Context: The film titled ‘Variyamkunnan’, is expected to hit theatres in 2021, the 100th year anniversary of the Malabar uprising. 

About Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji:

Kunjahammed Haji is an important figure in the echelons of Kerala’s colonial history as a rebel leader who took on the mighty British Raj. He even established a short-lived regime of his own.

  • Early life: 
    • Born into an affluent Muslim family sometime in the 1870s, and grew up hearing stories of the torture and injustice meted out by the British. 
    • He was fascinated with traditional music-based art forms like Duffmuttu and by invoking such art forms he ignited sentiments against British among the local population. 
    • These acts were a continuation of a stream of anger that had begun to strengthen against the colonialists and which is believed to have resulted in the Malabar uprising in 1921.


The Duff Muttu or the Dubh Muttu, or the Duff Kalli is an art form performed in Kerala by the Muslim community to commemorate their festivals, nuptial ceremonies or Urooses and also for social entertainment.  It is also called Thappitta. 

  • Participation in Khilafat movement:
    • Though he thought that it was a Turkish question, he joined the movement against the atrocities of the British and the landlords.
    • As the leader of the Khilafat, he was active all over Calicut and south Malabar.
  • Worked for Hindu-Muslim unity: 
    • Though prominent British cast him as a religious fanatic to create divisions within the movement, Haji was aware of the strength of Hindu-Muslim unity and ensured people of other faiths were given adequate security.
  • Declaration of an Independent state:
    • As the rebellion helmed by the Haji and others began to spread across the Ernad and Valluvanad taluks of erstwhile Malabar district, British officers and the local police loyal to them escaped. 
    • The territory was declared an ‘independent state’ in August 1921 with Haji its undisputed ruler.
    • For nearly six months, Haji ran a parallel Khilafat regime headquartered in Nilambur. 

In January 1922, under the guise of a treaty, the British betrayed Haji, arresting him from his hideout. He was sentenced to death along with his compatriots.

The Malabar Rebellion 

  • Started as resistance against the British colonial rule and the feudal system in southern Malabar but ended in communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. 
  • There were a series of clashes between Mappila peasantry and their landlords, supported by the British, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. 
  • The Malabar Rebellion began as a reaction against a heavy-handed crackdown on the Khilafat Movement, by the British authorities in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks of Malabar. 
  • In the initial stages, the movement had the support of Mohandas Gandhi and other Indian nationalist leaders. 
  • The Mappilas attacked and took control of police stations, British government offices, courts and government treasuries.

The Khilafat movement

  • Also known as the Indian Muslim movement (1919–24), it was a pan-Islamist political protest campaign launched by Muslims of British India.
  • The movement was led by Shaukat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and Abul Kalam Azad to restore the caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate.
  • Ottoman Caliphate was considered the leader of Sunni Muslims, as an effective political authority. 
  • It was a protest against the sanctions placed on the caliph and the Ottoman Empire after the First World War by the Treaty of Sèvres.
  • Mahatma Gandhi saw the Khilafat agitation as "an opportunity to unite Hindus and Muslims in a hundred years time."Also, the Muslims League gave full support to the National Congress and its political agitation.
  •  In early 1920, Gandhi declared that the Khilafat question overshadowed the constitutional reforms and the Jallianwala massacre and announced that he would lead a non - cooperation movement if the terms of peace with Turkey did not satisfy the Indian Muslims.
  • The movement collapsed by late 1922 when Turkey gained a more favourable diplomatic position and moved towards secularism. By 1924 Turkey simply abolished the role of caliph.


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