Fascists are known for blatant distortion of history. Communists are one step ahead. They not only distort history with impunity but blame their opponents as fascists. Stalin blamed Jews as fascists. Brezhnev called the entire capitalist West as fascist. In India, the nationalists are fascists for them.
Talking of distorting history, Stalin demanded that 1941 should be projected as the year of Soviet Union’s entry into the Second World War. His intimacy with the Nazi buddy Hitler during 1939-41, invasion of Poland in 1939 and Baltic States in 1940, massacre of thousands of Poles at Katyn in 1940, were all pushed under the carpet.
President Putin promulgated a law that criminalises talking about the incidents of 1939-41. The Russian Supreme Court went one step further and made even a re-posting of such material a punishable crime.
Historian Timothy Snyder called this behavior as ‘schizofascism’.
Schizofascism is not new to the Indian Communists. They distort history at will to suit their ideological obsession but accuse those stuck to the facts as fascists. The latest case of communist schizofascism is the attempt to whitewash the history of Moplah atrocities of 1921.
Moplahs, descendants of the early Muslim migrants from Arabia, lived in large numbers in the Malabar region of North Kerala. Moplah leaders were generally seen as fanatical and violent. Even the senior Left leader EMS Namboodiripad had referred to this streak in Kerala in his book, Keralathinde Desheeya Prashnam (Kerala’s National Problem). There were religious fanatics “who believed killing or converting a kafir will take them to the steps leading to the threshold of heaven”, he wrote.
The Congress leadership had launched the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920 and linked it with the Khilafat Movement. The Moplah leaders plunged into the Khilafat Movement. Sensing that the violent activities of the Moplah leaders in the name of Khilafat were forcing Hindus to withdraw, Gandhi decided to undertake a visit to the region along with Shaukat Ali, leader of the Khilafat Movement.
While Gandhi advocated peaceful resistance, Shaukat Ali resorted to language of Jihad. Kunjahmad Hazi, the prominent face of the Moplahs, refused to join the Congress movement blaming its ‘Hindu credentials’. Instead, he launched Khilafat Movement in August 1921. Knives, swords and other deadly weapons were manufactured in large numbers. Large scale violence and arson were unleashed. Hazi together with Ali Musaliar declared the establishment of Islamic Khilafat (Caliphate) in two tehsils – Ernad and Valluvamad.
While in Turkey, the Ottoman Khalifa was deposed by secular leaders like Mustafa Kemal Pasha, what the Congress got in Malabar was not Swarajya but a Khilafat. The British came down heavily on the Moplahs. The Moplahs turned their anger against the minority Hindus. Ensuing four months became a living hell for the Hindus of Malabar.
“What happened in Malabar is gnawing our minds. My heart bleeds when I think whether our Muslim brethren have gone mad,” shocked Gandhi bemoaned.
Ambedkar was more forthright. “The Hindus were visited by a dire fate at the hands of the Moplahs. Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women such as ripping open pregnant women, pillage, arson and destruction – in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism, were perpetrated freely by the Moplahs upon the Hindus,” he wrote.
Contemporary British records and media coverage provide vivid description of the atrocities. Media wrote about dozens of camps set up for over one lakh displaced. Malayalam writers reflected Moplah horrors in their writings. In a poem written in 1922, Kumaranashan, a close disciple of Sree Narayana Guru, explicitly blames the Moplahs for atrocities. “Kollakkarottale Vettikolacheythum Allah Mathathil Pidichu Cherthum”, meaning, ‘the looters hacked many to death and forcibly converted others to the religion of Allah’, he wrote.
The women of Malabar shot off a desperate letter to the wife of Viceroy Reading. “Your Ladyship is not fully apprised 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 roadside 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 our husbands and fathers tortured, flayed and burnt alive; of thousands of our homesteads reduced to cinder mounds; of our places of worship desecrated and destroyed and of the images of the deity shamefully insulted by putting the entrails of slaughtered cows, 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 in the streets of Calicut,” they wrote.
However, Kunjahmad Hazi, in a letter to the Hindu in October 1921, flatly denied any wrongdoing. He resorted to victim shaming, accusing Hindus of conniving with the British and handing over the hiding Moplahs to them, for which only “a few Hindus have been put to some trouble”.
Schizofascism came into play when the communist government in Kerala elevated Moplahs to the status of ‘freedom fighters’ overnight in 1971. The CPI-M didn’t talk about the travails of Hindus at all, but farcically declared that ten thousand Moplahs were killed. The present Left Front government’s project is to project Moplah villains like Hazi as heroes using its centenary as an opportunity.
“What is history after all; it is a fable mutually agreed upon,” quipped Napoleon once. The Left and the Congress in Kerala had come together in the past to perpetuate this fable about the Moplah rebellion.
The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) now wants to undo schizofascism by deleting the names of Moplah leaders from the freedom fighters’ list. It is not against any community. Names recommended for deletion include several Hindus also. It is about learning lessons from history. For, as Jawahar Lal Nehru once said, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.”
(The article was published by India Today on August 25, 2021. Views expressed are personal.)