General Studies IHISTORYModern India

Malabar rebellion of 1921


BJP leader Ram Madhav has said that Moplah rebellion (Malabar rebellion of 1921) was the first instance of Indians falling prey to Talibani mindset.

Background of Malabar rebellion

  • Muslim religion had arrived in Kerala in the 7th century AD as traders via the Arabian Sea even before north India was invaded by Muslim armies from the west.
  • They were given permission to carry on trade and settle by the native rulers. Many of them married local women and their descendants came to be called Moplahs (which means son-in-law in Malayalam).
  • Before Tipu Sultan’s attack on Malabar, in the traditional land system in Malabar, the Jenmi or the landlord held the land which was let out to others for farming. There were mainly three hierarchical levels of ownership including the cultivator, and each of them took a share of the produce.
  • The Moplahs were mostly cultivators of the land under this system and the Jenmis were upper-caste Hindus.
  • During Hyder Ali’s invasion of Malabar in the 18th century, many Hindu landlords fled Malabar to neighbouring areas to avoid persecution and forced conversions.
  • During this time, the Moplah tenants were accorded ownership rights to the lands.
  • After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, Malabar came under British authority as part of the Madras Presidency.
  • The British set out to restore ownership rights to the Jenmis who had earlier fled the region.
  • Jenmis were now given absolute ownership rights of the land which was not the case previously.
  • The peasants were now facing high rents and a lack of security of tenure.
  • This caused a series of riots by the Moplahs starting from 1836. Between 1836 and 1896, they killed many government officers and Hindu landlords.


  • The rebellion was the first instance of Muslim rebellion against British rulers of the area and also Hindu landlords.

  • The rebellion continued for several months after starting on August 20. It was marked by several bloody events that led to loss of about 10,000 lives.

The revolt

  • The revolt has been dubbed as the earliest uprising in south India. The nature of the revolt was peasantry. The government of Kerala had declared participation in Moplah revolt as freedom participation in 1971.

  • The majority of the events took place in the northern districts of Kerala, especially Malappuram. It initially started as a part of Khilafat movement.

Who was Variyankunna Kunjahammed Haji?

  • He was one of the leaders of the Malabar Rebellion of 1921.
  • He raised 75000 natives, seized control of large territory from the British rule and set up a parallel government.
  • In January 1922, under the guise of a treaty, the British betrayed Haji through his close friend Unyan Musaliyar, arresting him from his hideout and producing him before a British judge.
  • He was sentenced to death along with his compatriots.


  • Many consider the revolt as a religious event, marked by atrocities by Muslims against non-Muslims of the region.

  • The riots led to death of thousands of Hindus of Malabar. Many Hindus were forced to convert to Islam to escape atrocities.

  • BJP says that, many temples were destroyed and looted. It accuses Congress of glorifying the massacre as a freedom movement.

  • Recently, a film was announced on Moplah rebellion leader Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji. BJP had at the time opposed at whitewashing history.

Major Pre-Independence Agrarian Revolts
Santhal Rebellion (1855-56)The Santhals take global pride in the Santhal rebellion where over 1,000 Santhals and leaders of Sidho and Kanho Murmu rose against domination and battled against the vast East India Company (The Britishers).
Indigo Revolt (1859-60) It was a revolt by the farmers against British planters who had forced them to grow indigo under terms that were greatly unfavourable to the farmers.
Pabna Uprisings (1872-1875) It was a resistance movement against the oppression of the zamindars. It originated in the Yusufshahi pargana, which is now the Sirajganj district within greater Pabna, Bangladesh.
Deccan Riots (1875) The Deccan peasants uprising was directed mainly against the excesses of the Marwari and Gujarati money lenders. The ryots suffered heavy taxation under the Ryotwari system. The land revenue was also raised by 50% in 1867.
Pagri Sambhal Movement (1907)It was a successful farm agitation that forced the British government to repeal three laws related to agriculture. Bhagat Singh’s uncle Ajit Singh was the force behind this agitation.
Peasant Movement in Oudha (1918-1922)It was led by Baba Ramchandra, a Sanyasi, who had earlier been to Fiji as an indentured laborer. He led a peasant’s movement in Awadh against Talukdars and Landlords. He demanded reduction of rent, abolition of Begar and the boycott of landlords.
Champaran Movement (1917-18)The peasantry on the indigo plantations in the Champaran district of Bihar was excessively oppressed by the European planters and compelled to grow indigo on at least 3/20th of their land and sell it at prices fixed by the planters. In 1917, Mahatma Gandhi reached Champaran and defied the orders of district officials for leaving Champaran.
Peasant Agitation in Kheda (1918) It was chiefly directed against the Government. In 1918, the crops failed in the Kheda district of Gujarat but the government refused to remit land revenue and insisted on its full collection. Gandhiji along with Sardar Vallabhai Patel supported the peasants and advised them to withhold payment of revenues till their demand for its remission was met.
Moplah Rebellion (1921)The Moplahs were the Muslim tenants inhabiting the Malabar region where most of the landlords were Hindus. Their grievances centred around lack of security of tenure, high rents, renewal fees and other oppressive exactions. The Moplah movement merged with the ongoing Khilafat agitation.
Bardoli Satyagraha (1928) It was a movement in the independence struggle led by Sardar Vallabhai Patel for the farmers of Bardoli against the unjust raising of taxes.



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