Moplah Rebellion - An OffShoot of the Khilafat
The Moplahs are a band of fanatic Muslims who have descended from the Arabs who settled in
the Malabar Coast in about the 8th or 9th century A.D and married mostly Indian wives.
They had over the years acquired an unenviable notoriety for crimes perpetuated under the
impulse of religious frenzy. They were responsible for 35 minor outbreaks during the Brit
rule, the most terrible being the one that took place in August 1921.
During the early months of 1921, excitement spread speedily from mosque to mosque, village
to village. The violent speeches of the Ali brothers, the early approach of Swaraj as
foretold in the non-cooperating press, the July resolutions of the Khilafat Conference all
added fuel to the fire. All through July and August Khilafat meetings were held in which
the Karachi resolution was fervently endorsed. Knives, swords etc were secretly
manufactured and preparations were made to the proclaim of the coming of the kingdom of
Islam. On Aug 20, the District Magistrate of Calicut with the help of troops attempted to
arrest certain leaders who were in the possession of arms at Tirurangadi, a severe
encounter took place, which was the a signal for an immediate rebellion throughout the
Government property was destroyed. Europeans who did not succeed in escaping were
murdered. As soon as the administration was paralyzed, the Moplahs declared that Swaraj
had been established. A certain Ali Musliar was proclaimed Raja, Khilafat flags were
flown, Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat kingdoms. The main brunt of the Moplah
ferocity was borne, not by the govt but by the Hindus were constituted the majority of the
population. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon
woman were perpetuated freely till troops could arrive to restore order.
By the end of 1921 the situation was under control. The govt. lost 43 troops with 126
wounded while the Moplahs lost 3,000 people. However, the Muslim leaders put the figure at
10,000 and refer to desecration of mosques, atrocities while suppressing the revolt. Outrages
upon a large number of Hindus may be corroborated by independent testimony. It would
suffice to refer to a few documents.
1. A statement signed by the Secretary and Treasurer of the Kerala Provincial Congress
Committee and Secretary Ernad Khilafat Committee and K.V.Gopala Menon refers to the
misdeeds of the Moplahs. Their wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all
but wholesale looting of their houses in Ernad etc, the forcible conversion of Hindus in
the beginning of the rebellion and the wholesale conversion of those who stuck to their
homes in later stages, the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus without the slightest
reason Except that they are Kafirs or belonged to the same religion as the policemen, who
entered their Tangals or entered their mosques, burning of Hindu temples, the outrage on
Hindu woman and their forcible conversion and marriage by the Moplahs.
2. A report dated Calicut, 7/9/1921 published in the Times of India and another dated
6/12/1921 published in the New India, give detailed accounts of the most horrible outrages
on women which cannot be reproduced for the sake of decency.
3. Sankaran Nair refers to cases of men who were skinned alive or made to dig their graves
before being slaughtered. To read more about the atrocities go to page 362 of the History
and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bharitya Vidya Bhavan vol 10.
4. According to the Report of the Enquiry Committee of the Servants of India, the number
of Hindus murdered was 1500, the number forcibly converted 20,000 and property looted Rs 3
5. In a heart-rending petition to Lady Reading, wife of the Viceroy, the Hindu woman of
Malabar stated Your ladyship is doubtless aware that even though our unhappy
district has witnessed many Moplah outbreaks in the last one hundred years, the present
rebellion is unexampled in magnitude as well as unprecedented in ferocity, pregnant woman
cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles. We remember how driven out of
our native hamlets we wandered, starving and naked, the jungles and forests.
6. To those who appealed to the Moplahs in the name of Gandhi they said, Gandhi is a
kafir, how can he be our leader? So much for Gandhis Hindu Muslim unity.
7. Said Mrs Annie Besant, Malabar has taught what Islamic rule means and we
do not want to see another specimen of Khilafat Raj in India.
The Congress leaders at first disbelieved these stories but the tales of hundreds of
refugees landing at Calicut, a wave of horror spread among the Hindus who were not blinded
by the new-fanged ideas of Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost. Gandhi himself spoke of the
brave God-fearing Moplahs who were fighting for what they considered as religion,
and in a manner, which they considered as religious. Little wonder those Khilafat
leaders passed resolutions congratulating the Moplahs on the brave fight they were
conducting for the sake of religion.
When truth could not be suppressed any longer, and came out with all its naked
hideousness, Gandhi tried to conciliate Hindu opinion by various explanations, denials
and censure of the authorities which resulted in the following resolution passed by the
Congress at Ahmedabad. The Congress expresses its firm conviction that the Moplah
disturbance was not due to the Non-Cooperation or the Khilafat Movements, specially as
preachers of these movements were denied access to the affected parts by the District
authorities for six months before the disturbance, but is due to causes wholly unconnected
with the two movements, and that the outbreak would not have occurred had the message of
non-violence been allowed to reach them.
Nevertheless the Congress deplores the acts done by certain Moplahs by way of forcible
conversions and destruction of life and property, and is of the opinion that prolongation
of the disturbance in Malabar could have been prevented by the Govt of Madras accepting
the proffered assistance of Maulana Yakub Hassan and allowing Gandhi to proceed to
Malabar, and is further of opinion that the treatment of Moplah prisoners as evidenced by
the asphyxiation incident was an act of inhumanity unheard of in modern times and unworthy
of a Government that calls itself civilized.
This resolution is unworthy of a great political organization, which claims to represent
India and not any particular community. Its deliberate attempts to minimize the
enormity of crimes by fanatic Moplahs upon thousands of hapless Hindus betrays a
mentality which generally characteristised govt. communiqu�s whitewashing crimes
perpetuated by officials upon Indians, and both should be strongly denied by an impartial
critic. It is ridiculous to maintain that the Moplah rebellion was not due to the Khilafat
or Non-cooperation movements in view of the Khilafat meetings that endorsed the Karachi
resolution, proclamation of Khilafat kingdom, flags. The tone of the resolution seems
apologetic and reminds me of the English media today who are quick to criticize the Hindu
for any form of protest but ignore, underplay acts of violence, intolerance by the
Said Hazrat Mohani in his Presidential speech at the session of the Muslim League held at
Ahmdebad on 30/12, The Moplahs justify their action on the ground that at such a
critical juncture, when they are engaged in a war against the English, their neighbors
read Hindus not only did not help them or observe neutrality but aid and assisted the
English in every way. When the Moplahs have left their houses, property and belongings,
taken refuge in hills and jungles, it is unfair to characterize as plunder their
commandeering of money and other necessaries for their troops from the English or their
In describing the Moplah action as a religious war against the Brits, Hazrarbhai regards
it as a political movement, which cannot be disassociated from the Khilafat agitation. His
justification of the Moplah atrocities is not only puerile in the extreme but is contrary
to facts. He ignores that most of the looting of Hindu houses happened on 21, 22, 23
Augusts, before the military had arrived in the affected areas i.e. long before the
Moplahs had taken to the jungles.
At the annual session of the Khilafat Conference in 1923, Shaukat Ali, President of the
session praised the Moplahs while conceding some Hindus had suffered at their hands, he
said the while chapter was a closed book since they had a duty to the brave Moplahs. He
announced that he and his brother Muhammad Ali would provide for the maintenance of one
Moplah orphan. One looks in vain on the part of the Congress or Hindu leaders to help the
victims of the Muslim outrage. May be they would be called communal if they had done so,
their minds being so well conditioned by the Brits that helping fellow Hindus was a crime.
There was a silver lining, however. The Arya Samajis through their Suddhi Movement
converted over 2000 Hindus who had been converted to Islam by the Moplahs.