The Malabar Rebellion was recognised by the Kerala government in 1971 as part of the freedom struggle but opponents consider the revolt as an attack against Hindus by Muslims.

Black and white picture from 1920s when a number of men are being marched by the police against the backdrop of a building with archesMalabar Rebellion prisoners taken for trial charged with agitation against British rule / Wiki Commons
news Politics Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - 09:11

The Malabar Rebellion, the 1921 pre-independent revolt in present-day Kerala and its popular leader Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, has once again become a topic of heated discussion in the state. This is following the move to remove the names of leaders of the Malabar Rebellion from ‘Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle’, jointly published by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). From ruling parties in Kerala to the opposition parties, the move has been slammed by many, including historians. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has once again termed the rebellion as an attack on Hindus.

Malabar Rebellion, also known as Moplah Rebellion or Mappila Rebellion, was recognised by the Kerala government in 1971 as part of the freedom struggle. However, a growing opposition, including right-wing groups, considers the revolt as an attack against Hindus by Muslims. 

The decision to remove the names of leaders of the revolt from the dictionary of martyrs follows the recommendation of a three-member panel that stated that the revolt is not part of India’s struggle for independence. This has been now largely criticised by political parties including the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), as well as by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is part of the Congress-led opposition front.

Hitting out at the Union government, LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan stated that the Malabar Rebellion was part of the independence movement. “For those who are trying to communalise history, the fierce revolt of the Malabar Rebellion will be an irritant. The decision (of the ICHR) is inclusive of the present Union government’s view,” Vjayaraghavan told the media on Tuesday. He also added that AKG (AK Gopalan), one of the founding members of Communist party in Kerala, was jailed by the British for comparing the Malabar Rebellion to the Paris Commune.

CPI(M) Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also met the media on Tuesday stating that the BJP is trying to twist history. IUML leader PK Kunhalikutty echoed the same. “They are trying to impose their perception of things in India and that is communal in nature. Whichever document they change, historic persons will continue to remain in the hearts of people,” said Kunhalikutty.

Read: Variyamkunnath and nuances of the Malabar Rebellion: Author Manu S Pillai interview

Kerala Speaker MB Rajesh on Monday, criticising the move, compared Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji to Bhagat Singh. “When Bhagat Singh asked the then Punjab Governor to shoot him, as he is a political prisoner, instead of hanging him to death, Variyamkunnath asked the British to shoot him without a blindfold,” Rajesh said.

Speaker Rajesh’s comparison was not very well taken by the BJP. Yuva Morcha, youth wing of the BJP, on Tuesday, took out a protest march against his house. 

AP Abdullakutty, national vice-president of the BJP, hit out at MB Rajesh’s statement linking Variyamkunnath to Bhagath Singh. Abdullakutty made comparisons between Variyamkunnath and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, prominent Kerala historian MGS Narayanan, who reacted on Asianet News, dismissed both the comparisons, saying that the arguments are not based on facts. MGS, however, contended that it is difficult to call the Malabar Rebellion a revolt against the British.

“We can say it had an anti-Hindu stance and it is difficult to say it was completely anti-British. But there were also shades of anti-British sentiments,” MGS said. However, it is difficult to voice an opinion encompassing every aspect,” he added.

He also stated that the move to remove the name of the leaders might be political.

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