Kerala to develop tourism circuit connecting sites of Malabar riots

Published on Sep 27, 2021 02:07 AM IST

With the Sangh Parivar and Bharatiya Janata Party busy branding the Malabar riots of 1921 as a “genocide”, the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala is planning to develop a tourism circuit connecting important sites related to the Malabar uprising

The Wagon tragedy memorial at Tirur in Kerala. (Vivek Nair/HT PHOTO.)
The Wagon tragedy memorial at Tirur in Kerala. (Vivek Nair/HT PHOTO.)

With the Sangh Parivar and Bharatiya Janata Party busy branding the Malabar riots of 1921 as a “genocide”, the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala is planning to develop a tourism circuit connecting important sites related to the Malabar uprising.

State Tourism Minister Muhammed Riyas said in Alappuzha that the tourism department will develop a circuit connecting all important sites related to the rebellion in Malappuram. He said it will attract a lot of tourists and history students. He also said it was wrong to call the Wagon Tragedy a ‘tragedy’, since it was a “massacre” carried out by the British deliberately.

After the riot was brutally suppressed in 1921 by the British, another bitter incident unfolded, the ‘Wagon Tragedy’. Prisoners of the riots were filled in a closed railway goods wagon and taken to Coimbatore for trial and 64 prisoners suffocated to death on the way. In Tirur railway station (Malappuram) there is a memorial for ‘Wagon Tragedy’.’

“Tragedy means a disaster. But it was a deliberate massacre by herding hapless people in a closed windowless wagon that led to many being choked to death. The British called it a tragedy and still we are using this term,” he said adding a travel circuit will be developed to mark the centenary of the Malabar uprising. He rejected the contention of the BJP and Hindu outfits saying it was nothing new and reiterated that it was a peasant uprising.

The Malabar rebellion, also called as Moppila uprising, is a controversial issue in history. A section of historians and Left parties say it was a peasant uprising against British colonialism in south India but many right wing groups and a section of historians contend that it was a communal riot and Hindus were targeted. The issue is still hotly debated in the southern state_ whether it was a rebellion against colonial forces and landlords or a mindless action by fanatics.

Last month there was a controversy after the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) removed Malabar rebellion leader Variyamkunnath Kunjahmed Haji from the ‘Dictionary of Martyrs of India Freedom Struggle.’ Haji was captured and executed by the British in 1921. The issue flared up further after assembly speaker M B Rajesh compared Haji with Bhagat Singh, a young martyr from Punjab who was executed by the British and later turned a hero of the freedom struggle.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath while addressing a programme organised by the RSS mouthpiece “Panchajanya” on Saturday said the “Malabar riots was planned genocide of Hindus by jihad elements.”

He said it is important to understand history through the right lens. “Some people say Hindu landlords in Kerala were exploiting Muslim labourers and they gifted a peasant uprising stamp to it. But fact is that thousands of Hindus were killed after they refused to convert. For the left and pseudo-secularists it is still a peasant uprising. But it was genocide,” he said adding attempts to make it a part of the freedom movement should be opposed vehemently.

Addressing a seminar in Kozhikode last month, RSS leader Ram Madhav also alleged that the riot was one of the first manifestations of Taliban mindset in India and Left parties were trying to whitewash it by celebrating it as a labour uprising. But CM Pinarayi Vijayan last month reiterated that the state government will observe it as part of the freedom struggle. “People who betrayed the freedom struggle (Sangh Parivar) have no right to raise accusing fingers at others,” he said. The Hindu Aikya Vedi, a right-wing group, said it will oppose the government’s move to develop a tourism circuit to glorify the riot.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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