A virtual exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Malabar Rebellion – TwoCircles.net
Mappila Haal is a full creative expression of the Malabar Rebellion allowing the viewer to travel through revolutionary days and nights.
Amjad Ali EM | TwoCircles.net
KERALA – This year marks the 100th anniversary of the turbulent Malabar Rebellion of 1921. Against this historical background, the Islamic Student Organization of India (SIO) Kerala has come up with a new venture: an interactive virtual exhibit titled “Mappila Haal”. “Mappila Haal” is a full creative expression of the Malabar Rebellion allowing the viewer to travel through revolutionary days and nights. SIO recognizes the memories, discussions of various factors and the celebration of the Malabar Rebellion as a crucial socio-political engagement.
History is not simply a recording of the past. For any community, history is a decisive factor in its present life. This is why we say that history is an endless dialogue between the past and the present. Historical accounts play a major role in shaping contemporary socio-political perspectives and imaginaries.
Each community should have a deep understanding of its history, and it should record and promote it. Failure to do so will result in the tragedy of having to live in a story written by others. This condition will negatively affect their future. Because their history written by the dominant ideologies will be understood as the real one. If the dominant powers decide to marginalize or annihilate a community forever, they will use history as an easy tool. There are two ways that they will do this injustice to history. One is to hide and erase the rich history of this community, and the other is to present a distorted narrative of it.
The way Islam and Muslims were treated in colonial historiography is a case in point. The colonial powers hid the prestigious and glorious history of Muslims around the world. Later colonialism defined Islam and Muslims in its own way, on the basis of which the history of Muslims was written – Islam is primitive, it spread throughout the world by the sword, Islam is total terror, Muslims are savage, bloodthirsty, war-loving, violent and dangerous. Based on this definition, they presented a distorted version of Muslim world history. In doing so, they sought to create a public perception that the very presence of Muslims would be dangerous for any nation and that all forms of social and political expression based on Islam reflect extremism and terrorism. The point was to make people believe that they were the ones to be eliminated. Thus, this story has become a justification for all the violence, injustice and genocide against Muslims. This is how history itself becomes the greatest instrument of oppression. It is in this colonial narrative that the roots of current Islamophobia can also be found, whether global, national or in Kerala.
Here is the relevance of remembering and celebrating the Malabar Rebellion. It is a time when the Hindutva policy is reinforced and the Sangh Parivar is working on the genocide of the Muslims. The Hindutva forces use the history of Muslims in two ways to facilitate ethnic cleansing: one is the attempt to erase the history of Muslims in India and to uproot the glorious roots of Muslims in this country. Second, to distort the history of Muslims in India into an anti-Hindu one. Through these two forms of violence against history, Hindutva quickly finds the rhythm of its racist propaganda. In other words, the Hindutva forces are trying to make the public aware that Muslims are a group from somewhere, that they have no roots in this country, that history since they arrived here is a story of violence, that their presence is a danger to the country and therefore must be eradicated. The question of how a person’s mind allows Muslims to be lynched to death in broad daylight is no longer relevant there. When a person believes that Muslims deserve to be killed, he will not feel any remorse for having killed them.
In this particular political context, there is special importance for popularizing and celebrating the memories of the Malabar rebellion. Remembering the Malabar rebellion and the fighters involved, we also position ourselves against Hindutva ideology. The British colonial powers described the Malabar rebellion as fanatic aggression. Such a spread was quite natural as it was a battle against them. However, the Sangh Parivar also propagates the Malabar Rebellion as a brutal anti-Hindu massacre, inciting hatred against Muslims on its behalf and using the story of the Malabar Rebellion as fuel to accelerate the aforementioned genocide process. In 1921 itself, the forces of the Hindutva propagated the Malabar movement as a Hindu genocide and used it as fertilizer for the formation of the RSS.
Moreover, the historic point of the Malabar rebellion constantly disrupts Hindutva politics in many ways. One of them is that the Malabar rebellion is a reminder of the crucial role of Muslims in the anti-colonial struggles that led to the formation of the Indian nation. Another is that the Malabar rebellion was also a struggle against the hegemony of the upper castes which is the basis of Hindutva politics. This is why the Sangh Regime Martyrs Dictionary cannot include the names of Mappila fighters. Therefore, remembering and celebrating Malabar’s struggle is a strong statement against the politics of the Hindutva.
The memory of Malabar’s struggle is also a memory of our glorious tradition. It also gives us an idea of the strength and depth of our roots in this land. It shows the central role played by our ancestors in the struggle for this country’s freedom, social renaissance and civilizational development. For the Muslim community in India, this memory and this realization will provide the necessary energy to move forward with self-respect in the face of several crises.
The Malabar rebellion went through two main stages. One was the fight against British colonial forces. Second, the struggle against the feudal and caste lords who oppressed and exploited the peasants and lower castes as slaves. The extraordinary struggle led by Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath Kunhahammad Haji shook the foundations of colonial powers and caste leaders. He instilled a new dream of liberation in the oppressed masses. It was these two courageous leaders who gave direction to the Malabar rebellion in which thousands of farm laborers and laborers rallied. Many non-Muslims also participated in the Malabar Rebellion with the Mappilas.
We must also think about the theological factor that motivated the Mappilas to fight. Islamic faith was the basic factor that inspired the Mappila warriors to commit suicide and go to the battlefield. It is a part of the Islamic faith to stand up for justice and to fight against injustice, discrimination, slavery and exploitation. The Koran and the Sunnah teach us to fight for the victims of injustice. It is part of Tawheed (monotheism) that slavery and obedience are only permitted to Allah. Believers do not accept slavery or obedience to another. And they believe that the struggle for truth and justice is Jihad in the way of Allah. The scholars of Malabar transmitted these divine lessons of justice and liberation taught by Islam to the common Mappilas. This is how the struggles against the occupiers and the caste lords unfold in Malabar from the 16th century.
Indeed, a cosmopolitan component was involved in the Malabar rebellion. After a short break, the anti-colonial struggle in Malabar picked up in 1921, with the advent of the Khilafat Movement. Even the national movement became popular under the influence of the Khilafat movement. The Khilafat movement and the political ideology of the Khilafat acted as a new force in the anti-colonial and anticast struggle. Overall, Western modernity has strengthened its political power by overthrowing the Ottoman Caliphate. It is on the basis of these political convictions that the Mappila community, with global perceptions, embraced the Khilafat movement.
The historical narratives formed by dominant ideologies can only be defended and overcome when studies are conducted in light of such different elements involved in the Malabar Rebellion. In particular, it is imperative in modern times to allow a critical reading centered on the action of warriors, theological thought, social position and decolonization. WIS came up with the idea for a virtual exhibition based on the belief that such alternative narratives and analyzes focused on these considerations should be put forward.
In the context of the 100th anniversary of the Malabar Rebellion, the main objective of SIO through this virtual exhibition is to look at the history of the Muslim intellectual of Kerala and the history of the struggle through an alternative perspective, to allow the production of knowledge about it and to celebrate it. politically and culturally. This can only be complete when the various narratives that have been formed after the rebellion are criticized and analyzed from a realistic point of view. This is a continuation of the knowledge politics that SIO has raised from time to time. We mark this interactive virtual exhibition as a continuation of the politics of knowledge that SIO promotes through its rejection of hegemonic ideas and its critical reading of knowledge such as history, politics, theology and aesthetics.
The virtual exhibition will be available on a mobile app with a feast of video content, paintings, calligraphy, digital art, rare archives, exclusive photos, a timeline of the uprisings of the Muslims in Kerala, various accounts of the Malabar rebellion, articles, profiles , events and graphic maps of places of rebellion. “Mappila Haal” will also be presented as a critical alternative to colonial and savarna narratives that portray Malabar’s long intellectual and revolutionary tradition against colonial and caste powers as fanatic and barbarian.
Mapilla Hall’s virtual exhibition has an app, which can be downloaded from PlayStore and iPhone App store.
The article was translated from Malayalam by Rameesudheen VM.
Amjad Ali EM is the President of SIO Kerala. The original article was published in the weekly Prabodhanam published on December 24, 2021 (Volume 78). He tweets to @AmjadAliEM.