In less than two years, the appalling genocide of the Malabar Hindus will complete a full tragic century. It was on 20 August 1921 that a plague-like pogrom descended upon the unprepared and blissfully-unaware Hindus of Malabar at the hands of people they had trusted: the Moplah Muslims. Yet, nearly a century later, this mini-holocaust of Hindus in Kerala has all but been successfully buried, its memory almost wholly erased from the Hindu civilizational consciousness.
But not everybody forgets. At least not the folks at The Dharma Dispatch. And so, beginning with this, we will publish a series of eyewitness accounts from some of the victims of the Moplah Genocide of the Malabar Hindus. The voices of the dead Hindu victims of Malabar who were massacred for no fault of their own except that they trusted their own Muslim neighbours to whom they had always been kind and accommodative.
Presenting the first eyewitness account by Annie Beasant who visited scores of relief camps in and around the Kozhikode region.
Annie Beasant: New India, 29 November 1921
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. 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 “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 sometimes 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. ”
Postscript: From now on, in any conversation or reference to this horrific episode, please, always refer to it by its correct name: The Moplah Genocide of the Malabar Hindus.
To be continued