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Prisoners of Moplah Rebellion. Wikimedia Commons

By Shweta Porwal

The Moplah rebellion, also considered as the Moplah riots of 1921, was a series of riots by Mappila Muslims of Kerala in the 19th and 20th centuries against the British and the Hindu landlords in Malabar. It started as a resistance against the British rule and in favor of the khilafat movement but later on ended in communal violence against Hindus. The Moplah rebellion was the extended version of the khilafat movement in Kerala in 1921.


Muslims arrived in Kerala in 7th century AD as traders via the Arabian sea. They were given permission to carry on trade and settle by their native rulers. Some of them married local women and got settled. The trade which Moplahs used to follow was of cultivators of the land under the Jenmis who were the upper caste Hindu. After the death of the Tipu Sultan, Malabar came under the ownership of British authority due to which the peasants were facing high rents and lack of security which caused the riots by the Mophals, in which many government officials and Hindu landlords were killed.

Down the line, when the Khilafat Movement started there was a large scale of violence were Moplahs attacked the police station and seized courts and government treasuries. Mophals attacked the Hindu Jenmis or landlords which resulted in Hindu landlords becoming the victims of the Moplahs.


Moplah Rebellion Prisoners going to trial at Calicut. Wikimedia Commons

The leaders of the Moplahs Rebellion Movement were-

  1. Variyankunnath Kunjahammed Haji.
  2. Seethi Koya Thangal of Kumaranpathor
  3. Ali Musliyar.

Variyankunnath Kunjahamed Haji was born in an affluent Muslim family in 1870. He was raised by hearing stories of torture and injustice. Haji, at a very young age, created a constant cause of law and order problems. He was exiled to Mecca after he was found involved in a series of communal attacks on Hindus, he also used to supply women to the Arabs to be held as their concubines. Later on, after many years he was allowed to return to Kerala, with a condition that he would not visit his native place anymore.

It is true that in the initial stages he did not turn against Hindu but as soon as the Islamisation drive gained he showed his true communal colors and took the opportunity in killing and forcibly converting Hindus into Islams.

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Later on, the British government put down the rebellion. For 6 months from August 1921, the rebellion extended over 2000 square miles, 10000 people lost their life, 1652 injured, 45404 imprisoned and 2337 rebels killed.

In January 1922, the British betrayed Haji through his close friend and arrested him. He was sentenced to death along with all the other involved.

The year 2021 will mark the 100th year anniversary of the Malabar rebellion 1921. The topic is in controversy after the announcement of a Malayalam film, based on the mastermind of the 1921 Genocide- Variamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji.


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