89 years since the Pookkottur Battle of the 1921 Malabar Revolt

By TwoCircles.net Staff Correspondent,

Kochi: It has been 89 years since 300 brave sons of Malabar sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their motherland in one of the rare armed rebellions in the history of the freedom struggle. August 26 of 1921 was a Friday and the brave Mappilas (Muslims of Malabar) fought against the imperialist British fiercely in the Pookkottur Battle.

Pookkottur is situated in the Malappuram district (the lone Muslim majority district in Kerala) in Malabar. The Khilafat Movement became popular in Pokkottur by the works of Ali Musliyar, mudarris (religious teacher) at Melmuri nearby. Freedom fighters like Kattilasseri Moulvi and MP Narayana Menon went to Pookkottur and formed the Khilafat Committee there.

Vadakkuveettil Mammadu, manager of Chinnanunni of the Nialmbur Kovilakam (a rich Hindu landlord family of Malabar), was made the secretary of the committee. On hearing the news, the Kovilakam dismissed him from the job and tried to get him arrested in a fake case of stealing a gun. Police force under CI Mannat Narayan Menon came to Pookkottur and raided Mammadu’s house. This enraged the people who had assembled in the masjid nearby. They marched to the Pookkottur Kovilakam, which was a part of the Nilambur Kovilakam. They were about 200 men and made even the police shout pro-Khilafat slogans.

Gate at Pookkottur to commemorate the famous battle

The influential landlords asked the district administration to bring in the army to block the Mappila serfs from turning against them. British army from Kozhikode marched to Pookkottur in 22 lorries and 25 bicycles. Captain Mackento and Special Force Commander Lancaster led the army. About 2000 Mappila fighters hid at Valiyathodu between Pookkottur and Pilakkal. They had planned to attack the army from behind when all the vehicles had crossed the bridge at Pilakkal. However, one person, who was not present in the final meeting of the fighters, began shooting when the first vehicle reached the bridge. The army threw smoke bombs at them. When the fighters were in the smoke, the army arranged their machine guns and began firing. However, the fighters did not turn back, but rather fought bravely. More than 300 Mappilas were killed by the British army. The army too lost several of their soldiers, including Commander Lancaster and the vice-Captain.

The battle was indeed a blow to the British who had a feeling that there was no one to fight against them. The martyrs were all buried in bulk in five places. This can be seen even now. However, the graveyards of the great sons of the land still remain unprotected. Their memory now resides in the minds of people through a gateway built in their name.

The Pookkottur Battle was one among the many armed rebellions fought by the Mappilas against the British might. Even though the battle at Pookkottur was crushed by the army, the brave Mappilas ousted the British and began parallel governments in many parts of Malabar. Ali Musliyar and Variyankunnath Kunhahammed Haji were the leaders of the Mappila fighters. The British took nearly six months to recapture all the areas back. Realizing the might and mind of the Mappilas to fight till death, the British formed the Malabar Special Police to control them.

The revolt of 1921 was a great blow to the British who realized that the Mappilas and the downtrodden could not be suppressed forever. However, some historians also hold that the rebellion which was waged against the British in the beginning gradually turned against the Hindus towards the end.



Pookottur/Khilafet/Mopla Rebellion

A patriot lives and dies for the country. In that sense we should be thankful to these brave people.

However, the Khilafat program this was affiliated with was bad for Muslims and India. And the sad thing is that well-meaning Muslim leaders and the leaders of Indian National congress manipulated Muslims during this time.

Muslims in India suddenly felt "rudderless" when the Ottoman empire collapsed as a result of the first world war. They did not care for a "caliphate" while Moghuls ruled India. However, as Moghuls declined, and British ascended, with Ottoman empire expanding, Indian muslims slowly started recognizing the Ottoman sultan as Caliphate, and as such their supreme authority.

Indian Muslims felt "islam in danger" with the Sultan of Turkey being toppled by the forces of the first world war. So, some of the leading Indian Muslim leaders, mainly the Ali brothers (Mohamed and Shaukhat), as a way of uniting Indian Muslims and potentially making them particpate in the freedom movement, and knowing that "islamic cause" will unite them, formed "Tehrik-i-Khilafet" with these three objectives:
-1. Maintain Turkish Caliphate
-2.Protect Holy places of Islam
-3. Maintain the unity of Ottoman empire
(why indian muslims will be interested in 1 and 3 is an interesting issue which many others and patriots will not understand, but that goes into Umma and things like that!)

Mahathma Gandhi used this opportunity to co-opt the congress protest movement with khilafet, so that there is a "united front" against the British; congress predominantly for India freedomn, while Khilafet mainly for reestablishing Turkish Sultan as the Caliphate. Until then, Muslims were not active participants in the freedom movement; although several leaders of congress were from Muslim community.

While peaceful protest movement against the British in India was happening, Ali brothers were also talking with the British regarding the Turkish Caliphate. When the Treaty of Serves was executed, and the Indian Muslim delegation went to see the PM Lloyd George, he refused to budge and nominate the Sultan as the Calipha; neither he cared for the suggestions on the Ottoman countries.

The fall of the Sultan and the "refusal" of the British to restore him as the Caliph triggered various changes in the Indian freedom movement. Some Muslims opted for "hijrat" (that India is/will be a "Dar-Al-Harb" (muslim non friendly, apostate land; with jihad or "hijrat" (exodus to Muslim country" ) to Dar-al-Islam" as the only solution. 20,000 plus Muslims from Punjab/Sindh region migrated to Afghanistan. But Afghanistan being a poor country, they could not take any more Muslim brothers, and the Afghani Muslim king closed the border blockinga ny more Muslims from entering Afghanistan. Many Muslims died in that episode of mountanious travel to and from.

With British not supporting the Muslims' demand for CAliphate, khilafet movement started turning violent in amny parts of India - one of the worst ones being in Malabar. Ali Muslyar, (the one this Pookottu article refers to) propagated a rumor that Delhi is under a new Caliph, that Muslims are back in power. This declaration occurred in Thirurangadi, in the present Malappuram district. This sense of new authority and power made many Muslims in Thirurangadi and the rest of Malabar to use the proverbial "sword" to forcefully convert Hindus, especially Namboodiris and Nairs, rape the women, take properties, and plunder the temples and other places of worship. What Tipu Sultan did 150 years ago, was repeated again in Malabar - these wre the only two mass killings and destruction of palces of worship in malabar/Kerala history.

Mahathma Gandhi was quite upset about the violent turn khilafaet was taking. Few months after the moplah rebellion of Malabar, there was another major violent turn in Chauri chura in North India where Muslims killed Hindus and policemen. Mahathma Gandhi pulled the plug on cooperating with the Khilafet movement as a result of this.

Khilafet movement went into a "natural" death when Mustafa Kemal Pasha took over Turkey and put the clerics and religion out of administration. (as we look around Turkey is the only Muslim majority country who is enjoying a good living standard and relative peace)

Just like our leaders motivated the common Muslim in those days to follow false notion of a Turkish Caliphate (sitting in some remote corner of India! figure it out), our Muslim leaders of the present are also whipping up passion on items we do not havet any control of or does not matter to our day-to-day life and family well-being. They are making a peaceful life sharing in the growth of the country impossible. What if the call to migrate to Dar-al-Islam Aafghanistan was heeded by not 20,000 but all the Indian Muslims at that time? We will be illiterate, most probably bombed by US, or killed by Taliban.

History should not repeat. Our leaders are making history to repeat, manipulating poor Muslims on their emotional items.

Malabar revolt and Khilafet


Thanks. You are absolutely right. Our leaders are forcing our poor Muslim brothers to repeat history. May Allah lead them in the right track!

i am from malabar ,very near

i am from malabar ,very near to malappuram , i think you depends british historians for your comment. as a native i can say they fight against british for freedom , not for caliphate ..............
there are so many muslim freedom fighters in malabar before 1990 , if you want to know about them please search in google with "mamburam thangal","kunjali marakkar","veliyamkodu umar khasi".........etc.