Dr. Susmit Kumar, Ph.D.

[Note: This article is taken from pages 51-56 of the book 1922 Gandhi and Anarchy by Chettur Sankaran Nair. It is freely available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/52903; Mr. Nair was 1897 Indian National Congress President and a Madras High Court Judge. You can find more about Mr. Nair from his Wikipedia page. A 2020 version reprint of book is also available at Amazon.com. It is worth noting that Mr. Nair was also from Malabar region.]

 

MALABAR'S AGONY

 

By Annie Besant

 

It would be well if Mr. Gandhi could be taken into Malabar to see with his own eyes the ghastly horrors which have been created by the preaching of himself and his "loved brothers," Muhommad and Shaukat Ali. The Khilafat Raj is established there; on August 1, 1921, sharp to the date first announced by Mr. Gandhi for the beginning of Swaraj and the vanishing of British Rule, a Police Inspector was surrounded by Moplas, revolting against that Rule. [bold is by author] From that date onwards thousands of the forbidden war-knives ware secretly made and hidden away, and on August 20, the rebellion broke out, Khilafat flags were hoisted on Police Stations and Government offices. Strangely enough it was on August 25th 825 A.D. that Cherman Perumal ascended the throne of Malabar, the first Zamorin, and from that day the Malayalam Era is dated that is still in use; thus for 1096 years a Zamorin has ruled in Calicut, and the Rajas are mostly Chiefs who for long centuries have looked to a Zamorin as their feudatory Head. These are the men on whom the true pacification of Malabar must ultimately depend. The crowded refugees will only return to their devastated homes when they see those once more in safety in their ancestral places. Their lands, which they keep under their own control, are largely cultivated by Moplas, who are normally hardy, industrious agricultural labourers.

 

Our correspondent has sent accounts of the public functions connected with my hurried visit to Calicut and Palghat, and that which I wish to put on record here is the ghastly misery which prevails, the heart-breaking wretchedness which has been caused by the Mopla outbreak, directly due to the violent and unscrupulous attacks on the Government made by the Non-Co-operators and the Khilafatists and the statements scattered broadcast, predicting the speedy disappearance of British Rule, and the establishment of Swaraj, as proclaimed by the N.C.O. and Khilafat Raj as understood by the Moplas from the declarations of the Khilafatists. On that, there is no doubt whatever, so far as Malabar is concerned. The message of the Khilafats, of England as the enemy of Islam, of her coming downfall, and the triumph of the Muslims, had spread, to every Mopla home. The harangues in the Mosques spread it everywhere, and Muslim hearts were glad. They saw the N.C.O. preachers appealing for help to their religious leaders, naturally identified the two. The Government was Satanic, and Eblis, to the good Muslim, is to be fought to the death. Mr. Gandhi may talk as he pleases about N.C.O.s accepting no responsibility. It is not what they accept; it is what facts demonstrate. He accepted responsibility for the trifling bloodshed of Bombay. The slaughter in Malabar cries out his responsibility. N.C.O. is dead in Malabar. But bitter hatred has arisen there, as fighting men from the dragon's teeth of Theseus. That is the ghastly result of the preaching of Gandhism, of N.C.O. of Khilafatism. Every one speaks of the Khilafat Raj, and the one hope of the masses is in its crushing by the strong arm of the Government. Mr. Gandhi asks the Moderates to compel the Government to suspend hostilities, i.e., to let loose the wolves to destroy what lives are left. The sympathy of the Moderates is not, I make bold to say, with the murderers, the looters, the ravishers, who have put into practice the teachings of paralysing the Government of the N.C.O.'s, who have made "war on the Government" in their own way. How does Mr. Gandhi like the Mopla spirit, as shown by one of the prisoners in the Hospital, who was dying from the results of asphyxiation? He asked the surgeon, if he was going to die, and surgeon answered that he feared he would not recover. "Well, I'm glad I killed fourteen infidels," said the Brave, God-fearing Mopla, whom Mr. Gandhi so much admires, who "are fighting for what they consider as religion, and in a manner they consider as religious." Men who consider it "religious" to murder, rape, loot, to kill women and little children, cutting down whole families, have to be put under restraint in any civilised society.

 

Mr. Gandhi was shocked when some Parsi ladies had their saries torn off, and very properly, yet the God-fearing hooligans had been taught that it was sinful to wear foreign cloth, and doubtless felt they were doing a religious act; can he not feel a little sympathy for thousands of women left with only rags, driven from home, for little children born of the flying mothers on roads in refuge camps? The misery is beyond description. Girl wives, pretty and sweet, with eyes half blind with weeping, distraught with terror; women who have seen their husbands hacked to pieces before their eye, in the way "Moplas consider as religious"; old women tottering, whose faces become written with anguish and who cry at a gentle touch and a kind look waking out of a stupor of misery only to weep, men who have lost all, hopeless, crushed, desperate, I have walked among thousands of them in the refugee camps, and some times heavy eyes would lift as a cloth was laid gently on the bare shoulder, and a faint watery smile of surprise would make the face even more piteous than the stupor. Eyes full of appeal, of agonised despair, of hopeless entreaty of helpless anguish, thousands of them camp after camp, "Shameful inhumanity proceeding in Malabar," says Mr. Gandhi. Shameful inhumanity indeed, wrought by the Moplas, and these are the victims, saved from extermination by British and Indian swords, For be it remembered the Moplas began the whole horrible business; the Government intervened to save their victims and these thousands have been saved. Mr. Gandhi would have hostilities suspended—so that the Moplas may sweep down on the refugee camps, and finish their work?

 

I visited in Calicut three huge Committee camps, two Christian, and the Congress building and compound where doles of rice are given daily from 7 A.M. to noon. In all, the arrangements were good. Big thatched sheds, and some buildings shelter the women and children, the men sleep outside. They are all managed by Indians, the Zamorini's Committee distributing cloths and money to all, except the Congress committee, which work independently and gives food from its own resource. At Palghat, similar arrangements are made by the Zamorini's Committee, and the order and care in feeding are good to see.

 

Let me finish with a beautiful story told to me. Two Pulayas, the lowest of the submerged classes, were captured with others, and given the choice between Islam and Death. These, the outcaste of Hinduism, the untouchables, so loved the Hinduism which had been so unkind a step-mother to them, that they chose to die Hindus rather than to live Muslim. May the God of both, Muslim and Hindus send His messengers to these heroic souls, and give them rebirth into the Faith for which they died. New India, 29 November 1921.

 

Wilful murders of Hindus and arson were first begun in my own place by Chembrasseri Thangal and his Lieutenant, another Thangal. You might have read accounts written by me in the Malabar journal which was sent to you last time. This contagion began to spread like wild fire and we began to hear of murders daily. Within a fortnight cold-blooded murders of Hindus became very common. From within the borders of Calicut and Ernad taluks refugees come in large numbers with tales of murders and atrocities committed by the rebels. At Puthur Amson in Ernad only 12 miles northeast of Calicut—One day in broad daylight twenty-five persons who refused to embrace Islam were butchered and put into a well. One out of these who narrowly escaped death got out of the well when the rebels left the place and ran to Calicut for life. He is now in the hospital. So the accounts must be true as he himself was one of the victims.

 

During the last week news of numerous murders and forcible conversions came from another quarter also, Mannur near Aniyallur and Kadalundi railway station in Ernad taluk. This place also is only 14 miles away from Calicut. Every train to Calicut was carrying with it daily hundreds of refugees during the last week. If there were ten thousand refugees fed by the Relief Committee last week, it must have fed fifteen thousand this week. According to the statements given by them there must be at least fifty murders and numerous cases of conversions and house-burning. Can you conceive of a more ghastly and inhuman crime than the murders of babies and pregnant women? Two days back I had occasion to read a report given by a refugee in Calicut. A pregnant woman carrying 7 months was cut through the abdomen by a rebel and she was seen lying dead on the way with the dead child projecting out of the womb. How horrible! Another: a baby of six months was snatched away from the breast of his own mother and cut into two pieces. How heart-rending! Are these rebels human beings or monsters? From the same quarters numerous forcible conversions are also reported. One refugee has given statement that he had seen with his own eyes that the heads of a dozen people were being shaved by the rebels and afterwards they were asked to recite some passages from the Quran. This he witnessed from a tree. I wonder what is the authority of some people who contradict the news of murders, and forcible conversions of Hindus. Let them come here and test the veracity of these statements for themselves.

 

'Yesterday another report of murders came from a place very near Kottakal. The report says that eleven Hindus (males and females), were murdered by the rebels.

 

'A fortnight ago fifteen dead bodies of Hindus were seen under culvert on the road between Perinialmanna and Melatur.'

 

Will you not be sick of these stories of murders? All these reports are, as far as possible, proved also to be correct.

 

Words fail to express my feelings of indignation and abhorrence which I experienced when I came to know of an instance of rape, committed by the rebels under Chembrasseri Thangal. A respectable Nayar Lady at Melatur was stripped naked by the rebels in the presence of her husband and brothers, who were made to stand close by with their hands tied behind. When they shut their eyes in abhorrence they were compelled at the point of sword to open their eyes and witness the rape committed by the brute in their presence. I loathe even to write of such a mean action. I thank God that my family and relatives reached safe at Calicut without being dishonoured by these brutes, though we sustained serious loss of property and the loss of four lives (two servants and two relatives,—More afterwards). This instance of rape was communicated to me by one of her brothers confidentially. There are several instances of such mean atrocities which are not revealed by people. New India 6th Dec. 1921.

 

Truth is infinitely of more paramount importance than Hindu-Muslim unity or Swaraj, and therefore, we tell the Maulana Sahib and his co-religionists and India's revered leader Mahatma Gandhi—if he too is unaware of the events here—that atrocities committed by the Moplahs on the Hindus are unfortunately too true and that there is nothing in the deeds of Moplah rebels which a true non-violent non-co-operator can congratulate them for. What is it for which they deserve congratulation? Their wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all but wholesale looting at their houses in Ernad, and parts of Valluvanad, Ponnani, and Calicut Taliques; the forcible conversion of Hindus in a few places in the beginning of the rebellion and the wholesale conversion of those who stick to their homes in its later stages, the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus, men, women, and children in cold blood, without the slightest reason except that they are "Kaffirs" or belong to the same race as the Policemen, who insulted their Tangals or entered their Mosques, the desecration and burning of Hindu Temples the outrage on Hindu women and their forcible conversion and marriage by Moplahs; do these and similar atrocities proved beyond the shadow of a doubt by the statements recorded by us from the actual sufferers who have survived, deserve any congratulation? On the other hand should they not call forth the strongest condemnation from all right-minded men and more especially from a representative body of Mohamedans like the Khilafat Conference pledged to non-violence under all provocation? Did the Moplahs, who committed such atrocities, sacrifice their lives in the cause of their religion?

 

(Sd.)K.P.KesahavaMenon,

Sec. Kerala Pro. Cong. Comit.

 

(Sd.)K.MadhavanNair,

Sec. Calicut Dis. Cong. Comit.

 

(Sd.)T.V.Mohamad,

Sec. Ernad Khilafat Comit.

 

(Sd.)K.KarunakaraMenon,

Treas. Kerala Pro. Comit.

 

(Sd.) K. V. Gopal Menon.

 

Maulana Mohani justifies the looting of Hindus by Moplahs as lawful by way of commandeering in a war between the latter and the Government or as a matter of necessity when the Moplahs were forced to live in jungles. Maulana perhaps does not know that in the majority of cases, the almost wholesale looting of Hindu houses in portions of Ernad, Valluvanad and Ponani Taluques was perpetrated on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of August before the military had arrived in the affected area to arrest or fight the rebels even before Martial law had been declared. The Moplahs had not betaken themselves to jungles at the time as Moulana supposes nor had the Hindus as a class done anything to them to deserve their hostility. The out-break commenced on the 20th of August, the police and the District Magistrate withdrew from Tirunangadi to Calicut on the 21st and the policemen throughout the affected area had taken to their heels. 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.

 

 

Madhavan Nair.