Days after it was reported that the names of people who participated in the Malabar Rebellion of 1921 shall be removed from the list of the country’s freedom fighters, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan criticised the move by the Union government saying it was one made by those without any clue about the fight against the British in India. The CM said that Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, the leader of the rebellion who was executed by the British, and other people who were part of the movement had been recognised as freedom fighters.
“It cannot be denied that the 1921 revolt was against the British. Later, the revolt against landlords who used to help the British started. It’s true that some had tried to take advantage of the situation,” the Chief Minister told reporters on Saturday, August 28. Asked about the allegations by the BJP and the RSS that the rebellion, also known as the Moplah (Muslim) riots of 1921, was one of the first manifestations of the Taliban mindset in India, Pinarayi said that Variyamkunnath and others were recognised as freedom fighters.
Noting that there were many forms of the freedom struggle such as Satyagraha, non-cooperation movement, farmers movement and armed protests, the CM said that all had one aim, that is to oust the British. “Just because they had various opinions on the system of rule after the ousting of the British, it doesn’t mean that they were not part of the freedom struggle,” he said.
The CPI(M) and the Congress in Kerala had criticised the Union government following some media reports that a three-member panel of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) sought removal of 387 martyrs, including Variyamkunnath and Ali Musliyar, from a book on the martyrs of the freedom struggle.
While a section in Kerala hail Variyamkunnath as a leader who died fighting against British colonialism, Hindu right-wing groups claim he was a leader of fanatics who targeted Hindus in Eranadu and Valluvanadu taluks in south Malabar in 1921.
Earlier on Saturday, CM Pinarayi stressed the need for an organised movement with a definite political conviction to eliminate the menace of casteism, communalism and economic inequality rooted in the society. These social evils are still posing challenges to the progress of the land and peaceful life of people, he said in a Facebook post marking the birth anniversary of social reformer and renaissance leader Ayyankali, who had fought for the rights of Dalits.
Ayyankali (1863-1941) was a social reformer and worked for the advancement of Dalits, who were considered “untouchables” in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Remembering the leader’s fight, the CM said that Ayyankali was one of the prominent personalities who had ushered the southern state into the era of modernity by shedding the light of renaissance upon the darkness of feudalism, caste system and evil practices that prevailed in the then society. He also fought for the rights of women, farmers and grassroot level workers, CM Pinarayi said.
The legendary struggles he led against the injustices suffered by the Dalit people, who were treated even worse than animals, had changed the course of Kerala’s history, he added. Later, while inaugurating the great leader’s birth anniversary celebrations at a function in Thiruvananthapuram, he said that the context should be used to look into the relevance of politics upheld by Ayyankali and such leaders in contemporary India.
“It is significant to understand that if the atrocities and oppression against the downtrodden increase in society, the Constitution and democracy are in danger,” he said. The crux of the Constitution and democracy is to accept everyone irrespective of their religion, caste and gender, and no one is out of its cover, the CM added.
In another Facebook post, he also reminisced about the contributions of Chattambi Swami (1853-1924), a Hindu sage and social reformer who is considered to be one of the torchbearers of the renaissance movement in the state.
(With PTI inputs)