Row In Kerala Over 1921 Malabar Rebellion

Assembly speaker M B Rajesh compared Haji to independence fighter Bhagat Singh on Wednesday, eliciting a vehement response from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

The removal of those murdered in the 1921 Malabar revolt, including its leader Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, from the Indian Council of Historical Research's (ICHR) "Dictionary of Martyrs of India Freedom Struggle" has sparked a controversy in Kerala. The Bharatiya Janata Party reacted angrily to Assembly Speaker MB Rajesh's comparison of Haji to liberation fighter Bhagat Singh on Wednesday (BJP).

The Hindu reported last week that the removal was recommended by a three-member team that assessed the contents in the dictionary's fifth volume. The 1921 revolt, according to the panel, was never a part of the independence war.

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According to certain historians and left-wing political organisations, the rebellion, also known as the Mappila uprising, was the first in south India to rise against British colonialism. Hindu organisations and historians argue that it was a sectarian disturbance in which Hindus were harmed. The insurrection came after another slaughter, in which 64 individuals were smothered to death while being brought to Coimbatore for trial in a locked train waggon. At the Tirur railway station in Kerala, there is a memorial to them. In 1921, the British apprehended and executed Haji.

The attempt to separate the revolt from the liberation struggle, Rajesh claimed, was aimed at splitting people. He went on to say that the essence of rebellion was anti-British and anti-feudal, but there were some “communal deviations” as well. “An uprising can have some anomalies as well. It's impossible to dismiss it as a racial riot. “To call it a communal riot is a gross injustice,” he stated at a Kozhikode event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the insurrection.

V Muraleedharan, a BJP leader and Union minister, slammed the decision to label Haji as a freedom warrior. “Ignorance isn't a crime. Feigning ignorance for political or communal benefit, on the other hand, is a crime. The nefarious scheme to separate people along communal lines is unforgivable. BJP leader MT Ramesh has stated that his party will resist any attempt to glorify Haji, while Hindu Aikya Vedi, a right-wing organisation, has declared a dark day at all locations commemorating the revolt.

Haji's family intends to stage a sit-in in Malappuram to protest attempts to tarnish his reputation. “The ICHR can take his name out of the dictionary, but it won't take his name out of people's minds,” said C P Ibrahim, a member of Haji's family.

When Malayalam filmmaker Aashiq Abu revealed his plans to create a film about the Mappila revolt two years ago, Hindu groups requested actor Prithviraj Sukumaran not to portray Haji. The movie is expected to hit theatres before the end of the year. A film based on the subject, named 1921, was a box office success in 1988.

Historians are divided on the subject, with KKN Kurup claiming that the uprising was part of the independence struggle. MGS Narayanan, another historian, stated that the decision to remove Haji from the list of independence fighters was "politically driven."

According to historian C I Issac, "it was, in fact, a jihadi movement." Its major goal was to create a religious province. Giving a community brawl a patriotic flavour is both unjust and illogical.”