MOPLAH CARNAGE – THE FORGOTTEN TRAGEDY
A forgotten tale of a tragedy that must never be forgotten. This is a tale of the horrors that were inflicted on a people whose only crime was that they existed.
1921, MALABAR, KERALA – the horrific tale of the end of Hindus lies forgotten, their stories & their memories betrayed. But most of all – It is the cry of Hindu women and the wail of the widows that has faded into the mist of propaganda and neglect. 2021 is the centenary year of that massive tragedy and its time we listen to the cry of the massacred Hindus as they call out from their mass graves – to be REMEMBERED and MOURNED
Like so many tragedies that mark our history as a people, Moplah Riots too were white washed into a class struggle by the Leftist DIStorians & SecularSaints of Independent India. The carnage was painted as an uprising, the genocide became imperialist reprisal and the victim became the aggressor and the aggressor became the victim.
Offsprings of Arab traders who had taken up domicile in the Malabar region, married (and converted) the local Hindu women. In the local language, they were lovingly called Mapilla/Moplah or Son in Law. The King (titled Cheraman Perumal) Ravi Verman, gave them land to set up their homes. Persuaded by the Arab tablighis (preachers), he converted to Islam and ordered his people to convert to Islam. (The story of his conversion vary widely) but the people rejected and opposed the royal edict
However as is their wont, as generations and centuries passed, they chose religious education over modern education and consequently lacked the skills to operate profitably under the new British and Portuguese rulers. They got marginalized in the new economy and that led to slow brewing of resentment against the Hindus of the region. The Hindus, forever seeking education had adapted well to the new ways of the European rulers. Educated and able to adapt to new economic system, the Hindus prospered.
By 1921, the moplahs were the fastest growing demographic group. Population growth coupled with lack of education & increased radicalization pushed them further into poverty. The Moplahs were becoming more and more fanatic in their approach to the whole situation. They couldn’t take on the British (too powerful) so they shifted their hate to the Hindu – who ticked all the right(?) boxes in their search for an enemy – Idolators, Polytheists, Prosperous AND made increasingly effete by Gandhi’s exhortations of Ahimsa.
But the 1921 genocide was not the first. It was the last major genocidal death dance to decimate the Hindus. Hyder Ali and his tyrant son Tipu’s military actions against the Nambudris and Nairs weakened the political and social position of these castes. The Mappillas were then free to act with extreme antagonism against the majority Hindus of the region. The persecution, forced conversions, murder forced migration of Hindus from the region were the weapons used to decimate the Hindus. Any attempt to resist was brutally put down by Tipu. The Moplahs organised themselves into terrifying bands of marauders who, in Ernad and Walluvanad, became a law unto themselves. The defeat of Tipu and the subsequent British land settlement policies in Malabar, lead to the restoration of the social and economic position of the Hindus.
The violence unleashed by the moplah was characteristic in its brutality and barbarism. The moplah, instigated by calls of Jihad given out by the maulvis, would form armed bands (sometimes called the Fidayeen). They would divorce their wives, settle all their affairs, seek forgiveness from all. After their farewells, they would move at night to attack the selected village of Hindus. They would first attack the prosperous Hindu merchant/Village elder/Brahman/Temple Priest. They would murder the men in the most brutal manner, rape the women and then torture them to death. The children were usually killed in front of the parents before they too were killed. After this they would loot the house and then move on to the surrounding areas – targeting Hindu households and repeating the same template of brutal murders, rape & torture of women and graphic murder of children. After setting the victim houses on fire they would attack the temples and desecrate and loot them. After their orgy of violence they would seek refuge in either the nearest mosque or their first victim’s house and then fortify the same for their last stand. When the British police would arrive they would attack the police in a mad rage that only religious fanatics can unleash.
The ensuing clash would end in all the moplah of the attack party and many British police men, dead.
Their violence was particularly brutal against the Nambuduri & Nairs. But special hate was reserved for converted men who had renounced their “majhub” and gone back to Hinduism.
The 3 Judge Special Tribunal at Calicut, in their judgement on case no 7 of 1921, observed that the violence unleashed on 20th August 1921 in Tirurangadi, was unlike any attacks of the past.
“…The moplahs of Erand and Walluvanad … described as barbarous and a savage race… But it is not simple fanaticism, it was not agrarian troubles, it was not destitution that worked on the minds of Ali Musaliyar and his followers. The evidence conclusively shows that it was the influence of the Khilafat Movement that drove them to their crime.”
The Khilafat Movement was introduced into this happy and peaceful district of Malabar on 28th April, 1920, by a resolution at the Malabar District Conference, held at Manjeri, the head-quarters of Ernad Taluk. Mrs Annie Besant who attended the conference opposed the resolution but her dissent was voted down. The taluk of Erand was chosen for a very shrewd reason. Its population was mostly peasants, unlettered and illiterate and they were duped into passing the Khilafat Resolution without really understanding what it meant. Besides this Manjeri in Erand was site of many Moplah outrages and raids against Hindus (called Hal Ilakam – religious frenzy).
The die was cast on 18th August 1920, when MK Gandhi visited Malabar with Shaukat Ali Jauhar and initiated formation of Khilafat Committees in all taluks of Malabar. Gandhi in his speech claimed –
“The Imperial Government has knowingly flouted religious sentiments …. of 70 million musalmans……I have studied the Khilafat question…I claim to understand the musalman’s feelings, and I have come to declare that the British Government has wounded the sentiments of musalmans.”
MKG & Shaukat Ali Jauhar made the ongoing agitation into a protest against religious persecution. It was only natural that this “victimhood” narrative would translate to its next logical step – JIHAD…. against the Hindus & the British. The British were not easy targets but the Hindus were cannon fodder for these fanatics.
Arrest of Yakub Hassan, a Khilafat leader was actively opposed by various congress leaders like Rajagopalachari & K.P. Keshava Menon roused the moplahs in support of Khilafat. The rising agitation was used by congress to widen its footprint in the hinterlands of Kerala. They used the anger and religious fanaticism to organize the moplahs into 230 Congress Sabhas & enlist thousands.
30th March 1921, Abdulla Kutti Musaliar of Vayannad (Wayanad – Rahul G constituency) spoke at a meeting in Kizhakoth, Amsom, Calicut Taluk. He gave a call in support of Khilafat and it sparked violence against Nayyars and Tiyyars. On the second day, after meeting in Pannaur mosque, the moplahs attacked the Hindus of the areas. The attack was foiled and moplahs arrested.
The OTTAPALAM INCIDENT was another milestone that saw violent attacks follow the 3 day conference exhorting muslims to agitate for establishment of Khilafat (Islamic rule). After the meetings, the Khilafat supporters attacked the police and caused serious damage to property and grievous injuries to police (local Hindus made up the police force). The violence was, ironically, justified by the congress leaders by shifting the blame on to the police and exonerating the khilafat agitators of any wrong doing – This set up a bad precedent that emboldened the Khilafat supporters and weakened the voice the Hindus.
By 11th June 1921, Congress had formed over 100 Khilafat Committees (Case No. 128 of 1922) in just 2 Taluks of Erand and Ponnani. Each moplah center had a Khilafat committee headed by a moplah president, moplah secretary with majority members being moplahs. At this point in history, a maulvi, Ali Musaliar, rose to prominence in Tirurangadi as a Khilafat leader. Through his meetings (majlis) he used the Karachi Khilafat Resolution to convince the moplahs that the British Rule was about to end and it was the duty of every moplah to use violence to hasten the end. He spread the rumour that the Amir of Afghanistan was about to invade Hindustan. He claimed with this invasion the muslims would rise up under the leadership of infamous Ali Brothers. Gandhi would help the Ali Brothers to establish Khilafat (Islamic Rule) in India. His fiery speeches drew many moplah to his side. Ali Musaliar made the moplah swear on their religious book to be ready to die for their cause – wage Jihad and attain shahdat all leading to eternal orgy with 72 hoors in jannat. He organized the moplahs in units and gave them uniforms and marched them through the taluk. These moplahs were fully armed and under the thrall of religious fanaticism (West Coast Spectator, Oct 6, 1921)
After offering Ramzan prayers and with 300-400 armed men at his back, Ali Musaliar led a procession of moplahs from Kizhekkapalli mosque to the graveyard in Tirurangadi where moplah miscreants were buried. After offering their prayers they went to attack the police and government buildings. The riot was quelled but police couldn’t arrest Ali Mausaliar. By now an army of moplahs was well and truly formed – armed with their traditional moplah long knives (curved broadswords) and dressed in khaki uniforms, they marched under a red flag. This army waged its first attacks in Ponnani Taluk on 24th July 1921, when they attacked the police and set fire to the local police station. Ironically the meeting at Ponnani was held by K.P. Keshava Menon, an old congress leader and khilafat supporter.
One month before the fateful night attacks, events escalated at a feverish pace so much so that the congress, that had shepherded the Khilafat movement, could not believe or accept that their dangerous game of using religious fanaticism for political gain had backfired.
The police in search of arms looted during 24 July attacks, raided the House of V Mohammed a moplah leader. The gun was looted during attacks on the Pookuttur Palace of the Nilambur Tirumalpad. Ali Mualsiar used this raid as an excuse to drive his men to brutal reprisal against the Hindus of Malabar. The mob led by Ali Mualiar besieged the Pookuttur Palace. The Police responded promptly but no action was taken as among the moplah mob, were a number of women. These women, with prayer beads in their hands, were inciting the men to frenzy and at the same time preventing the police from taking action against the moplah (pretty clever move). By 2nd August 1921, the moplahs had taken over the Pookuttur village. The moplahs were numerically superior (852 to 437 Hindus) and they, systematically drove out the Namboodri Hindus from their residences (Namboodri Illom)
NOTE – Ironically the current Jai Bhim Jai Meem jamat is playing the same game that was played in Malabar in 1921.
The Hindu blacksmiths were brought under influence of the Khilafat movement by the congress and it was these blacksmiths and carpenters who made swords and battering rams for the moplahs. The moplahs used these weapons against the upper caste Hindus and then turned their blades on to the throats of these low caste Hindus
A month before the fateful day, rumour spread in the taluks of Malabar that the British had left and now it was time to establish a Muslim Swaraj (Dar – ul – Islam). Call for arms was given out and emotions of moplahs were set aflame by their maulvis – That violence was the only way to cleanse the land of the Kaffirs and see the sun rise over a land under a Khalifa (Caliph – Islamic King).
I cannot, nor can any man, truly narrate the brutalities committed on the Hindu men, women and children. Their only fault was the simple fact that they were born a Hindu who were, as a people, educated, prosperous by the sweat of his brow and peaceful. So I take recourse to quoting various stakeholders, law keepers and the victims themselves to make you, the reader, realize the brutalities heaped on Hindus.
It was an organized riot; the rebels had manufactured war-knives and swords: collected firearms and swords from Hindu houses: also from Police stations (as described previously). They wrecked the rail-road and cut telegraph lines, destroyed bridges, felled trees and blocked roads, dug trenches and lay in ambush to attack the passing troops: in fact, they acted as men who had gained some knowledge of modern war-fare, having learned these tactics from disbanded sepoys, who instructed the Khilafat soldiers as to how they should proceed. (Mr. L. E. Kirwan’s letter, dated 2nd September, 1921 in the Madras Mail).
Sir Sankaran Nair wrote: “For sheer brutality on women, I do not remember anything in history to match the Malabar rebellion. It broke out about the 20th of August. Even by the 6th of September the results were dreadful…”
The women of Malabar, led by the senior Rani of Nilambur, petitioned the Vicerine Lady Reading: “…your Ladyship is not fully appraised of all the horrors and atrocities perpetrated by the fiendish rebels of the many wells & tanks filled up with the mutilated, but often only half dead bodies of our nearest and dearest ones who refused to abandon the faith of our fathers; of pregnant women cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles, with the unborn babe protruding from the mangled corpse; of our innocent and helpless children torn from our arms and done to death before our eyes and of our husbands and fathers tortured, flayed and burnt alive; of our hapless sisters forcibly carried away from the midst of kith and kin and subjected to every shame and outrage which the vile and brutal imagination of these inhuman hell-hounds could conceive of; of thousands of our homesteads reduced to cinder mounds out of sheer savagery and a wanton spirit of destruction; of our places of worship desecrated and destroyed and of the images of the deity shamefully insulted by putting the entrails of slaughtered cows where flower garlands used to lie, or else smashed to pieces; of the wholesale looting of hard earned wealth of generations reducing many who were formerly rich and prosperous to publicly beg for a piece or two in the streets of Calicut, to buy salt or chilly or betel leaf—rice being mercifully provided by the various relief agencies. These are not fables…”
A Committee of Distinguished Citizens comprising KP Keshava Menon, Secretary, Kerala Provincial Congress Committee, KV Gopal Menon among others, realize their mistake of feeding milk to the snake, state in their report –
“Truth is infinitely of more paramount importance than Hindu Muslim unity or Swaraj and therefore we tell the Maulana Sahib and his co-religionists and India’s revered leader Mahatma Gandhi—if he too is unaware of the events here—that atrocities committed by the Moplahs on the Hindus are unfortunately too true and that there is nothing in the deeds of Moplah rebels which a true non-violent, non-co-operator can congratulate them for… Their wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all but wholesale looting of their houses…; the forcible conversion of Hindus…; the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus, men, women and children in cold blood without the slightest reason except that they are ‘Kaffirs’…; the desecration and burning of Hindu temples, the outrage on Hindu women and their forcible conversion and marriage by Moplahs…”
Khilafat leaders passed resolutions after resolution congratulating Moplahs for the brave fight they were carrying on for the sake of religion.
Gandhi declared : “The Moplahs are among the bravest in the land. They are God fearing. Their bravery must be transformed into purest gold.
Furthermore Gandhi blames the British Government (they stopped the killings of Hindus): “…Why is it ‘strange’ that I consider the Government solely responsible for the trouble? They could have avoided the trouble by settling the Khilafat question…The outbreak would not have taken place if the Collector had consulted the religious sentiment of the Moplahs. I do indeed accuse the Government of punishing the Moplahs….”
Ironically MKG aka BAPU does victim blaming and holds Hindus responsible for inciting moplahs to murder and brutalise them: “…Hindus must find out the causes of Moplah fanaticism. They will find that they are not without blame. They have hitherto not cared for the Moplah.”
For more on the Khilafat Movement read the Khilafat series:
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