case. He migrated to Afghanistan via Iran in 2016 along with 25 others including women and children to join Islamic State.

The timeline continues to evolve. Rahul Gandhi, of course, never need go to his constituency. Let’s say, it is ‘managed’.

The simple question remains, why were those who had helped form Pakistan allowed to not only stay back in India but participate in all its political activities? Where has, allowing that thought process to stay, taken us? 

A special thanks to my friend Aarun for various inputs.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.