Kunjukkutty,wife of Pandalangattil Maakkunni had just delivered a boy baby. It was then that somebody frightened came running in a haste and informed that riotous Mappilas were beginning to cross the river and proceeding. What a way to keep the baby and mother safe from the mappilas? Mappilas will set fire to the straw roofed house. They will break down any door. It is heard that they hang big grinding stones on the wooden beam of varantha, swing it fast to hit on the door and thus break the latch inside. If they get the baby ,they will kill it. They will molest and ruin the mother. Can’t leave the lady and baby and go. Nor can run with them. In the estate, in a spot which one can’t easily locate dig a room like pit, spread a mattress and make the baby and mother lay on it and cover the top lightly. The idea was worked out. The moment the baby was laid down, it started crying nonstop. In the pit the heat and humidity were intolerable! If the baby cries like this the riotous mappilas will come to know. This precaution made will become useless. The baby and the mother shall be brought back. Come what may! Mappilas didn’t come. By the time British army came and controlled the riot. They put the mappilas in a goods wagon and transported to Coimbatore. Somehow people were saved. On the other bank of the river several Hindus were killed, converted to Islam and women were raped.
I was just 7 years when I listened this history from my mother. She was remembering the heard history in which her mother had delivered her first child ie: my eldest uncle. The horror of mappila riot rooted in my brain thus. There was a strong belief in my place that mappila riot was solely against Hindus. For a long time I believed that there is only one Mappila riot and it occurred in 1921.After several years only I could come to know that there were a number of mappila riots in Malabar during the centuries of 19 and 20.There were some idioms and proverbs in my place criticizing Muslim men like ‘kaakkappada’(battalion of Muslim men) etc in my locality during my childhood. But Muslim women were exempted from such criticism and allegations. To Hindus they seemed as simple minded, poor, helpless and not free. The general assumption was that it was Muslim men who are problem makers. The Hindus had never heard of a Muslim woman who go to Syria for terrorist activities or those who pelt stones on Indian army. In schools, in houses, or in public places never ever the mappila riot was mentioned. Now I feel that it was being avoided deliberately. During 1960s Hindus believed that a word or deed that may create displeasure in Muslims is dangerous. Thus some sort of communal harmony was maintained there! Between 1981 to 1983 when I was a P G student in Calicut University centre, when I stayed in the ladies hostel there, when I travelled across Malappuram district, when I interacted with the people of Malappuram District ,never mappila riot was mentioned. ‘Keralacharithram’ the book written by Prof A. Sreedharamenon was a text book for P G course. It has only a very short mention of the mappila riot. In short, the reasons and situations there had were not to remember the mappila riot, but to forget it. But there was a wagon tragedy memorial town hall at Tirur to memorize the tragedy mappilas suffered in mappila riot. It was constructed with Tax payers’ money, ie: including Hindus money. Variam kunnatth kunjahammad the most notorious criminal who had a leading role in mappila riot also has a memorial in Malappuram District. It is Malappuram town hall. On last January 20th Variam kunnath kunjahammad’s 99th death anniversary was celebrated there. The programme was inaugurated my K Muralidharan MP and the programme chaired by Adv Sumesh Achuthan ,two Hindus!!. These secularist Hindus would have built up a memorial for Tippu sultthan also in Malabar and celebrated his birth or death centenary as they like! On the other hand, the Thuvvoor well in which Hindus en masse were killed and thrown in has become unidentifiable. some events are retained in your memory and some other events are thrown out of your memory thus!!
A few people who have witnessed or experienced the riot or subjected to the riot have written on mappila riot. Well and good .Several people have refrained from writing about mapila riot. Cherukad , born in 1914 at Chemmalasseri ,a village in Malappuram District had witnessed and experienced mapila riot naturally. But he has not mentioned even a single word on mapila riot in his autobiography titled ‘jeevithapaatha’. Another communist writer, EMS namboothiripad have written a few words in his book ‘Athmakatha’ on the riot which’ we call mapila riot and they call agrarian revolt’. He and his family vacated their house and shifted to south on foot and stayed there for a long period, he writes. They returned after a long time only. He remembers that several people had shifted like him. Since most of the people ran away threat to life was less, he claims! Quite natural!! On return he could see that there developed a big drift between Hindus and Muslims. The riot was a great blow on the castism in Hindu religion – Namboothirippad happily finds out!! ‘Khilafath smaranakal’ the book written by Mozhikkunnam Brahmadatthan Namboothirippad and ‘ Malabar kalapam’ the book written by K. Madhavan nair are the books which give us a clear picture of the mapila roit. One Ms Shamshad Hussain has done Ph D on the thoughts and memories of Muslim women regarding Mapila riot.(None has collected the memories of Hindu women sofar!)SK Pottekkad in his novel ‘oru deshathinte katha’ and Uroob in his novel ‘sundarikalum sundaranmarum’ have described the mapila riot and they have not changed the colour of the riot or haven’t darkened it. From S K we even get a few pieces of information as follows
1. Spies of the terrorists were roaming about in disguise.
2. 2. Goorkha regiment, Burma rifles, Sappers & Miners regiment, Mules regiment which generally fight in deserts, artillery and armored vehicles were deployed in Malabar during the riot.
It is on the Mapila riot that Uroob the writer who was born in 1915 had built up the basement of his novel ’sundarikalum sundaranmarum’ .The ‘illam’ ie: the residence of a namboothiri in the locality was attacked by Mapilas. They looted the house, raped the women and killed the members of the house. Locals who got frightened by the news sought asylum in the house of one Mr Panikkar in the locality. Mapilas set fire to that house. A man rescued a young lady from there and ran away from there and took asylum in an abandoned house. There starts the story of ‘sundarikalum sundaranmarum’.
The Hindus who wrote about Mapila riot have never shown partiality to Hindu community. What Mr Mozhikkunnam write is ‘hundreds of locals were killed by rioters but soldiers killed thousands of rioters. And K Madhavan nair wrote that the whole history of the riot nowhere states that Hindus fought against Muslims whenever and wherever they were attacked, but only ran to escape from them. So none can make a criticism that the Hindu writers exaggerated the facts and figures against Muslims!!
Dr K N Panikkar ,the historian and communist thinker has written a book on Mapila riot ,named ‘Against lord and State Religion and peasant uprisings in Malabar 1836-1921.’ The book is translated into Malayalam with a titile ’Malabar kalaapam prabhuthwatthinum raja vazhchaykkum ethire’ . It is a research work constructed by prolonged study in British libraries and court records and revenue records. The facts and figures Mr Panikkar has exhibited in his book were selected specifically to support his arguments in favor of Muslim community in Malabar. But what he selected for his convenience have turned against him as counter arguments. For example, he argues that what happened in Malabar in 1921 was an uprising by peasants and tenants and only a limited number of mapilas had taken part in the riot and the riot was against imperialism of Britain. The tables ,facts and figures in his book clearly proves that Mr Panikker’s conclusions are totally wrong.
There were Muslims also among the land lords and rich people. They also had indulged in evacuating tenants and peasants. There were a number of litigations between Muslims against evacuation. Yet none of the Muslim land lords were attacked. Attacks, killing, robbery, setting fire, rape and conversion to Islam were done only on Hindus.
Totally in the for taluks where riot took place there were 6,80,000 Muslims residing. But only 50,000 men had actually taken active role on the riot, Mr Panikkar says. He has nowhere stated the number of people killed in the riot but has recorded the number of participants ,the meager number of participants in the riot! Ok, if we take it into account, we can understand that almost all healthy male members of Muslim community have actively participated in the riot. Women, children and age old people have not actively participated, but they have passively participated.
If the riot was against imperialism, how could their leader ,Ali musaliyar declare another kingdom of Islamic rule and declare him as the king of it! So we can understand that their fight was not against a kingly rule but British kingly rule. If the kingly rule was by the Amaeer or Sulthan, say Tippu sulthan it would have been the absolute right thing for them.
In short, Panikkers’s conclusions are totally wrong.
‘1921’ the Malayalam movie directed by I V Sasi had highly influenced keralites and reconstructed their idea of mapila riot. In fact it was not I V Sasi the director or Mannil Muhammad the producer who reconstructed the image of mapila riot. It was T Damodaran, the script writer who did it cunningly. Through the movie he said that khilafath movement which was meant to save the religious places in distant countries was a righteous one. He said that Indian national congress had asked Hindus to join khilafat. He said that the prohibition imposed in Tirur, Tanur and Parappanangadi during the days of riot was unreasonable and unexpected. What the film carries is only the revenge of Muslims who were evacuated by Hindu land lords. There is no genocide of Hindus. Only a few people who spied for government were killed, that too one or two or the maximum 10 in number. In the film, it is a caste Hindu youth rebel who unites and leads the Muslims who were ex military soldiers. You can not see a Ali musaliyar who called back all the Muslim soldiers from British army to join khilafat force to fight for khaleefa of Turkey. The Ali musaliyar who proclaimed him as a king, who constituted an Islamic kingdom at Tirurangadi is depicted as an unselfish, peace loving and benevolent gentleman in this movie. Except DY SP Aamu,all the Muslims are good people in this movie .But there are wicked Hindus in a lot of number! Sri Damodaran and his successors might be dear to Malabar Muslims!!
We must see the British communications of the days of riot also. They are telegrams and letters .We get some special information from those documents as follows.
1.Ali musaliyar used to advise and compel the Muslims in British army to quit the service and join khilafat force.
2.On July 28,1921 the farm house of Nilambur kovilakam at Pookkottoor was looted. A breech loading gun and Rupees 130 and legal documents were stolen.( Rs 130 was a big amount on those days)
3.In search of the gun, police conducted raid in the house of a worker named ‘Mammad”, but the gum could not be found out.
4Mammad demanded Rs 350 and two sacks of rice from the kovilakam ( The justification for his claim is not explained)
5.Muslim women had gathered en bloc to join the riot. They had covered their face. They were carrying ‘Thasbeh maala’ to pray. They compelled even the kids to join the riot.(Like the mothers of in Palestine and Kashmir )
6. Khilafat force had a uniform of khaki shirt and trousers, red Turkey hat and weapons in the belt.
7 The Muslims gathered before Nilambur kovilakam were shouting that they will chop the heads of Narayana menon, Dy SP Amu, Thirumulppad and Valluvambram adhikari. They shouted that they will cut into pieces all non Muslims, they will not return without shedding blood of non Muslims and they will turn Nilambur kovilakam into a mosque.
8. The movie 1921 has said that the delay from the part of British government to suppress the crimes was deliberate . They wanted Muslims to attack more and more Hindus so that there will be an irreparable damage in the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. But the telegrams and letters between British officers prove that they were really helpless in the beginning because Hitchcock had been at Koonoor for treatment against dog biting and Mr Lancaster was a new officer who had no idea about the course of action necessitated.
9.The Karachi talks delivered by Muslim leaders called the Muslim folk to fight against Britain, beat them and establish a khilafat country.
10.A Hindu named M P Narayanamenon had been leading khilafat movement in Malabar. He was even wearing Islamic costumes to please Muslims but he and his relatives were attacked by mapilas. Hitchcock very happily makes fun of menon that his senses would have become clear by the attacks!
11.In a telegram sent by Palakkad sub divisional magistrate in 1921 August 31st it is said that several Hindus were converted to Islam in Melathur and looting took place in Trithala. This is my native place. In the beginning of this paper I stated that the southern bank of river Bharathappuzha was cool generally. But Now I understand that my reading was wrong.
12.No where in the telegrams and letters seen that even a single Hindu has indulged in attacking Muslims
13.Mapilas were having all sorts of weapons including guns. Those who sympathize that mapilas were poor people shall explain from where mapilas got money to arrange uniforms and weapons.
14.Ali musaliyar used to tell the Muslim fellows that the Amir of Afghanistan would come and remove the British rule and conquer India. Gandhi and Ali brothers have decided to help Amir.(This Amir of Afghanistan is the king whom Tippu sulthan invited to join with him and fight against Britain.)
15.Mapilas had to take oath carrying Quran in one hand and sword in the other hand
16. Ali musaliyar proclaimed himself as king and conducted processions.
17In Ponnani and Valluvanad Hindus were there in the leadership of khilafat
18.slogans of khilafat
‘British government has fallen….All should follow khilafat government… give money,food and weapons to khilafat…allahu akbar, jey mahathmagandhi..jey shaukkathali..
19.Declaration of loyalty to khilafat government became compulsory later. Around 50 people who refused to do it were slain.
In you tube you can see a number of videos uploaded by Hindus and Muslims on 1921.Muslim videos place British government on their opposite side. They explain how British soldiers harassed Muslims. They don’t have anything to say about Hindus. Their for fathers had fought for freedom! British government suppressed it, harassed the brave fighters and even killed them! This is the status they make. The war at pookkottoor they equate with Jaliyan valabagh massacre. In jaliyan valabagh a big group of people including women and children were shut in a place not allowing them to even run and escape and fired scruplessly at them..But at pookkottoor it was a fight between two armed forces.
Though the Muslims condemn the British atrocities against their for fathers ,they never say that British people raped Muslim women! And we have not seen anybody described as English product of rape. Muslims proudly claim that British army was scared of Muslims. Even now it is their pride that the rulers are afraid of Muslims’ fighting spirit.
In one of the Muslim videos I could listen that Lenin who presided the Moscow congress of soviet communist party in 1922 announced condolence in the death of Variyan kunnath kunjahammad and praised the fight of mapilas against British empire. No doubt why the Indian communist parties glorify mapila riot!
If the mapila riot is viewed as a usual local unrest, that will be the greatest blunder Hindus and India can commit. It was the most cruel and wicked attack on Hindu religion by Muslims. ‘Killing the kafir ‘ which is the last and final step of Islam to convert the whole world to Islam was being accomplished in Malabar in 1921. Though the Muslims opt the other ways for conversion we can see their fanatic groups who ardently follow the holy book word by word show us what real Islam is! We must be thankful to them.
Though the attempt of Ali musaliyar to form an Islamic state failed, Muslims have not dropped their hope. You may remember their recent demand to cut this tiny Kerala state vertically into two pieces and form a Malabar state. They are the same old ‘people’ who devided the country in the basis of religion.
There are tombstones of mapilas killed in riot. There are tombstones of British officers also .But where have the Hindus killed gone? Muslims praise the rioters and call them freedom fighters. Kerala government ,whichever may the political front ruling the state is always ready to appease Muslims. The khilafat movement was a great blunder that our freedom movement conceived in between. Such a khilafat which turned to genocide of Hindus is going to be celebrated by the Kerala state government. Preventing such celebrations must be taken as a matter of self esteem of Hindus.