Khilafat Movement

Moplah Rebellion – An OffShoot of the Khilafat Movement

The Moplahs are a band of fanatic Muslims who descended from the Arabs. They settled in the Malabar Coast about the 8th or 9th century A.D and married mostly Indian wives. They had over the years acquired an unenviable notoriety for crimes perpetuated under the impulse of religious frenzy. They were responsible for 35 minor outbreaks during the Brit rule, the most terrible being the one that took place in August 1921.

During the early months of 1921, excitement spread speedily from mosque to mosque, village to village. The violent speeches of the Ali brothers, the early approach of Swaraj as foretold in the non-cooperating press, the July resolutions of the Khilafat Conference all added fuel to the fire. All through July and August Khilafat meetings were held in which the Karachi resolution was fervently endorsed. Knives, swords etc were secretly manufactured and preparations were made to the proclaim of the coming of the kingdom of Islam. On Aug 20, the District Magistrate of Calicut with the help of troops attempted to arrest certain leaders who were in the possession of arms at Tirurangadi. A severe encounter was a signal for an immediate rebellion throughout the whole locality.

Government property was destroyed. Europeans who did not succeed in escaping were murdered. As soon as the administration was paralyzed, the Moplahs declared that Swaraj had been established. A certain Ali Musliar was proclaimed Raja, Khilafat flags were flown, Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat kingdoms. The main brunt of the Moplah ferocity was borne, not by the govt but by Hindus were constituted the majority of the population. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon woman were perpetuated freely till troops could arrive to restore order.

By the end of 1921 the situation was under control. The govt. lost 43 troops with 126 wounded while the Moplahs lost 3,000 people. However, the Muslim leaders put the figure at 10,000 and refer to desecration of mosques, atrocities while suppressing the revolt. Outrages upon a large number of Hindus may be corroborated by independent testimony. It would suffice to refer to a few documents.

1. A statement signed by the Secretary and Treasurer of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee and Secretary Ernad Khilafat Committee and K.V.Gopala Menon refers to the misdeeds of the Moplahs. “Their wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all but wholesale looting of their houses in Ernad etc, the forcible conversion of Hindus in the beginning of the rebellion and the wholesale conversion of those who stuck to their homes in later stages, the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus without the slightest reason. Except that they are Kafirs or belonged to the same religion as the policemen, who entered their Tangals or entered their mosques, burning of Hindu temples, the outrage on Hindu woman and their forcible conversion and marriage by the Moplahs”.

2. A report dated Calicut, 7/9/1921 published in the Times of India and another dated 6/12/1921 published in the New India, give detailed accounts of the most horrible outrages on women which cannot be reproduced for the sake of decency.

3. Sankaran Nair refers to cases of men who were skinned alive or made to dig their graves before being slaughtered. To read more about the atrocities go to page 362 of the History and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bharitya Vidya Bhavan vol 10.

4. According to the Report of the Enquiry Committee of the Servants of India, the number of Hindus murdered was 1500, the number forcibly converted 20,000 and property looted Rs 3 crs.

5. In a heart-rending petition to Lady Reading, wife of the Viceroy, the Hindu woman of Malabar stated “Your ladyship is doubtless aware that even though our unhappy district has witnessed many Moplah outbreaks in the last one hundred years, the present rebellion is unexampled in magnitude as well as unprecedented in ferocity, pregnant woman cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles. We remember how driven out of our native hamlets we wandered, starving and naked, in the jungles and forests”.

6. To those who appealed to the Moplahs in the name of Gandhi they said, “Gandhi is a kafir, how can he be our leader?” So much for Gandhi’s Hindu Muslim unity.

7. Said Mrs Annie Besant, Malabar has taught what Islamic rule means and we do not want to see another specimen of Khilafat Raj in India”.

The Congress leaders at first disbelieved these stories but the tales of hundreds of refugees landing at Calicut, a wave of horror spread among the Hindus who were not blinded by the new-fanged ideas of Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost. Gandhi himself spoke of the “brave God-fearing Moplahs who were fighting for what they considered as religion, and in a manner, which they considered as religious”. Little wonder those Khilafat leaders passed resolutions congratulating the Moplahs on the brave fight they were conducting for the sake of religion.

When truth could not be suppressed any longer, and came out with all its naked hideousness, Gandhi tried to conciliate Hindu opinion by various explanations, denials and censure of the authorities which resulted in the following resolution passed by the Congress at Ahmedabad.

“The Congress expresses its firm conviction that the Moplah disturbance was not due to the Non-Cooperation or the Khilafat Movements, specially as preachers of these movements were denied access to the affected parts by the District authorities for six months before the disturbance, but is due to causes wholly unconnected with the two movements, and that the outbreak would not have occurred had the message of non-violence been allowed to reach them. Nevertheless the Congress deplores the acts done by certain Moplahs by way of forcible conversions and destruction of life and property, and is of the opinion that prolongation of the disturbance in Malabar could have been prevented by the Govt of Madras accepting the proffered assistance of Maulana Yakub Hassan and allowing Gandhi to proceed to Malabar, and is further of opinion that the treatment of Moplah prisoners as evidenced by the asphyxiation incident was an act of inhumanity unheard of in modern times and unworthy of a Government that calls itself civilized”.

This resolution is unworthy of a great political organization, which claims to represent India and not any particular community. Its deliberate attempts to minimize the enormity of crimes by fanatic Moplahs upon thousands of hapless Hindus betrays a mentality which generally characterised govt communiqués whitewashing crimes perpetuated by officials upon Indians, and both should be strongly denied by an impartial critic.

It is ridiculous to maintain that the Moplah rebellion was not due to the Khilafat or Non-cooperation movements in view of the Khilafat meetings that endorsed the Karachi resolution, proclamation of Khilafat kingdom, flags. The tone of the resolution seems apologetic and reminds me of the English media today who are quick to criticize the Hindu for any form of protest but ignore, underplay acts of violence, intolerance by the Muslims, Christians.

Said Hazrat Mohani in his Presidential speech at the session of the Muslim League held at Ahmdebad on 30/12, “The Moplahs justify their action on the ground that at such a critical juncture, when they are engaged in a war against the English, their neighbors read Hindus not only did not help them or observe neutrality but aid and assisted the English in every way. When the Moplahs have left their houses, property and belongings, taken refuge in hills and jungles, it is unfair to characterize as plunder their commandeering of money and other necessaries for their troops from the English or their supporters”.

In describing the Moplah action as a religious war against the Brits, Hazrarbhai regards it as a political movement, which cannot be disassociated from the Khilafat agitation. His justification of the Moplah atrocities is not only puerile in the extreme but is contrary to facts. He ignores that most of the looting of Hindu houses happened on 21, 22, 23 Augusts, before the military had arrived in the affected areas i.e. long before the Moplahs had taken to the jungles.

At the annual session of the Khilafat Conference in 1923, Shaukat Ali, President of the session praised the Moplahs while conceding some Hindus had suffered at their hands, he said the while chapter was a closed book since they had a duty to the brave Moplahs. He announced that he and his brother Muhammad Ali would provide for the maintenance of one Moplah orphan.

One looks in vain on the part of the Congress or Hindu leaders to help the victims of the Muslim outrage. May be they would be called communal if they had done so, their minds being so well conditioned by the Brits that helping fellow Hindus was a crime. There was a silver lining however. The Arya Samajis, through their Suddhi Movement, converted over 2,000 Hindus who had been converted to Islam by the Moplahs.

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