Are Muslim freedom fighters given rightful coverage in Kerala history textbooks?

By Najiya O.,

Kozhikode: Muslims have played a very important part in the freedom struggle of the country. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ali brothers, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan are a few examples. Our school syllabi, both state and central, cover the freedom struggle. But how many Muslim freedom fighters find their place in the history text books, which are the first source of information for the growing generation about our past?

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“The number of Muslim freedom fighters is very less in our history text books,” said K Kunhali, principal and teacher of history, Hidayathul Muslimeen Yatheemkhana Higher Secondary School, Manjeri, in Malappuram district. “Only Abul Kalam Azad is given at least a mention in our books. Even Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan is presented as pro-British and communalist. Books portray Muhammed Ali Jinnah as the only reason for the partition of the country. So students have only such an idea about our past.”

Vakkom Muhammed Abdul Khadir Moulavi

Mr Kunhali says this with his experience as the teacher of history for years. He also talked about the portrayal of Muslim freedom fighters in the text books in Kerala. Muhammed Abdurahman found only mention in our textbooks but more importance was given to K Kelappan. Even though Variyankunnath Kunhahammed Haji and Ali Musliyar fought against the British and captured power, their struggle for independence has no much space in our books. They were staunch suppoerters of the Congress and wore qadar (khadi). They captured power and ruled some parts of Malabar for about six months. At last the British caught and executed them. But this glorious age in history can be known only from books other than text books. And this happens at a time when even Pazhassi Raja and Veluthampi Dalawa are adored by text books. Both had sided with the British in the beginning, but turned against them only when the British sidelined their interests.

Of course the books do mention Maulana Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. But can one understand from the books that Azad was the president of the Congress at the most crucial age of the Second World War? That Azad was the president when the Congress passed the Quit India resolution? That Azad had actually chalked out a plan so as to avoid the partition of the country, which even the Muslim League accepted?

“The books of yore covered the role of Muslims in the freedom struggle,” said Abdul Ali of Manjeri in Malappuarm. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, books mentioned the Ali brothers, Dr MA Ansari, Hakim Ajamal Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Hazrath Mohani among other leaders of the freedom struggle. The Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind too was mentioned, though nothing was given in detail. Muhammed Abdurahman Sahib was the lone Muslim from Kerala who found a place in text books.” Abdul Jaleel of Malappuram also recollects that he had not studied about the revolt of 1921 in text book.

The struggle for freedom had begun at a very early age in Kerala, the state being the first to be entered by the Europeans. Veliyankode Umar Qadi began the first civil disobedience movement in the 17th century. He assembled people through his various works and speeches. He educated the Muslims of their religious duty to fight against oppressors. Vakkom Abdul Qader Moulvi began a newspaper – ‘Swadeshabhimani’. He gave total journalistic freedom for his editor who later became more famous than him. The revolt of 1921 took place at a time when the whole Muslim world was fighting for the restoration of khilafath. Gandhiji and Ali brothers began it in the country as the Khilafath movement. The movement took the shape of an open revolt in Malabar where Muslims and Hindus fought together against the British Raj.

However, studies are going on in the field. The revolt of 1921 is again subject to study by many scholars. One of the reasons for the revolt not to find a place in books of the past could be that details about it were present only in the Arabic-Malayalam script. Nowadays when the Arabic- Malayalam script has given way to Malayalm, Muslims too learn Malayalam. So there is an increased awareness, but still there is a need to include at least the names of Muslim freedom fighters in text books so that at least the coming up generation may realize that Muslims too had fought for the country. They could understand that Muslims were not traitors but real patriots. Distorting history may suit certain people, but isn’t it better to learn facts as such?