The 1921 Malabar Hindu genocide has often been touted as a ‘peasant uprising’ against the Landlords. Shashi Tharoor had recently commented that there is one “version of history” which says that the peasants, who were overwhelmingly Muslims rose up against the mistreatment by the Landlords, who were overwhelmingly Hindus. Saying so, an assertion was made that what happened in 1921 was not a genocide of Hindus by Muslim mobs, but an uprising against landlords. This theory has been debunked in the primary sources if one cares to read them.
In the book The Moplah Rebellion, 1921 written by Diwan Bahadur C. Gopalan Nair, he narrates how even before the Moplah massacre of Hindus, intermittently, there were times when Muslims went into a frenzy and slaughtered Hindus. He writes how the Muslims would sometimes go into their “Hal Ilakam” (Religious frenzy) and not only slaughter Hindus but also desecrate their temples.
At that time, one MR TL Strange as the special commissioner in Malabar to understand what the cause of these frenzied episodes are. In an 1852 report, Mr Strange wrote:
“It is apparent that in no insistence can any outbreak or threat of outbreak that has risen be attributed to the oppression of tenants by landlords. A great clamour is now raised on this regard, prominently in the southern taluks visited by me, the Moplah population seeking to throw the blame of these outbreaks upon the landlords by thus charging them with being the cause thereof. I have given the subject every attention and am convinced that though instances may and do arise of individual hardship of the tenant, the general character of the dealing of the Hindu landlords towards their tenantry, whether Moplah or Hindu, is mild, equitable and forbearing. I am further convinced that where stringent measures are taken, the conduct of the tenants is in the vast majority of cases, the cause thereof and that the Moplah tenantry, especially of the Taluks in the South Malabar, where the outbreaks have been so common are very prone to evade their obligations and to resort to false and litigious pleas”.
He further said:
“A ‘feature that has been manifestly common to the whole of these affairs is that they have been one and all marked by the most decided fanaticism, and this, there can be no doubt, has ‘furnished the true incentive to them. The Hindus in the parts where the outbreaks have been most frequent, stand in such fear of the Moplahs as mostly not to dare to press for their rights against them, and there is many a Moplah tenant who does not pay his rent, and cannot, so imminent are the risks, be evicted”.
While there are several such testaments and reports that prove that the Malabar Genocide of Hindus was hardly a peasant uprising against the landlords, the narrative of the Left has prevailed over the years, whitewashing a heinous part of Hindu history.
Apart from direct testimonies that refute the ‘peasant uprising’ theory, there are at least 50 documented cases of Moplah ‘outrages’ against Hindus in the same general area that give credence to the fact that the 1921 Genocide was not an isolated event where Muslims went on the war-path to murder Kafirs.
One of the first recorded outbreaks, when Moplah Muslims massacred Hindus due to fanaticism, is from 1836 and the process of mindless murder, loot and rape, intermittently continued till 1919. The Malabar genocide broke out in 1921 and the Khilafat movement was officially launched in 1920.
Here is a list of 50 such incidents as recorded by Diwan Bahadur C. Gopalan Nair, the then Deputy Collector of Calicut in his book:
1. 26th November 1836: In Pandalur Ernad, one Kallingal Kunholan stabbed one Chakku Pannikar who subsequently died of his wounds. He also wounded three others and was finally shot down by the Tahsildar on the 28th of November.
2. 15th April 1837: In Kalpatta, Ernad, one Ali Kutti of Chengara Amsom attacked and severely injured one Narayana Moosad and occupied his shop. The Tahsildar and Taluk peons then tried to control him, with the police shooting him down the next day.
3. 5th April 1839: In Pallipuram, Walluvanad one Thorayam Pulakal Athan and some other skilled one Kellil Raman and then set fire to a Hindu temple. They then hid in another Hindu temple where they were shot by the Taluk peon.
4. 6th Apri 1839l: One Mambattodi Kuttiathan wounded a Hindu man Paru Taragan and a Taluk peon. Was later sentenced and transported for life.
5. 19th April 1940: In Irimbulli, Ernad, one Parathodiyil Ali Kutti wounded one Odayath Kunhunni Nayar and one more person. The Muslim man then set fire to the Kidangil temple. He was later shot dead by Taluk peon on the following day.
6. 5th April 1941: In Pallipuram, Walluvanad, one Tumba Manie Kunyunnian and eight others killed one Perumballi Nambudiri and another person. The fanatics had also burnt his house and 4 other houses. The Moplah Muslims were then neutralised on the 9th of April by the 36th Regiment Native Infantry and the police peons.
7. 13th November 1841: Kaidotti Padil Moidin Kutti and 7 others killed a Hindu man, Tottasseri Tachu Pannikar and a peon. They then hid in a mosque for three days. They were later joined by three other Muslim fanatics on the morning of 17th November. They were later killed by 40 sepoys.
8. 17th November 1841: Around 2,000 Moplah Muslims laid siege against a police party that was guarding the spot where the Muslim fanatics from 13th November were buried. They later carried the bodies and buried them at a Mosque. 12 of these men were convicted and punished.
9. 27th December 1841: One Melemanna Kunyattan with 7 others killed one Talappil Chakku Naik and one more individual. They then took refuge in the Adhikari house. They then got surrounded by the police and also the villagers. They were then killed and their body was buried under the gallows in Calicut.
10. 19th October 1843: In Tirurangadi, one Kunnancheri Ali Atman and 5 others killed a Hindu man Kaprat Krishna Pannikar. After another Moplah Muslim fanatic joined then, they proceeded to Nair’s house to heap more atrocities. They hid out at the house. On the 24th morning, a military detachment was supposed to neutralise them. But when the Moplah Muslims rushed out, the sepoys ran away. Later the Muslim fanatics were killed by the Taluk peons and the villagers. The sepoys who had run away were court-martialed.
11. 4th December 1843: A Nair labourer was found dead with 10 deep wounds on his body. It is believed that the Moplah Muslim fanatics murdered him.
12. 11th December 1843: In Pandicad, one Anavattat Soliman and 9 others killed a Hindu man Karukammana Govind and a servant of his. They also defiled two temples and took shelter in a house. Troops were deputed in the area but when the Moplah Muslims rushed at the troops, they were killed.
13. 19th December 1843: A peon was found with his hand and his head cut off. The perpetrators were Moplah Muslim fanatics.
14. 26th May 1849: In Ernad, one Chakalakkal Kammad wounded one Kannancheri Cheru and one more person. After that, they hid in a mosque. The Tehsildar went to the mosque to convince him to surrender. When he did, the Moplah lunged towards him with a knife and was subsequently killed.
15. 25th August 1849: One Torangal Unniyan killed one Paditodi Theyunni and with Attan Gurukkal and others killed three more people. After that, they took shelter in a Temple and desecrated the temple in Manjeri, including partially burning it down. According to the book, Ensign Wyse was killed when, with the exception of 4 men, refused to advance against the Moplahs and fled. That night, the Moplah Muslims went to the Angadipuram Temple and were followed by a native infantry detachment. The Muslims then attacked and were killed. That night, over 64 Moplah Muslims were killed.
16. 2nd October 1850: The sons of Periambath Attan, the Moplah Adhikari, had concerted with others to kill one Mungamdambalatt Narayana Moosad and them to kill themselves as well.
17. 5th January 1851: In Payyanad Ernad, one Choondyamoochikal Attan attacked and wounded a clerk named Raman Menon. He then shut himself up in the Inspector’s house, defying the police. The Tehsildar tried to get the Moplah to surrender, however, he opened fire. In the process, he was shot dead.
18. 17th January 1851: According to the book, 3 Moplahs were thinking of “contemplating an assault”. The targets were given security.
19. 15th April 1851: Illikot Kunyunni and 5 others were reported as designing to break out and kill one Kotuparambat Komu and others. The information was true, according to the book, but they were discharged.
20. 22nd August 1851: In Kulathur, Walluvanad, in the above-mentioned case where Komu Menon and his servant were killed by 6 Moplah Muslims, with three others, they also killed Kadakottil Nambudiri and Komu Menon’s brother, Raman Menon. They had also severely wounded Mundangara Rarichan Nair, who died later. They set fire to Rama Menon’s house and then they proceeded to Kuluthur and murdered one old person called Kuluthur Variyar and two servants. Later in police action, 17 Moplah Muslims were killed along with one Subhedar and 4 European privates.
21. 5th October 1851: Tottingal Mammad and 3 other Moplah Muslims had planned to commit an ‘outrage’. Security was provided to the targets.
22. 27th October 1851: In Irimbuli, Ernad, security was taken from two Moplah who intended to join the late Kalathur outbreak.
23. 4th January 1852: Choriyot Mayan and 14 others supported by a mob of 200 Moplah Muslims butchered all the inmates, 18 of them, of Kalattil Kesavan Tangal’s house and extirpated the family, defiled temples, burnt houses and finally fell on January 8th on a desperate attack on the house of Kalliad Nambiar.
24. 5th January 1852: Security taken from 5 Moplah Muslims.
25. 28th February 1852: One Triyakaltil Chekku and 15 other Moplah Muslims of Melmuri and Kilmuri Amsoms set out to “die and create a fanatical outbreak”. Security was taken from them.
26. April-May 1852: In Ernad, two Cherumas after converting to Islam returned to their original faith (Hinduism). These Cherumas were then working for the Kudilil Kannu Kutti Nayar who, being a peon, was transferred from Ernad Taluk to Ponnani and subsequently to Calicut to avert the danger to his life. Others who had returned to Hinduism were also transferred to other places to ensure there was no disturbance.
27. 9th August 1852: In Kurumbranad, 3 Moplah Muslims took up a position in a house of a village accountant (Puttur) and had resolved to die as ‘Shahids’. They wounded a Brahmin and were killed by the police on 12th August.
28. 16th September 1853: In Angadipuram, Kunnumal Moidin and Cherukavil Moidin murdered a Hindu man Chengalary Vasudevan Nambudiri. The Moplah Muslims were not getting any ‘recruits’ so they proceeded. to the top of a hill near Angadipuram. The Tehsildar proceeded there with his peons but the fanatics charged at them. 18 shots were fired and the elder man was brought down wounded. The younger unhurt fell on the peons and the villagers by whom he was dispatched.
29. 12th September 1855: In Calicut, 3 Moplahs – Valasseri Emalu, Puliyakunat Tenu, Chemban Moidin Kutti and Vallattadayyatta Parambil Moidin escaped from their working party of Jail convicts at Calicut and proceeded to Walluvanad. They roamed about the country and on the 10th September reached Calicut. On the 12th, they murdered Collector Mr Conolly at his Bungalow. The assassins were shot on 17th September by a detachment of Major Haley’s Police Corps and a part No. 5 Company of HM’s 74th High landers. A fine of Rs 38,331.80 was collected from the villages implicated in the outrage and Rs 30,936 was paid to Mrs Conolly.
30. November 1855: 2 Moplahs, who had deserted from the Malabar police corps, were suspected of complicity with the murderers of Mr Collony and were required to produce securities for good behaviour and were confined, on the failure to give securities, for 3 years. They were later allowed to leave the country.
31. August 1857: In Ponmala, Poovadan Kunhappa Haji and 7 other Moplah Muslims were suspected of conspiring to revenge the supposed insult offered to their religion by the relapse of a Nair convert, and to make an attempt to rid the country of the Kaffirs representing the Government was weakened by the mutiny in Northern India. The conspirators were surprised and taken prisoners and seven of them were deported under the Moplah Outrages Act.
32. February 1858: In Tirurangadi, Ernad, a Moplah who purchased a piece of ground which was the scene of the death struggles of the Moplahs killed in the outbreak of 19th October 1943, had built a small mosque there and had instituted a day for holding a festival. The number of visitors had increased and the feast assumed a threatening character. The Moplah purchaser and two Mullahs were deported.
33. North Malabar, 1860: Two Moplahs were deported for short terms for threatening the life of an Adhigari.
34. 4th February 1864: In Melmuri, during the Ramzan feast, a Moplah named Attan Kutti in a fit of religious fanaticism stabbed and caused the death of one Notta Pannikkar whom he found in the house of Tiyyan, his intended victim. Attan was sentenced to be hanged as an ordinary malefactor, and his confederate deported, the village being fined to the extent of Rs 2037.
35. 17th September 1865: 3 Moplahs were convicted of murdering one Shangu Nair of the Nenmini Amsam and it was thought that the murder was committed due to personal and private motives. However, a religious cloak was thrown around the affair by the performance three days before the murder of a Muvalad ceremony at which several persons were present who knew of the intended murder. 6 of them were deported.
36. 8th September 1973: In Paral, Kunhappa Musaliar visited the Velichapad or Oracle of Tuthekil temple, struck him with several blows with a sword and left him for the dead. They proceeded to Kolathur and attacked a member of Kolathur Varier’s family and mortally wounded him. Troops from Malappuram surrounded the house and the fanatics attacked them. Of the nine fanatics 8 were killed and one a “mere child” was wounded and afterwards recovered. The villages concerned were fined Rs 42,000.
37. 27th March 1877: In Irimbulli, Avinjipurath Kunhi Moideen and 4 other Moplah Muslims designed to commit a fanatical outrage as a Nair had debauched the wife of one of the men. Two of the conspirators elected to leave Malabar for Mecca to which place they were sent and Kunhi Moideen was ‘bound’ for good behaviour.
38. June 1879: In Paral, Kunnanath Kunhi Moidu incited 6 young men to commit an outrage but before accomplishing their object they were arrested. The ring leader was deported.
39. 9th September 1880: In Melattur, M Ali deliberately cut the throat of a Cheruma lad who had become a convert to Islam and had reconverted. He then wounded a potter on the next day. He was shot and killed by a watchman when he went to the house of the intended victims. 7 Moplahs were deported for this and some were fined.
40. June 1879: Kunnanath Kunhi Moidu incited 6 men to commit an outrage but before accomplishing their object they were arrested. The ring leader was deported.
41. 4th March 1884: A petition was received by the authorities that 2 Moplahs were planning to kill a Hindu called Appathara Pattar. Two ringleaders were deported.
42. 18th June 1884: Kannacheri Raman who had previously embraced Islam and had then reconverted to Hinduism was attacked in the most savage manner, according to the book. The attack was carried out by 2 Moplah Muslims. 3 Moplahs were transported for life and 3 others were deported.
43. 28th December 1884: Because of the deportations and fines imposed, the Moplah Muslims were angry. One Kolakadam Kuyyyassam and 11 others proceeded to the house of Raman’s brother Choyikutti who was greeted by a volley of forearms that the Moplah Muslims were carrying. After this, they set fire to the Hindu’s house. On the way to leaving Malappuram, they mortally wounded one Brahmin man and proceeded to the Trikalur temple. The troops surrounded the temple where the Moplah Muslims were hiding and opened fire at the temple. Then they blasted the door with dynamite to get entry. Of the 12 Muslims, 3 were still alive and 2 had died immediately.
44. 1st May 1885: A gang of Moplah Muslims broke open the house of a Hindu man called Kutti Kariyanand and murdered him, his wife and his 4 children. They set the house on fire and also set ablaze a neighbouring temple. The victim had become a convert to Islam and had reverted to Hinduism 14 years ago. The Moplah Muslims after doing this receded to their own areas and on the 2nd May occupied the house of a Brahmin man. On the afternoon of that day, they attacked a party of South Wales Borderers from Malappuram. They opened fire from a window in the top storey of that house at the military and wounded 4 men. In retaliation, all the Moplah Muslims, 12 of them, were killed.
45. 11th August 1885: A Moplah named Unni Mammad entered the house of one Hindu Krishna Pisharodi under the pretence of buying paddy. At that time, the Hindu man was bathing. Mammad Unni (the Moplah Muslim) rushed past the attendant with one blow of a machete and delivered another one on the head of the Hindu man. He was later hanged after a trial.
46. 1894: In this year, a gang of Moplah Muslims in Pandicad started on the warpath. They wandered defiling and burning temples wherever they could besides attacking and killing Nairs and Brahmins on their way. From one such temple, they came out with their usual fury and were then all shot by the police.
47. 1896: In the book, Nair writes that for this particular atrocity that was unleashed on the Hindus, one was pressed to find any trigger. It was just a result of the unbridled Mohammadan fanaticism. On the 25th of February 1896, a gang of 20 Moplah Muslims went on a killing spree from Chembrasseri Amsom and for 5 days, they terrorised the villages. The book says that during this period, Hindus were murdered and/or their Kudumis were cut off. They were forcefully converted to Islam as well. Temples were desecrated rampantly during this massacre and burnt down to ashes. On 1st March, the Muslims entered the Karanammulpad Temple, determined to make their last stand. Shots were exchanged with about 20 soldiers. At 9 AM, the District Magistrate with the main body of the troops and occupied the hill overlooking the temple at a distance of about 750 yards. When the police opened fire, instead of hiding, the Muslim fanatics purposely courted death while they were howling, shouting religious slogans and firing. Advancing steadily with frequent volleys over the broken ground, the police came near the temple to ask the Moplah Muslims to surrender. The Muslims were defiant and the troops ended up entering the temple without resistance. They ended up walking in on the dead bodies, with their throats slit of 92 Moplah Muslims who had been murdered by Muslims themselves to ensure they were not captured alive.
48. April 1898: The Moplahs were ‘revolting’ in Payyanad. But the fanatics surrendered eventually.
49. 1915: In the year 1915, an attempt was made on the life of Mr Innes, the District Magistrate. The Moplah Muslims had then gone on a rampage, murdered and committing arson. They were finally shot down.
50. February 1919: A gang of fanatics headed by dismissed Moplah head constable began to brew trouble. Following their usual methods they broke into and defiled several temples, killed almost every Brahmin and Nair who they came across and finally died at the hands of the police. 4 Brahmins and 2 Nairs had died in this incident.
After the 1919 incident, the Malabar Hindu Genocide broke out in August 1921 where over 10,000 Hindus were mercilessly killed. It was during these mindless fanatic killings by Moplah Muslims that TL Strange was sent as a special commissioner to inquire why the Muslims were intermittently killing the Hindus. In his report, as mentioned above, he had categorically stated that the reason was mindless fanaticism of the Muslims and not a peasant revolt.
The three judges who had presided over a Special Tribunal in Calicut after the Malabar Genocide of Hindus had said:
For the last hundreds of years at least, the Moplah community has been disgraced from time to time by murderous outrages, as appears from the district Gazetteer. In the past, they have been due to fanaticism. They generally blazed out in the Ernad, Taluk, where the Moplahs were for the most part proselytes drawn from the dredges of the Hindu population. These men were miserably and hopelessly ignorant, and their untutored minds were particularly susceptible to the inflammatory teaching that Paradise was to be gained by killing Kaffirs, and the servants of Kaffirs. They would go out on the war path, killing Hindus, no matter whom, and would be joined by other fanatics and then seek death in hand-in-hand conflict with the troops. In some cases, they may have been inspired by hatred of a particular landlord, but no grievance seems to have been really necessary to start them on their wild careers. The Moplahs has been described as a barbarous and a savage race and unhappily the description seems appropriate at the present day. But it was not mere fanaticism, it was not agrarian trouble, it was not destitution, that worked on the minds of Ali Musalair and his followers. The evidence conclusively shows that it was the influence of the Khilafat and the non-cooperation movements that drove them to their crime. It is this which distinguishes the present from all previous outbreaks. Their intention was, absurd though it may seem, to subvert the British Government and to substitute a Khilafat Government by force of arms.
This was an excerpt from the Judgement in case number 7 of 1921 on the file of Special Tribunal, Calicut.
This judgement itself clearly shows that for 100 years before 1921, Moplah Muslims had gone on the warpath and massacred Hindus. They did so then owing to their Islamic fanaticism. What was different about the 1921 genocide of Hindus was not that they were doing it to support India’s freedom struggle but to establish a Khilafat Government inlace of the British. A Khilafat government here means nothing but an Islamic caliphate. It is to be kept in mind that this was the movement summarily and wholeheartedly supported by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. To date, the narrative about the Malabar Hindu Genocide has been distorted to whitewash the horrors faced by the Hindus of Malabar, to insinuate that the murders of Hindus were retribution for Hindu landlords mistreating Muslim peasants. The reality, however, is far from it.