The Moplah rebellion gave rise to an era of Muslim pampering that has only become more nauseating with time.
The policy of ‘Muslim Appeasement’ took front stage with the ‘Khilafat Movement’ during which the Indian National Congress took up agitation for the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate (the Caliph being the Turkish Sultan who was considered as the worldwide head of Muslims. He was deposed and disarmed following the First World War in which Turkey was defeated).
Hindus joined hands with the agitating Muslims in India. As the British Empire was the victor of the First World War and also the enforcer of various diktats on the erstwhile Turkish Empire, the Khilafat movement was basically an anti-British movement in India.
During August 1921, in the Malabar region of present-day Kerala, Moplah Muslims (who have descended from Arabs) declared jihad against the British Empire. A ‘Khilafat Kingdom’ was established in Malabar and Dar-ul-Islam was proclaimed. Thousands of Hindus were killed during this ‘anti-British’ rebellion. Their properties were occupied, their women were raped and over one lakh Hindus were forced to become refugees in their own land. Landowners became paupers overnight. Forcible conversions to Islam took place. The reasoning behind this behaviour was very simple. It was jihad. Jihad was against Kafirs (non-believers). Hindus were Kafirs and even worse, idol-worshippers. As such, they had it coming to them.
We are not going to elaborate on the various facets of Jihad or Islamic theology now. Suffice to say, what happened during the Moplah rebellion was not new to India/Hindus as that is what they have faced throughout the centuries of Islamic aggression. But now, we are going to analyse Mahatma Gandhi’s responses to this rebellion. No one can deny that Mahatma was a great Hindu. But unfortunately, he viewed ‘Hindu-Muslim’ unity as a sanctified cult and as such failed to see the writing on the wall. He went on giving concessions to the Muslims in the name of ‘unity’ which came to bite him (and Hindus in general) hard in the end. We will see that as early as 1921, the Mahatma had set upon the path of ‘Muslim appeasement’ at all costs which did cost India dearly in the end.
The ‘Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’ published by the Government of India is used in this essay.
Mahatma’s first essay on ‘Moplah Rebellion’ came out on September 4, 1921 in Navjivan titled ‘Moplah Outbreak’. He has stated in the essay that it was written on Janmashtami which was on August 26, 1921.
“It is not clear as yet what led to their present outburst. They are reported to have taken the lives of six officers, four Indian and two British. It is believed that some others also may have been killed. Five hundred Moplahs are believed to have been killed. It is also reported that they have resorted to arson and looting. Calicut and some areas to its north are under martial law at present.
Thus, for the time being, progress has been arrested in Malabar and the Government has had its way. It is well versed in the art of suppressing such revolts. Many innocent men must have been, and more will be, killed. Who will come forward to blame the Government? And even if anyone does, what is the chance of the Government paying attention to him?”
Then he goes on about the importance of non-violence and how the non-cooperators have failed in Malabar in avoiding violence and how they must be careful in other places. Great sentiments all in all.
But the most important thing in the above article is that Moplahs started the rebellion and killed several British as well as the Hindu individuals (though the latter suffered in great number than the former). The ‘rebellion’ was successful initially in that the Kafirs were thrown out and a ‘Khilafat kingdom’ established in and around Wayanad. The Government machinery came into picture only after these initial excesses. Moplah ‘revolutionaries’ were crushed by the British administration but it happened only ‘after’ the anti-Hindu savagery exhibited by the Moplahs. A look at the article shows that while he mentions about 500 Moplahs being killed, he seems very evasive in stating that ‘It is also reported that they have resorted to arson and looting.’ Double standards? Why no figure is cited about Moplahs killing thousands of Hindus (estimates state that around 5000 Hindus were killed)? Why was this fact ignored by the Mahatma? Even if he did not have ‘exact figures’, he could have stated that anti-British jihad had turned into ‘anti-Kafir’. It appears that ‘truth need not be stated sometimes’ was a policy of Mahatma when it comes to Hindu-Muslim unity. Truth was the first sacrifice.
The second article on this topic by the Mahatma was on October 20, 1921 in ‘Young India’. Nearly two months have passed. Mahatma did not deem it necessary to speak about this ‘uprising’ until a Scottish correspondent pointed out to him. The article was titled ‘The Meaning of the Moplah Rising’.
He writes the following:
“…..The Moplah revolt is a test for Hindus and Mussulmans. Can Hindus friendship survive the strain put upon it? Can Mussulmans in the deepest recesses of their hearts approve of the conduct of the Moplahs?…….. The Hindus must have the courage and the faith to feel that they can protect their religion in spite of such fanatical eruptions………. The Mussulmans must naturally feel the shame and humiliation of the Moplah conduct about forcible conversions and looting, and they must work away so silently and effectively that such things might become impossible even on the part of the most fanatical among them. My belief is that the Hindus as a body have received the Moplah madness with equanimity and that the cultured Mussulmans are sincerely sorry for the Moplah’s perversion of the teachings of the Prophet.”
He fails to state the extent of Hindu losses once again. He believes that ‘Hindus have received Moplah madness with equanimity’. How can you receive acts like ‘rape’, ‘murder’, ‘forcible conversions’ etc with ‘equanimity’? He states that cultured Mussulmans are sincerely sorry for the acts. But our question is this: Did he find out why this revolt was so inhuman and why it was committed in the name of religion? Did he try to understand the Moplah point of view? Did he find out why the anti-British agitation turned into ‘anti-Hindu’? The answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘NO’. He did not want to believe that Islam is a religion of violence when it comes to dealing with Kafirs. He did not want to believe that the Moplahs did nothing wrong according to the various tenets of Jihad. He did not even want to know why the Moplahs attacked the Hindus when their aim should have been British and British alone. He simply ‘thought’ and ‘believed’ that it was an aberration and perversion of Islamic theology. If he was right, did he at least try to find out why this ‘perversion’ was accepted so easily? NO. He wanted Hindu-Muslim unity. It was a good intention about which we have no doubt. But his actions on this front have lead to the beginning of ‘appeasement politics’. He did not speak against the doctrine of jihad nor did he even state that there is something inherently wrong in Islamic theology. He should have opposed it as much as he opposed untouchability. But he failed to do so for he was afraid of losing Muslim support. This was the first step towards hell. Failure to condemn such gruesome acts and coming out with the true facts about the ‘revolt’ showed that Muslims can get away with such acts in the eyes of nationalists. They can simply blame it on a few individuals’ ‘perversion of Islamic theology’. The words of Mahatma sound big but they are hollow on the inside.
Then he goes on to write:
“What was more detestable, the ignorant fanaticism of the Moplah brother, or the cowardliness of the Hindu brother who helplessly muttered the Islamic formula or allowed his tuft of hairs to be cut or his vest to be changed? Let me not be misunderstood. I want both the Hindus and Mussulmans to cultivate the cool courage to die without killing. But if one has not that courage, I want him to cultivate the art of killing and being killed, rather than in a cowardly manner flee from danger.”
So, the Hindus are as much to blame as the Muslims. Perhaps even more. They did a detestable act by succumbing to the fear of death. They must have rather died than convert. Else, they must have fought back. These hollow words are an insult to those Hindus. What can a man do when he faced against immense odds in numbers, when he is not armed with the best weapons and is given a choice to convert to Islam or face this entire family being torn apart and himself being tortured to death? While we can definitely praise those who preferred death to apostasy, it is illogical and inhuman to blame those who did convert. How can an act of saving one’s life become more detestable or even equal to the inhuman acts committed by the Moplahs? The Mahatma decries those Hindus who converted out of fear because they exhibit a common human trait – fear and he even dares to compare this to the Moplahs’ inhuman acts of rape, murder and cruelty which are not normal human traits expected of a civilised human being. The Mahatma is clutching at straws to show that the Hindus are at fault in some way as well. Why can’t he simply state that Moplahs behaved in an inhuman way and are completely at fault? Why can’t he decry that portion of theology which supports ‘jihad’? Why can’t he simply state the facts about the Hindus’ sufferings (about which accurate figures must have been obtained by then)? Is it not another instance of ‘not telling the truth’? He has still not stated ‘why’ the Moplahs attacked the Hindus in the name of jihad and why they readily accepted the ‘perversion’ of the doctrine of jihad (if it was indeed a perversion)?
The next article occurs in Young India (December 8, 1921) under the title ‘Moplah Tragedy’. He prints a letter received by him which states that ‘revolutionaries’ were jam-packed in a completely closed iron wagon on their way to prison. The inhuman attitude of the British government is highlighted. Nothing wrong with this letter. Yes, the British government was inhuman in its practices towards the Moplah prisoners. But there has not been a single sentence about Hindu casualties. If he is indeed so humane and cares about every human of India, then why does he deliberately avoid mentioning Hindu casualties? He can write about the number of Moplahs killed, he can write about the sufferings of Moplah prisoners but not about Hindu victims. Another step towards hell. The same attitude is present even today in India. We speak about the Muslim victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. According to the UPA government’s statement in the Parliament, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died during the riots. Why is it that no one speaks about the Hindu victims? Gandhian legacy?
Then he writes:
“Why is it”strange” that I consider the Government solely responsible for the trouble? They could have avoided the trouble by settling the Khilafat question, they could have avoided it by allowing non-co-operators to take the message of non-violence to the Moplahs. The outbreak would not have taken place if the Collector had consulted the religious sentiment of the Moplahs.”
A great deduction. Moplahs killed Hindus in the name of Jihad. The British are responsible for the killings because had they acceded to the Khilafat demand, this ‘rising’ would not have occurred. So, according to the Mahatma, if the Moplahs kill the Hindus during an anti-British movement, the responsibility for the same falls on the British government’s shoulders. Did the British government ask the Moplahs to kill the Hindus? The decision was taken by the Moplahs and executed by them. The reason for this action was that Hindus were Kafirs. If it was not the Khilafat issue, some other issue would have arisen. The problem was not the British government but the Muslim mentality. Still, Mahatma could not accept it so. Perhaps, he thought that absolving the Muslims of all the blame would gain their ‘friendship’? We can see that it was once again a huge failure. There was no long-lasting friendship. It only bolstered the Muslim fanaticism as they felt that they can get away with such ‘brave acts’.
The next article titled ‘Hindus and Moplahs’ appeared in Young India on January 26, 1921. It is an answer to the letters written by Sri Keshava Menon and others from Malabar about the Moplah rebellion and its true facts. The letters by Malabar Hindus stated the following:
“The resolution passed by the Khilafat Conference at Ahmedabad about the Moplahs of Malabar, and the telegram . . . by Maulana Abdul Bari Sahib . . published in the Servant of Calcutta on 20th December, compel one to doubt if the Mohammedans or even Hindus outside Malabar have any correct knowledge of the happenings in this unhappy district. . . one would have expected a kind word from our Mohammedan friends for the unfortunate Hindu victhns of the Moplah atrocities…. the Khilafat Conference, while congratulating the Moplahs for the sacrifices of their lives in the cause of their religion, has not a word of condemnation for the atrocities committed by them on the Hindus . . . a true satyagrahi has no option but to proclaim the truth . . . Truth is infinitely of more paramount importance than Hindu-Muslim unity or swaraj . . . atrocities committed by the Moplahs on the Hindus are unfortunately too true . . . A few prominent Mussulman leaders, it is true, have condemned the Moplahs atrocities . . . But, how far have the Mussulmans in general, exerted to undo the wrongs committed by their co-religionists in Maiabar?”
“. . . Maulana Mohani justifies the looting of Hindus by Moplahs as lawful by way of commandeering in a war between the latter and the Government . . . Maulana perhaps does not know that .-. . There was no adversary to the Moplahs at the time whom the Hindus could possibly have helped or invited, and the attack on them was most wanton and unprovoked. . . Maulana justifies the other barbarities committed by the rebels on the ground that they were more by way of retaliation on the Hindus who were suspected to have invited the military or aided them…. Does not the Maulana realize that such opinions emanating from him are bound to have disastrous consequences?”
Let us look at Mahatma’s reply to these letters:
“Maulana Hasrat Mohani is one of our most courageous men. He is strong and unbending. He is frank to a fault. In his insensate hatred of the English Government and possibly even of Englishmen in general, he has seen nothing wrong in anything that the Moplahs have done. Everything is fair in love and war with the Maulana. He has made up his mind that the Moplahs have fought for their religion. And that fact (in his estimation) practically absolves the Moplahs from all blame. That is no doubt a travesty of religion and morality. But to do irreligion for the sake of religion is the religious creed of Maulana Hasrat Mohani. I know it has no warrant in Islam. I have talked to several learned Mussulmans. They do not defend Hasrat Mohani’s attitude.
I advise my Malabar friends not to mind the Maulana. In spite of his amazingly crude views about religion, there is no greater nationalist nor a greater lover of Hindu-Muslim unity than the Maulana. His heart is sound and superior to his intellect, which, in my humble opinion, has suffered aberration.”
All in all, a great defence of the Maulana who justified the Moplah’s inhuman acts. Only Mahatma does not accede to his ‘crude views’ about religion. He does not answer as to why the anti-Hindu atrocities were ‘not condemned’ in the Khilafat Conference.
Then he goes on to write this nonsense:
“If instead of the Moplahs, Hindus had violated Hindu homes in Malabar, against whom would the complaint be lodged? Hindus have to find out a remedy against such occurrences, as much as the Mussulmans. When a Hindu or a Mussulman does evil, it is evil done by an Indian to an Indian, and each one of us must personally share the blame and try to remove the evil.”
Whoever did such an act, the cause for their actions has to be found. At the same time, the act, as well as any doctrine which supported such an act, has to be condemned. Also, the fact is ‘Muslims attacked Hindus in the name of religion’. This fact should be kept in mind and a solution should be arrived at for the same. But Mahatma tries to divert the attention by stating nonsense like ‘What if Hindus had attacked Hindus?’ etc. Well, if Hindus had done that, then they must be punished. They shall not be praised as ‘national heroes’ (but the Moplahs were being praised as ‘heroes’). The perpetrators must be punished severely and their doctrine must be condemned vocally. No one shall support them. Why was the same not done in the case of Moplahs? The answer is given by the Mahatma in the later parts:
“……But my contention is that we shall never achieve solidarity unless new facts are made to suit the principle, instead of performing the impossible feat of changing the principle to suit existing facts….. Even so is it more necessary for a Hindu to love the Moplah and the Mussulman more, when the latter is likely to injure him or has already injured him. Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking. It must be an indissoluble tie…..
Does a Hindu love his religion and country more than himself? If he does, it follows that he must not quarrel with an ignorant Mussulman who neither knows country nor religion. The process is like that of the world-famed woman who professed to give up her child to her rival instead of dividing it with the latter—a performance that would have suited the latter admirably.”
There comes the great sermon!! I wonder why Mahatma did not give the whole of India to the Muslims instead of just Pakistan! He also states that facts must be ‘made’ to suit the principles. Deliberately hiding facts or misinterpreting them is not wrong when it is done to suit to the principles it seems. What a belief in truth!!
Then, once again, he tries to blame the Hindus of Malabar:
“Hindus must find out the causes of Moplah fanaticism. They will find that they are not without blame. They have hitherto not cared for the Moplah. They have either treated him as a serf or dreaded him. They have not treated him as a friend and neighbour, to be reformed and respected. It is no use now becoming angry with the Moplahs or the Mussulmans in general.”
If the same yardstick is applied, Muslims invaded India. They never treated Hindus as their equal. They destroyed Hindu temples, kidnapped their women, made them as slaves and made them pay jizya. Shall we say that Muslims had it coming to them when Hindus begin to kill them in large riots? Even today, Muslims do consider Hindus as ‘idol-worshippers’. Shall we, Hindus, kill the Muslims for this? How can you treat a Moplah as a friend when you see that he kills the cow that you respect, he abhors almost everything Hindu and when you see that given a chance, he will destroy your temples (as it happened during Tipu Sultan’s Malabar campaign)? At least, the Moplahs were not asked to pay jizya or treated second class citizens with their mosques destroyed at the whims and fancies of any Hindu ruler. This action of the Mahatma to blame the Hindus for the Moplah rebellion is callous. It refers to a state of ‘mental slavery’ where you accept the blame for everything upon yourselves whether you are the perpetrator or the victim. Utter ridiculous! Is it a surprise that we still see this attitude as a Gandhian legacy in modern India? If Hindus are killed, they had it coming to them. If Hindus kill, then they are naturally wrong even if they just retaliate. So whatever happens, Hindu is to be blamed.
In another article in Young India dated May 1, 1924, Mahatma Gandhi appeals to the Hindus to help the Moplahs who are starving. He published one Mr. Yakub Hasan’s letter in which it was stated that Moplahs were cultivators working under Hindu landlords and that they suffered under the said landlords (a justification for anti-Hindu pogroms). He goes on to say that Hindus took vengeance with the help of the British military when the latter killed the revolutionaries and burned down Moplah houses, mosques etc to crush the revolt. He adds that the Moplahs did what any Hindu, Christian etc would have done under similar circumstances. Yakub asks Mahatma to appeal to the Hindus to help the Moplahs.
Mahatma Gandhi had not opposed certain ‘details’ of the latter though he objected to the statement made about Moplahs reacting in the same way as any other Hindu or Christian. If the Moplahs hated the landlords, then why it was that all the Hindus were targeted. Landlords were small in number. They could be easily identified as well. But the target was Hindu population en masse. Even untouchables were killed. If the Moplahs were opposed to landlords, then they could have done it without a religious colour. But they attacked Hindus in the name of Jihad. In short, Mr. Hasan was spouting nonsense. But Mahatma accepted it and did appeal to the nation to help the Moplah community. While the appeal itself is not bad, it was the fact that he accepted Hasan’s statement of the revolt being a ‘class struggle’ which appears very sour to us.
On the whole, we can see the beginning and strengthening of Muslim appeasement in the case of the Moplah rebellion. This tendency continued to grow through the decades and resulted in the partition of the country, injustice to Hindu population of the subcontinent, empowering the Muslim fanatics etc.
Will we be able to open our eyes and see the truth in the near future? I hope we do for the sake of the security of the Hindus and our motherland.
May Goddess Bharati bless us with wisdom!
Originally published in Sulekha in 2009.