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Malabar Rebellion

Malabar Rebellion

The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) has postponed making a decision about a suggestion to take the 1921 Malabar Rebellion (Moplah riots) martyrs off the list of India’s freedom fighters. This recommendation involves the names of Variamkunnaathu Kunhahamad Haji and Ali Musliyar.

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  • In 1921, the Malabar Rebellion kicked off as a protest against British colonial rule and the feudal system in southern Malabar. However, it unfortunately transformed into violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
  • The root cause of the rebellion lay in a long history of conflicts between the Mappila peasantry and their landlords, who were backed by the British, spanning the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Things escalated when the British authorities cracked down on the Khilafat Movement, a movement supporting the Ottoman Caliphate. This crackdown triggered a reaction in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks of Malabar.
  • The Mappilas, in response, took drastic measures, attacking and seizing control of police stations, British government offices, courts, and government treasuries in the region. The initial resistance against the British and the feudal system sadly evolved into communal violence.


  • In the 16th century, when Portuguese traders first reached the Malabar coast, they observed that the Mappilas, who were mainly involved in trade, lived in cities and kept to themselves, separate from the local Hindu community.
  • As the Portuguese gained more influence in trade, the Mappilas faced competition and decided to explore new economic prospects by moving away from the coastal areas into the inland regions.
  • This relocation of the Mappilas triggered conflicts over religious differences, involving both the Hindu residents and the Portuguese, as the Mappilas navigated new territories for their economic activities.

Reasons behind the Mapillah Revolt

  • In 1920, the Congress initiated the Non-Cooperation Movement, which, combined with the Khilafat agitation, sparked a significant uprising. This wave of anti-British sentiment particularly impacted the Muslim Mapillahs.
  • Following the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, Malabar fell under British control as part of the Madras Presidency. The British introduced new tenancy laws that heavily favored landlords, known as Janmis. These laws created a more exploitative system for peasants, stripping them of their guaranteed rights to land, a share in the produce, and essentially leaving them landless.

Read Also: Quit India Movement

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