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.

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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.