MRP in History

Report of Minor Research Project of UGC done by Dr. O P Mayankutty, Associate Professor of History Pocker Sahib Memorial Orphanage College Tirurangadi on “Khilafat Issue and the Mass Mobilization of Nationalist Movement in Malabar”.

Indian national movement has undergone various phases which shaped the destiny of the country. The British imperialism faced fateful threats during the growth of different stages of its struggles against them. The Ottoman Empire had been defeated with the Central Powers in the First World War and the victorious European powers prepared a peace treaty which divided Ottoman territories among them. The Arabs were seeking independence from their ottoman overlords, and the Turks themselves were drawing away from their imperial past in favour of a regenerated Turkish homeland. Yet in 1919, Muslims of India launched a movement designed to pressure the British govt. to preserve the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire as they had been in 1914, and to preserve intact the spiritual and temporal authority of the Ottoman Sultan as Khalif of Islam.

A new stream came into the nationalist movement with the Khilafat issue. Younger generation of educated Muslims and some ulama had been growing more and more radical and nationalist. Common ground for political agitation had been prepared by Lucknow pact and Rowlett Act. As an open declaration of the Hindu Muslim unity Swami Sredhanand a staunch Arya Samajist was asked by Muslim leaders to preach in the pulpit of the Jama Masjid, Delhi. In the same manner Dr. Saifudhin Kiechlew, a Muslim Congress leader was given the key of Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine at Amritsar. Both the events ignited the spirit to join hand in hand for the common cause of Indian independence. In this context, the nationalist trend among the Muslims took vigorous form with the issue of Khilafat destruction. During the World War people of India was in a dilemma to who to be supported either Britain as their colonial power or the Turkey, the seat of Khilafat. In such a state of bewilderment the British Prime Minister Lloyd George made a declaration that the Khilafat would be safe after the war at any cost. Taking it in the actual sense people of India supported the Britain with all arms and strength sincerely. But after the war Khilafat was discarded.

Muslims and Hindus were not ready to pardon the violation of the pledge made by British Premier Lloyd George, “nor are we fighting to deprive Turkey of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace which are predominantly Turkish in race.” The Muslims in particular felt the power of Sultan of Turkey saved and thus to be retained. In such a context Khilafat Committee was formed under the leadership of Ali Brothers, Abul Kalam Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Hasrat Mohani. The conference of the Khilafat at Delhi in Nov. 1919 decided to withdraw all co. operation from the government if not their demands were not granted. Tilak and Gandhi found it a golden opportunity for cementing Hindu Muslim unity and bringing the masses into national movement. Early in 1920 Gandhi declared that he would lead a movement of non-co-operation if the terms of peace with Turkey did not satisfy the Indian Muslims. Actually very soon Gandhi became the leader of the Khilafat movement.

A wide range of mobilization techniques were used to make the people aware of the Khilafat issue and to attract them to the Movement. Khilafat committees were formed in different parts of Malabar as a major step of mass mobilization. These committees helped to channelize the public ire against the British government. Immediately after the formation of the Khilafat Committee at national level, the same was followed in Malabar. The local committees facilitated percolation of national-level decisions and programmes into the grassroots.

Leaders of Congress-Khilafat committees often visited and contacted with the leaders of Malabar. The coming of Gandhiji and Yaqub Hassan made Malabar a hotpot of anti British struggles. The British brought martial laws and arrested the leaders or six monhs. The people welcomed the arrested leaders including Yaqub Hasan, U. Gopala Menon, K. Madhavan Nair and Ponmadath Moideen Koya on their release with utmost respect and veneration. The grand receptions given by the Khilafat volunteers to these leaders turned into mass gatherings of Khilafat sympathizers. They utilized these venues to express their wrath against the British. Such a grand reception for the released leaders was organized at Calicut beach on 17th August 1921 in which the people burnt their foreign goods in public and took an oath to use only the swadeshi items. The president of the function removed his valuable foreign made jacket and put into the fire and it was followed by a bonfire of foreign made goods by the participants in the conference. Thus, the mass mobilization of Khilafat spirit led to the popularization of swadeshi and non co operation movement in Malabar.

Use of khadi was also another technique of mass mobilization of the Khilafat Movement in Malabar. The activists made special arrangements to popularize the native cloth. On 15th August 1921, a notice in the name of Khilafat was circulated among the Muslims of Calicut requesting them to purchase only khadi dress for the coming Bakrid celebration. The advice was at the right time as the people used to buy dress as part of the celebration. Thus, even the rare opportunities of the festivals were used to oppose the British. The public also responded well to the call and they started not only to buy khadi, but also to burn their foreign cloths.

The Khilafat- Congress- tenant movement of 20th century noticed a sharp difference from that of the earlier period. Till the 20th century, they never tried to replace the British rule. But the anti colonial struggles shaped in the banner of these organizations and the subsequent revolt of 1921 determined to expel the alien government from Malabar. The reports of the movement from different centres of Khilafat movement showed wide range of popular participation.

Khilafat issue attracted large number of people belongs to the different walks of life and it turned a mass movement. Especially, the ulama, the religious leadership took active participation in the movement. They mobilized the people through public speeches, friday congregations, fatwas and by circulating pro-Khilafat pamphlets. The religious background of the Khilafat issue provided a working atmosphere for these religious scholars. Coincidence of the Non-cooperation Movement with Khilafat issue hasten them each other. Ultimately, the Khilafat Movement helped the popular growth of Indian nationalism.

The holy scriptures were used to denounce the British Raj. It was in this context, Qur’an and Hadith were quoted by the Khilafat ideologues to prove that opposing the British was part of their belief. The use of scriptures and the leadership of the religious personalities gave magnetic appeal to generate the popular attention to the problem. The relevance of Khilafat issue also gave birth to the Kerala Majlis ul Ulama. Malabar witnessed an unprecedented growth of anti-British feeling on the one hand and the concerted attempts of the authorities to suppress the movements on the other. Having failed to check the movements, the officials requested the government for more vigorous steps and, ultimately, it culminated in the revolt of 1921. Malabar was a hotpot of unprecedented anti colonial fights for about seven months. The British authorities took severe pain to bring back the former status.

The Muslim awakening and the Hindu Muslim unity disturbed the British interests at large extend. The Hindu-Muslim unity was a severe headache to the British authorities during the Khilafat period. A lot of leaders from both communities were on the vanguard of the Movement. The leaders like K.P. Kesava Menon, P. Madhavan Nair, M.P. Narayana Menon, Mozhikkunnath Brahmadhattan Namputhiripad were some of the leading stalwarts of this group. No stage of the movement was marked without their active participation. The Khilafat took decisive role in the strengthening of anti-colonial spirits among the people.

Advent of influential leaders like Ali Musaliar, Aminummataah Pareekuy Musalir, K M Mawlawi Kailasseri Muhammadkutty Musaliar E Moidu Mawlawi etc made Khilafat a popular movement and helped to widen its mass base. Some of the strategies of the leaders got wide appeal. For example, the volunteers were made to take an oath by holding the Holy Qur’an on one hand and a sword on the other. Ali Musaliar himself administered the oath. These volunteers were having uniformity even in their dress and appearance. Their uniform consisted khaki trousers and coat, and red turkey cap with an emblem on it. The turkey cap was not only a dress, but a symbol of the Movement which also enrolled the people en masse as mark of simplicity.

Aminummantakath Pareekutty Musaliar of Tanur used his strong device of fatwa. he was in the forefront of mobilizing people through his collection of fatwa known as Muhimmaatul Mumineen. He issued many fatwas, supporting the activities of the Congress and even advocated the Mappilas to wage holy war against the British. He prescribed jihad and helping the fighters as compulsory to each individual (fardh ain). He took a hard stand declaring that if anyone is reluctant to do jihad against the British, then it is compulsory on others to do jihad against such people. The work of Pareekutty Musaiar ranked the people behind in the fight

Khilafat was seriously mobilized through the works of different works and journals. An article in the first issue of Khilafat Patrika. Kerala Chandrika a Muslim journal from Quilon states the condition of Muslims dangerous than the days under Dajjal and he also warns the leaders to work for the awakening of Muslim conscience or else they are enemies of God. The Muslim from Alleppey portrayed the British as enemies of Islam and Mappilas were urged to fight against the European aggression.

Students also actively took part in the Movement. It is noted that the muta’allims in dars (students residing at mosques) were well utilised for spreading the message of Khilafat and mobilizing the people. In many occasions they were treated as a good channel of communication.

The women also played a pivotal role in the process of mobilization of Khilafat movement in Malabar. Many such examples are often sighted in the history of the the Movement. But, unfortunately, role of women is less discussed in history. Like any other movements in India, women took much pain in the Khilafat movement also. They participated in the movement inspiring male members of their family to revolt and taking responsibility to care the children in absence of their fathers. Some of the women were even pregnant when their husbands jumped into the war with the British. Often, they were molested by the police, as their family members waged to the Khilafat Movement. Even the girls were subjected for the harassment of the military. Contributions of some of the women require special attention in this way. The name of Malu Hajjumma deserves utmost attention among that of the heroines of the Khilafat Movement in Malabar.

Thus People irrespective of their caste creed gender affiliations stood firm behind the Khilafat leaders. Iron laws and bars of the British could not brittle the stamina of the revolutionaries. Response of the people towards the issue was quick and intensive. All sections of the society took part in the movement directly or indirectly.