One of the biggest fallouts of the ill-fated Khilafat movement which would be a precursor of more heinous acts was the horrific atrocities committed by the Moplahs (Mapillas) of the Malabar in August 1921. The Moplahs (Muslims) were tenants at will of Hindu landlords (jenmi) and were extremely animus towards their masters who charged high rents for the lands they tilled.
The Khilafat movement which was supposed to have been a movement against the British soon became a religious war often referred to as a jihadi massacre of Hindus. The so-called “uprising” or “rebellion” of the Moplahs was a poor excuse to exercise their authority over the hapless Hindus whom they considered to be servants of theirs – an illogical ideology deeply entrenched because of successive Muslim invasions since the 11th-12th century (starting with Mohammad Ghori).
The murderous Moplah genocides in the Malabar was initiated by a band of fanatic Muslims who were prone to frequent and irrational violent tendencies driven by either economic or religious reasons. The protagonists of the Khilafat movement and the Ali brothers made incendiary speeches asking Muslims to come together to fight a religious war that in all fairness was totally unwarranted and uncalled-for.
The Moplahs who never needed any reason to rebel used supposed past agrarian grievances to spur themselves into action and begin a pogrom against the Hindus. Weapons (Moplah sword) were collected and a mass movement was initiated to declare the imminent establishment of the Islamic kingdom. One Khilafat leader, Ali Musaliyar was proclaimed the king, Khilafat flags were raised and two provinces of Eranad and Valluvanad were declared as Khilafat kingdoms.
The British government largely escaped the mob fury while the Hindus bore the brunt of the barbarism of the Moplahs. Mass murders of Hindu families, brutal rapes of married women and young girls in front of their family members, murders of pregnant women, desecration of temples, slaughter of cows, plunder, arson and forcible conversions were the order of the day.
Many wells and tanks were filled up with mutilated bodies, some only half-dead that were deliberately thrown into deep wells with no chance of ever being rescued. Bodies of those Hindus who refused to abandon their faith when their loved ones were hacked to death were strewn about. Pregnant women were cut to pieces with the foetus protruding from their mangled corpse and left to the mercy of animals on roadsides and jungles. Innocent and helpless children were taken away and killed in front of their bleeding parents and family members.
Men (husbands, fathers and brothers) were tortured, flayed and burnt alive. Young unmarried girls were grabbed and raped repeatedly in front of their kith and kin. Thousands of ancestral homes were set ablaze out of sheer spite and savagery.
The deities of temples were damaged, blood and parts of the cow were spilled over the sanctum sanctorum and entrails of the slaughtered cows were put around the Gods and Goddesses in place of flower garlands. Those Hindus who managed to survive had to wander naked into the jungles in search of food and water.
The young Hindu women who had been captured were forcibly converted to Islam, their ears were pierced in the typical Moplah fashion, they were made to dress like the Moplahs and were treated like slaves and forced to sleep with their captors. Some Hindu women who had managed to resist these savages had their garments torn from them, were threatened and molested and compelled to run in a state of undress into the forests. Men from respectable families who had been beaten senseless were forcibly converted and the circumcision ceremony was performed with the help of Musaliyars and Thangals.
Several Hindus were skinned alive and forced to dig their own graves before they were slaughtered. The Khilafatists passed resolutions applauding the atrocities of the Moplahs equating it to heroism!
Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was wearing a halo that made him blind to the deplorable acts of his allies, the Khilafatists spoke of the brutes as ‘brave God-fearing Moplahs’ and described them as ‘patriots’ who were ‘fighting for what they consider as religion, and in a manner which they consider as religious’.
Dr. Ambedkar on the other hand was highly critical of Mr. Gandhi who he felt had made light of the doings of the Moplahs and the Khilafatists and felt these despicable and inhumane acts were too heavy a price to pay for Hindu-Muslim unity. Gradually, the horrors of the Malabar became more pronounced on the national scene and were visible in every part of India as radical Muslims became emboldened by the vicious actions of the Malabar barbarians. This severely punctured holes in the so-called unity that Mr. Gandhi had been propounding – a mythical ideology that is incomprehensible.
The All-India Muslim League justified the Moplah genocide as a religious war against the British, in which the Hindus got caught in the crossfire as they “appeared” to be “siding” with the invaders. The Khilafat conference in its session at Cocanada held in 1923 praised the Moplah “martyrs” and expressed their solidarity.
In reality, the so-called “martyrs” were a few Moplahs who were killed by the British who finally woke up to reinstate some semblance of order in the Malabar region. They intervened only after ensuring that a sizeable chunk of the Hindu population had been wiped out by their aides – the Moplahs (Muslims). Maintenance for the family of these “brave martyrs” was organized in the conference.
The Moplah “uprising” or “riots” were just a trailer of what calamity was set to befall India. The deep polarization that the 1920s created culminated in the eventual painful partition of the country. In retrospect, the 1920s is the watershed in communal relations in India.
The religious fanaticism exhibited by the Moplahs is well documented in books, newspapers of 1921-22 and historical records of both Britain and British India. English newspapers that were circulated abroad spoke of how poorly Hindus fared in the hands of fanatical Mohammedans. The cold-blooded massacres by the Moplahs of the Malabar is deemed to be the holocaust of Hindus.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about The Moplah Hindu Genocide is taken from archives