RSS-inspired historians conspiring to distort the role of early Indian freedom fighters

They are trying to erase the names of Communists and Moplah rebels from the well-known list of those whose contribution to the freedom struggle was significant

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Krishna Jha/IPA

To build our present it is imperative to have a rich sense of history, which means hindsight with objectivity, without bias, without any inclination to stigmatise it. But what is happening is simply the reverse. A concerted effort has been unleashed to dim the glory of the heroic deeds and sacrifices made by our people coming from various streams of our society.

This time the controversy is over a book called ‘Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle 1857-1947’ listing the life and sacrifices of martyrs in the India’s freedom struggle. C I Isaac, a member of Indian Council of Historical Research, along with organisations like Hindu Aikya Vedi, has urged for the deletion of all references in the book of Communist martyrs of the Punnapra Vayalar-Karivelloor and Kavumbayi agitations as well as of Muslim freedom fighters who lost their lives in the Wagon Tragedy and Malabar rebellion. A three -member committee has been set up to review the entries in the book. Isaac is one of the members of the panel.

The sacrifices of the Communists who laid down their lives to resist feudal-colonial rule in the Punnapra Vayalar-Karivelloor and Kavumbayi agitations as well as of Muslim freedom fighters were the bright points in the freedom struggle. Any attempt to delete their contribution would amount to sacrilege.

The report suggesting deletion calls the Moplah rebels as rioters, depriving them of their contributions that include life itself while fighting against the British colonialists. The removal of the 64 names of those who perished in the Wagon Tragedy is also suggested. All of them were arrested during the unrest against the British government and were left to suffocate behind the closed walls of the wagon.

The report also asked for deleting the names of prominent leaders of Malabar rebellion Ali Musliyar, Variamkunnatha Haji, and his two brothers.

Apart from them, demand for removal includes 387 others, called as ‘Malabar Rioters’. The report also describes Haji as ‘notorious Moplah riot leader’.

To untangle the mess purposely created, it is imperative to visit at least the period of Moplah rebellion, the proposed deletion of which smacks of a divisive under current. The years to be taken into account were turbulent with peasant unrest all over the country. In north, peasants rose almost in unison mainly from the downtrodden, and led by the national and local leaders of freedom struggle against the injustices committed by the landlords that were also close to the ruling elite. It was mainly in Avadh, with centres in Hardoi, Bahraich and Sitapur. The movement was called ‘Eka’ or unity led by Congress and Khilafat leaders. The local Eka leaders were mostly from lower castes. On the remains of the Eka movement, later the Kisan Sabha came up.

The discontent was rising all over the country and in August 1921, Moplah rebellion ignited the entire region of Malabar in Kerala. The tenants here were mostly Muslims, though there were Hindus too. Anger erupted against gross violation of justice by the landlords popularly called Jemnis, who were mostly rich Hindus.

The support and inspiration came from mainly Congress conference that took place in Manjeri in April, 1920. Congress came in support of the tenants and organized them against the irregularities in legislation to regulate landless tenant-landlord relationship. Manjeri conference resulted in the formation of Tenants Association in Kozhikode which soon spread over other parts.

The Khilafat movement also erupted around this time and gained prominence with visits by the national leaders like Gandhhiji, Maulana Azad, Shaukat Ali, O Gopala Menon, K Madhavan Nair and others. Soon all these leaders were arrested and the local leadership came up.

As the turbulence was building up, district magistrate of Ernadtaluq EF Thomas came with police and troops on August 20, 1920, and raided the mosque in Turangadi to arrest Ali Musaliyar, a highly respected religious leader in the region and also one of the leaders of the rebellion. The unrest boiled over the rumour that the famous mosque of Mambrath was demolished by British troops. Ali Musaliyar was here and was put in prison. Moplah leaders met the British authorities to resolve the turmoil, followed by silent, disciplined masses. But the forces present there opened fire, killing many. This set afire the discontent that spread far and wide. Moplahs rose in unison but the targets were only vastly unpopular Jemnis who indulged in suppression and injustices and were mostly hindus. The British offices and those of planters were also set ablaze.

The rebellion spread over miles, but the history is witness to the fact that Hindu families residing in the region were attacked. Kanhammed Haji was among those leaders of the rebels who took extra care to protect hindus. They did not allow any loot or attack on these families. Haji even took action against those who indulged in any such attack. Kanhammed Haji was never partial to Muslims and ordered punishments and even execution for those who sided with British. Added to it was the intense suppression by British-landlord combine that influenced the pure secular character of the movement.

By December 1921, British colonialists unleashed brutal suppression taking heavy toll. Among the Moplahs, 2,337 were brutally killed, though unofficially, the number was ten thousand. At least 45,404 rebels were captured and tortured. The cruelty was so severe that the entire movement slowly ebbed into oblivion.

This great tragedy was the outcome of the British and rightist (landlords) conspiracy and it would be keeping alive the poison if we remove these great truths from the understanding of our past.

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