The Malabar uprising was a cold and calculated move by certain Muslim leaders to purge the region of Hindus
Tucked away on page nine of the Delhi edition of The Indian Express dated June 24, was a single column news report titled, ‘Film project on Malabar revolt sparks controversy.’ Apparently, the Sangh Parivar had objected to some content in the film being made on the violent 1921 Malabar revolt. There was nothing remarkable in the protest. In a country where caste, community, and religious sentiments are always on a high, objections have arisen in the past on books, films, or works of art. What was remarkable, though, is the mischievous language used in the report by the daily’s correspondent, and the reporter being economical with the truth.
Consider the following line: “The Malabar rebellion…was an uprising of Muslim tenants against the British authorities and their Hindu allies” (emphasis mine). In one stroke, thus, the correspondent justifies the violence that happened, the larger target of which happened to be the Hindu community living in the region. Although the reporter in a later sentence admits that the violence led to the “large-scale killing of Hindus in the Malabar region,” there then follows an attempt to water it down with the caveat, “.. and (it) remains a debated topic among historians.”
The Malabar uprising was less of an ‘uprising’ against the British and its so-called Hindu allies, and more of structured violence against the Hindu community in the region.
If the so-called uprising was against the British and their Hindu allies, why then were thousands of innocent Hindus massacred and grievously attacked? Why were even children not spared? Why were Hindu women targeted and raped? Besides, is it the case that only Hindus were allies of the British and that there was no Muslim in the Malabar who sided with the imperial power?
A thoroughly shaken Annie Besant — who stridently supported freedom for India from foreign rule and had influenced prominent sections of the Indian intelligentsia and political leaders — had commented: “They murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed and drove away all Hindus would not apostate. Somewhere about a lakh of people were driven away from their homes with nothing but the clothes they had on, stripped of everything. Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means, and we do not want to see another specimen of the Khilafat Raj in India.” These lines are from The future of Indian Politics: A Contribution to the Understanding of Present-day problems, a book published by the Theosophical Publishing House in 1992.
She had hit the nail on the head. The Malabar uprising was less of an ‘uprising’ against the British and its so-called Hindu allies, and more of structured violence against the Hindu community in the region. It was an attempt to Islamise the Malabar, and the patriotic veneer was just that — a disguise. And there is nothing debatable about the sordid episode.
The reporter of the news item does not see the hate that propelled the violence. Instead, he refers to a “hate campaign” by the Sangh Parivar on social media against the film’s makers. Surely, he and the film’s maker should be honest enough to avoid taking a one-sided view. The reporter quotes the director as saying that the rebellion has a history “which has been deliberately concealed.” What has been concealed from the mainstream history books over the decades, and more so during the reign of the Congress and its allies, is that the Malabar uprising was a cold and calculated move by certain Muslim leaders to purge the region of Hindus.
One of the methods decided upon was to impart physical training to Hindus in order to equip them in self-defense. The program attracted thousands of youngsters, even from the Congress party.
The murderous mobs were inspired by the then-ongoing Khilafat movement in the country, which is evident. The Khilafat movement was backed by Mahatma Gandhi, who persuaded important leaders of the Congress and prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders to throw their weight behind the demand for the restoration of the Caliphate in faraway Turkey. There was really no need for the Mahatma to have endorsed a brazenly sectarian agitation, and there was nothing in it for India. But he believed that the coming together of Muslims and Hindus could strengthen the freedom movement against the British. This spirit of the Khilafat agitation was nowhere to be seen, with Muslim mobs indulging in murder, loot, arson, and rape of Hindus in the Malabar. Not without reason, Annie Besant saw in the incident “another specimen of the Khilafat Raj” in India.
One fallout of the Khilafat movement, and the Malabar massacre, was the determination of some prominent Hindu leaders and freedom-fighters — among them being Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai and BS Moonjee — to advocate the creation of an organization, a Sanghatan, to counter the growing radical Islamisation in the country. One of the methods decided upon was to impart physical training to Hindus in order to equip them in self-defense. The programme attracted thousands of youngsters, even from the Congress party.
This drive gained further momentum with some Muslim leaders responding with the Tanzim. Led by S Kitchlew, it called upon Muslims to fund the organization and confront the Sangathan. The idea did not work, at least in countering the Hindu body. Meanwhile, all these developments triggered the need for a properly structured organization that could take up the cause of both the Hindu population and freedom from British rule. It led to the formation of the RSS on Dussehra in 1925; the name was formalized a few months later on the day of Ram Navami in 1926.
The Malabar massacre will remain a black day in the country’s modern history. The country ought to observe it as such — and even more so next year, when it will be 100 years of the incident, has occurred.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Film project on Malabar revolt leader sparks controversy – Jun 24, 2020, Indian Express