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Moplah Rebellion, Part II: Hindus massacred on Maraad Beach

May 09, 2003

The reported facts about the incident in Maraad, Kozhikode, Kerala, are as follows.

  • A group of Hindu fishermen sitting on the beach near a temple is attacked suddenly, without provocation or warning, by a mob of Muslims armed with swords. After a chaotic ten minutes, nine people are dead or bleeding to death on the beach. Many are seriously wounded. The attackers vanish into the night.
  • A cache of swords and other sharp weapons, including blood-stained ones, as well as powerful country bombs is recovered from a mosque in the vicinity.
  • Various politicians make soothing noises, 66 persons have been arrested in connection with the crime. A judicial inquiry has been instituted.
  • The dead are: Gopalan, Chandran, Santosh, Madhavan, Asghar, Dasan, Pushparaj, Krishnan, and Prajeesh. One of them had been married for just five days.

I am basing this analysis on reports in the Malayalam media (eg: I find the local media to be far more accurate and less prejudiced than the English language media in most cases.

Consider the circumstances: the attack happened on a Friday, and it was directed at those sitting near a Hindu temple. First, almost all Muslim-initiated riots in India take place on Fridays, after the faithful have heard sermons in the local mosque.

Second, killing Hindus near a Hindu temple is guaranteed to be offensive; if there is any chance of a communal riot developing, this is an excellent way of triggering it.

This was a mini-Godhra: a murderous attack on Hindus. I have no idea who was behind it, perhaps Pakistanis, or perhaps it was merely local Moplah Muslims. After all, the Moplahs of Malabar did not need any Pakistani inspiration when they launched into the terrible riots of 1921 (the Moplah Rebellion) when they, without provocation, murdered, raped, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus, just because distant Turkey had abolished the Caliphate.

What was the objective this time? Possibly to create a communal riot along the lines of what happened in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra massacre. Perhaps to emphasise that in Muslim-dominated Malabar, as in Bangladesh and Kashmir, it is just fine to murder Hindus. The perpetrators -- whoever they are -- are confident that there will be no consequences.

What is likely to happen? Not much. Frightened Hindus will move some place safer, and one more piece of real estate will become dar-ul Islam, land of Muslims. This has been happening in other parts of Malabar, for example Muslim-majority Malappuram district, where Hindus are leaving for less dangerous places. Yes, the famed Nehruvian Stalinist 'secularism' in action, yet again.

Hindus in Kerala have declined in numbers, and this is what happens to non-Muslims when the Muslim population reaches a critical mass: decimation. When Semitic religions hold sway, they brutalise minorities. We have the examples of Muslim intolerance in Jammu & Kashmir and Christian intolerance in the Northeast. Hindus have a simple choice: convert, die or flee. And Kerala's Hindus are running out of places to flee to. We may end up in squalid refugee camps like the Pandits.

I have observed over the years the changes in Islam in Kerala. When I was a child, the Muslims I knew were relatively non-observant; the men sported no beards or skullcaps, the women wore saris and they merely drew the pallu demurely over their heads. Today, in Malabar there are large numbers of bearded men with skullcaps and women in all-enveloping black burqas. Astonishingly, even in southern Kerala, I have seen billboards advertising 'burqa fashions.'

I have also watched the growth of mosques in Kerala. In one stretch of the national highway between Kollam and Trivandrum, there are five huge mosques within the space of just one mile, and all but one have come up in the recent past, maybe ten years. You see scores of young boys with skullcaps and scores of little girls with headscarves going to the local madrassa, I imagine.

Much has happened in Kerala to bring these changes about. One is that the fragmented politics of Kerala has enabled smallish groups to wield disproportionate influence. As an example, various governments in Kerala, dependent on the support of the Muslim League, have allocated tracts of public land to it: startlingly, right in the middle of the famous Kovalam beach, there is now a large mosque on what was public property.

Furthermore, enormous amounts of Saudi and other Muslim fundamentalist money have apparently come into Kerala. A banker I know told me of crores of rupees in transfers for instance to the Guruvayoor area (which, despite the Krishna temple, is heavily Muslim). He told me that nationalised banks in India are willing to provide Islamic banking to large customers: that is, they happily pay them no interest according to Islamic law, and are therefore quite content to ask no inconvenient questions.

These inward flows have resulted in all these real-estate acquisitions and the radicalisation of Kerala's Muslims. They otherwise have no particular reason to feel discriminated against or oppressed, for they have had more than their fair share of jobs, opportunities and other entitlements. Kerala's Muslims certainly live better than Muslims in Pakistan, and they have done well for themselves. There are plenty of well-educated and well-employed Muslim doctors, engineers, IAS officers, lawyers, writers, teachers, etc.

If these educated and privileged Muslims turn so violently against their Hindu neighbours, there is no hope for Hindu-Muslim amity anywhere else in India. The two-nation theory has won, and Jinnah was right.

For Kerala has always treated Muslims well, and it is indeed God's own country for them. From pre-Islamic times, Arabs came to Kerala to trade, their dhows following the monsoon winds across the Arabian Sea. Islam first came to India -- and that too, peacefully -- to Kerala, where the first mosque in India, the Cheraman mosque, apparently built in the 7th or 8th century CE, stands at the great old port of Kodungalloor (the Roman Muziris).

Muslims came as sailors, married local women and stayed on: the very word 'Moplah' means 'son-in-law.' The Zamorin of Calicut had Muslims in his navy, including the famous commander Kunjali Marikkar. But most Muslims in Kerala have no Arab blood, and they are the descendents of Hindus forcibly converted during Tipu Sultan's invasion of Malabar. This alleged freedom-fighter was a fearsome jihadi: relatives of mine have family histories of fleeing from Malabar to the princely state of Cochin to avoid him. Even today 'Tipu's padayottam' (march) is remembered in the racial memory of Kerala Hindus as a catastrophe spoken of in hushed tones.

Yet, relations have generally been good between Hindus and Muslims in Kerala. So much so that at what might be the most important temple in Kerala, Sabarimala, pilgrims visit the patron deity Lord Ayyappan after paying obeisance at the shrine of his friend, the Muslim Vavar. On one of my pilgrimages to Sabarimala, I met a Muslim who was making the pilgrimage up that steep hill with his Hindu friends.

And Vaikom Mohammed Basheer was one of the most beloved Malayalam writers of the last one hundred years.

With all this, a Maraad happens. The only plausible reason for Muslim violence is sheer religious bigotry, an unreasoning jihad. It is difficult to deal with this through reason.

I wonder what the world's reaction would have been if the situation were reversed and a Hindu mob had killed nine Muslims in front of a mosque. Surely Kuldip Nayar and Praful Bidwai would not have been thunderously silent: they would have badgered the National Human Rights Commission. The Washington Post and The New York Times, not to mention The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Indian Express and the Hindu, would have indulged in en masse breastbeating about the end of civilisation in India.

But I bet, gentle reader, that this is the first time you have heard of the Maraad massacre. This I call blatant prejudice and double-standards on the part of the media. Where is the outrage? Where are the cries for justice?

Furthermore, if by some miracle, Muslim perpetrators in Maraad are brought to book, Nayar and Bidwai will bestir themselves to defend them, along with SAHMAT, Teesta Setalvad, and Shabana Azmi. I wonder why it isn't clear to them that the human rights of the outlaw and the terrorist are not greater than the human rights of the ordinary citizen.

But I forget, Hindus are expendable. Hindus were expendable in Malabar during the Moplah Rebellion, part I; they were expendable in Hyderabad when Razakars (armed Muslim men) went on the warpath around the time of Partition. The Razakars were quelled with overwhelming force by the Indian Army.

It appears that Muslim terrorism can only be averted by brute force: appeasement and turning the other cheek do not work. The only way to prevent more Godhras is to keep Muslim terrorists in check. The question is, who dares bell the cat? If not the government, then vigilantes will take over; which is what happened in Gujarat, after all.

India needs to put down its home-grown terrorists with force, and it needs to help Pakistanis feel some pain through substantial covert action. If Indian counter-terrorism blows up a few important Pakistanis, or engineers riots against the imperial Punjabis, their taste for adventurism will diminish. Otherwise, these poor Hindus of Maraad would have died in vain, butchered in front of their place of worship.


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Rajeev Srinivasan

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