Hindu Voices from the Malabar Graveyard: The Rani of Nilambur Records the Misery of the Malabar Hindu Women
October 3, 2019
Part 1: Hindu Voices from the Graveyard: Unearthing the Tragic Stories of the Malabar Hindus
Part 2: Hindu Voices from the Malabar Graveyard: War Song of the Moplahs and the Century-Long Massacres of Hindus
Geography is perhaps the greatest, mute chronicler of history. Geography doesn’t lie, doesn’t judge. It is the physical embodiment of what is known as ‘detached witness.’ Take Nilambur for example. Just a century ago, it was a mini-kingdom, a vassal state to be specific. Today, it is a mere municipality falling under the jurisdiction of the Muslim-majority (70 per cent as per the 2011 census) Malappuram district. It is hard to believe that Malappuram was home to the legendary Bhattadri, author of the mellifluous Narayaneeyam as also one of the prime centres of Sanskrit learning, astronomy, mathematics and Ayurveda.
In 1921, Malappuram was also one of the sites of the barbaric Moplah Genocide of the Malabar Hindus. In 1921, the vassal state of Nilambur was still in existence. After the savage genocide of the Malabar Hindus was finally quelled, the Zamorin (the correct name is Samuthiri) of Kozhikode called for a conference to condemn the Moplah brutalities, and urged the British to take action. The opening words of the Samuthiri should hopefully serve as a lesson in courage to the “Hindu” politicians of our own time.
That the conference views with indignation and sorrow the attempts made in various quarters by interested parties to ignore or minimise the crimes committed by the rebels such as
a. Brutally dishonouring women;
b. Flaying people alive;
c. Wholesale slaughter of men, women and children;
d. Burning alive entire families;
e. Forcibly converting people in thousands and slaying those who refused to get converted;
f. Throwing half dead people into wells and leaving the victims for hours to struggle for escape till finally released from their sufferings by death;
g. Burning a great many and looting practically all Hindu and Christian houses in the disturbed area in which even Moplah women and children took part, and robbing women of even the garments on their bodies, in short reducing the whole non-Muslim population to abject destitution;”
But it is the letter written to Lady Reading (wife of the then Indian viceroy, Lord Reading) by the Rani of Nilambur on behalf of the hundreds of Malabar Hindu women that unravels just a sample of the ghastly genocide by the Moplah Muslims. Here’s the full and unedited text of the letter. Emphases added.
Her Gracious Excellency
THE COUNTESS OF READING,
The humble memorial of the bereaved and sorrow-stricken women of Malabar.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACIOUS AND COMPASSIONATE LADYSHIP.
We, the Hindu women of Malabar of varying ranks and stations in life who have recently been overwhelmed by the tremendous catastrophe known as the Moplah rebellion, take the liberty to supplicate your Ladyship for sympathy and succour.
2. Your Ladyship is doubtless aware that though our unhappy district has witnessed many Moplah outbreaks in the course of the last one hundred years, the present rebellion is unexampled in its magnitude as well as unprecedented in its ferocity. But it is possible that your Ladyship is not fully appraised of all the horrors and atrocities perpetrated by the fiendish rebels; of the many wells and tanks filled up with the mutilated, but often only half dead bodies of our nearest and dearest ones who refused to abandon the faith of our fathers; of pregnant women cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles, with the unborn babe protruding from the mangled corpse; of our innocent and helpless children torn from our arms and done to death before our eyes and of our husbands and fathers tortured, flayed and burnt alive; of our hapless sisters forcibly carried away from the midst of kith and kin and subjected to every shame and outrage which the vile and brutal imagination of these inhuman hell-hounds could conceive of; of thousands of our homesteads reduced to cinder-mounds out of sheer savagery and a wanton spirit of destruction; of our places of worship desecrated and destroyed and of the images of the deity shamefully insulted by putting the entrails of slaughtered cows where flower garlands used to lie, or else smashed to pieces; of the wholesale looting of hard earned wealth of generations reducing many who were formerly rich and prosperous to publicly beg for a piece or two in the streets of Calicut, to buy salt or chilly or betel-leaf—rice being mercifully provided by the various relief agencies. These are not fables.
The wells full of rotting skeletons, the ruins which once were our dear homes, the heaps of stones which once were our places of worship—these are still here to attest to the truth. The cries of our murdered children in their death agonies are still ringing in our ears and will continue to haunt our memory till death brings us peace. We remember how driven out of our native hamlets we wandered starving and naked in the jungles and forests; we remember how we choked and stifled our babies’ cries lest the sound should betray our hiding places to our relentless pursuers. We still vividly realise the moral and spiritual agony that thousands of us passed through when we were forcibly converted into the faith professed by these blood thirsty miscreants; we still have before us the sight of the unendurable and life long misery of those—fortunately few—of our most unhappy sisters who born and brought up in respectable families have been forcibly converted and then married to convict coolies. For five long months not a day has passed without its dread tale of horror to unfold.
3. Your gracious Ladyship’s distracted memorialists have endeavoured without exaggeration, without setting down aught in malice to convey at least some idea of the indescribably terrible agonies which they and thousands more of their sisters have been enduring for over five months now through this reign of inhuman frightfulness inaugurated and carried on in the name of the Khilafhat. We have briefly referred without going into their harrowing details to our heartrending tale of dishonour, outrage, rapine, and desolation. But if the past has been one of pain and anguish, the future is full of dread and gloom. We have to return to a ruined and desolated land. Our houses have been burnt or destroyed; may of our breadwinners killed; all our property looted; our cattle slaughtered. Repatriation without compensation means for us ruin, beggary, starvation. Will not the benign Government come to our aid and give us something to help us to begin life anew? We are now asked to settle down as paupers in the midst of the execrable fiends who robbed, insulted and murdered our loved ones—veritable demons such as hell itself could not let loose. Many of us shrink from the idea of going back to what there is left of our homes; for though the armed bands and rebels have been dispersed the rebellion cannot be said to be entirely quelled. It is like a venomous serpent whose spine has been partly broken, but whose poison fangs are still intact and whose striking power, if diminished, has not been destroyed. A few thousands of rebels have been killed and a few more thousands have been imprisoned, but as the Government are only too well aware many more thousands of rebels, looters, savagely militant evangelists and other inhuman monsters yet remain at large, a few in concealment, but most, moving about with arrogance openly threatening reprisals on all non-Moslims who dare to return and resume possession of their property. Many refugees who went back have paid for their temerity with their lives. In fact, repatriation, if it is not to be a leap from the frying pan into the fire, must mean for the vast bulk of your Ladyship’s impoverished and helpless memorialists and their families a hard inexorable problem of financial help, and adequate protection against renewed hellish outrages from which immunity would be utterly impossible as long as thousands of men and even women and children of this semi-savage and fanatical race in whom the worst instinct of earth hunger, blood-lust and rapine have been awakened to fierce activity are free to prey upon their peaceable and inoffensive neighbours who—let it be most respectfully emphasised—because of their implicit trust in the power and the will of a just and benign Government to protect them, had suffered their own art and capacity for self defence to emasculate and decay.
4. We, Your Ladyship’s humble and sorrow-stricken memorialists do not seek vengeance. Our misery will not be rendered less by inflicting similar misery upon this barbarous and savage race; our dead will not return to us if their slayers are slaughtered. We would not be human, however, if we could ever forget the cruel and shameful outrages and indignities perpetrated upon us by a race to whom we have always endeavoured to be friendly and neighbourly; we would be hypocritical if, robbed of all our possessions we did not plead for some measure of compensation to help us out of the pauperism now forced upon us; we would be imbecile, if knowing the ungovernable, anti-social propensities and the deadly religious fanaticism of the Moplah race we did not entreat the just and powerful government to protect the lives and honour of your humble sisters who have to live in the rebel-ravaged zone. Our ambition after all is low enough; sufficient compensation to save us and our children from starvation, and enough military protection against massacre and outrage are all that we want. We beseech Your Compassionate Ladyship to exercise all the benevolent influence that you possess with the government to see that our humble prayers are granted. But if the benign Government does not consider it possible to compensate us and to protect us in our native land we would most fervently pray that free grants of land may be assigned to us in some neighbouring region which though less blessed with the lavish gifts of nature may also be less cursed by the cruelty and brutality of man.
We beg to remain,
Your Ladyship’s most humble
and obedient servants,
Where is that textbook in “independent” India that tells the true story of this savagery? Where indeed is even a fissure in our public discourse that gives space for this barbaric reality of recent history, even in an outline form?
Moplah Rebellion? Really?
Writer, author, and translator. Author of the bestselling "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." English translator of Dr. S L Bhyrappa's blockbuster Kannada novel, "Aavarana".
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