February 28, 2024

Mappila riots

Syllabus– General Studies 1(history) 


Recently, a political leader claimed that the Moplah rebellion, also known as the Mappila riots, of 1921 was one of the first manifestations of the Taliban mindset in India.

About Moplahs/Mappilas

  • The name Mappilla is given to Malayali-speaking Muslims who reside along the entire length of the Malabar Coast of northern Kerala.
  • By 1921, the Moplahs formed the largest and fastest-growing community in Malabar. With a population of one million, 32% of that of Malabar as a whole, the Moplahs were concentrated in South Malabar.


  • In the sixteenth century when Portuguese traders arrived on the Malabar coast, they noted the Mappilas to be a mercantile community concentrated in urban centres and fairly segregated from the local Hindu population.
  • However, with the rise in Portuguese commercial power, the Mappilas found themselves a competitor and increasingly started moving inland in search of new economic opportunities.
  • The shifting of the Mappilas led to a clash of religious identities both with the local Hindu population and the Portuguese.

About The Revolt:

  • Fuelled by the fiery speeches by Muslim religious leaders and anti-British sentiments, the Mopillahs launched a violent rebellion. Numerous acts of violence were reported and a series of persecutions were committed both against the British and the Hindu landlords.
  • While there are some who call it a case of religious fanaticism, there are others who look at it as an instance of struggle against British authority, and then there are others who perceive the Malabar rebellion to be a peasant revolt against unfair practices of the landlords.
  • While historians continue to debate on the matter, the broad consensus on the episode notes it to have started off as a struggle against political power, which later took on a communal colour.
  • Most of the landlords were Namboodiri Brahmins while most of the tenants were Mapillah Muslims.
  • The riots led to the mass killings of over 10,000 Hindus, raping of women, forced religious conversions, destruction or damage of nearly 300 temples, loot and arson of properties worth crores of rupees and burning of houses belonging to the Hindus.


  • The trigger of the uprising came from the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Congress in 1920 along with the Khilafat agitation. The anti-British sentiment fuelled by these agitations affected the Muslim Mapillahs.
  • The British had introduced new tenancy laws that tremendously favoured the landlords known as Janmis and instituted a far more exploitative system for peasants than before.
  • The new laws deprived the peasants of all guaranteed rights to the land, share in the produce they earlier got and in effect rendered them landless.

Controversial film projects on the rebellion

  • In 1988, a Malayalam film titled ‘1921’ was made based on the theme. With superstar Mammootty in the lead role, the film, directed by I V Sasi, won laurels. The protagonist had been a member of the brigade of Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, a prominent Muslim leader of the uprising. 
    • However, last year, when young film director Aashiq Abu announced a new project based on the Haji, the Sangh Parivar felt it was glorifying a Muslim leader in the massacre of Hindus. 
    • The BJP wanted the film dropped as the party felt it was a “jihadi version” of history. The Parivar side retorted with BJP leader and filmmaker Ali Akbar announcing another project, “to expose the true face of the uprising”. The BJP leader wanted to highlight the killing of Hindus, who were not ready to change religion.

The Indian Express link- https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/malabar-rebellion-of-1921-explained-7462838/ 

Question- Write a short note on Malabar rebellion or Mapilla riots.

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