Chakkiparamban Variyankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji (1877- 20 January 1922 ) was a Muslim gangster who led the Malabar Rebellion,culminating in the first Hindu pogrom in India,which was criticized by leaders like Gandhi, Ambedkar and Annie Besant. Subsequently he was executed by the British.He ran a parallel government, for more than six months in most parts of the then Eranadu and Valluvanadu taluks. He raised an army of illiterate Mappilas, seized control of a large area,killed umpteen number of Hindus and looted their homes, alongwith his long term mentor, friend and Islamic fundamentalist,Ali Musliyar.
Haji was an illiterate bullock cart driver.
Haji was born in a Muslim family with a history of criminal activities; later on moved to Nellikuth village, near Manjeri, Malappuram district. He was the second child of his parents, Chakkiparamban Moideenkutty Haji and Kunjaisha Hajjumma. Moideenkutty Haji,apart from being a criminal, was a small time farmer as well, one among those who had been deported and imprisoned in Jails of Andaman for taking part in the 1894 Mannarkkad Hindu massacre.
He pursued his basic religious education from village Madrasa; He is said to have studied some Arabic texts from Mammad Kutty Musliyar. After his father was deported to Andaman, Haji was brought up in his mother’s family. His grandfather was also a criminal, who asked a teacher named Balakrishnan Ezhuthachan, to teach Malayalam to Haji along with other grandchildren.
The deportation of his father and other criminals was followed by the seizure of their properties followed, and Haji harboured hostility towards the British as well as Hindus.
In 1896 Haji turned against Manjeri Kovilakam. He and his followers seized land and properties of the Kovilakam.. British army came to help the landlords. The conflict caused British to risk 94 out of 100 their soldiers. Inspector Khan Bahadhur Chekkutty tried to arrest Haji but CI Kurikkal, a Muslin friend, helped him. Haji became under constant surveillance of the British. His friends and family insisted him to leave for Mecca when they smelt that Chekkutty was planning to arrest him. He left to Bombay, then to Mecca. During the exile, he visited home several times but was compelled to go back due to the continued surveillance.Haji returned from Mecca in 1905 and married Ruqiyya; daughter of Unni Muhammed . After her death in 1908, he married Sainaba ; sister of one of his friends. In 1920 Haji married his cousin Malu Hajjumma(Paravetti Fathima); daughter of his uncle Koyammu Haji. They were brought up in same home and this was third marriage for both of them.
There were 83 Mappila revolts against the Hindus,before 1921; after each revolt,the Hindus used to flee the area and their land and property were seized by the Muslim criminals.When the Hindus returned and reclaimed the properties,further attacks by Muslim fundamentalists happened.This was the reason for continued Mappila rebellions.
In 1920,Gandhi visited Calicut,after he inadvertently tied up the unwarranted Khilafat movement with the non co-operation movement of the Congress.The Congress leaders of Malabar like K P Kesava Menon and K Madhavan Nair had no other option than to join it.Thus the ignorant muslim fundamentalists like Musaliyar and Haji began to bask in the reflected glory of they becoming part of the Congress band wagon.Some of these Muslims were made Khilafat committe chiefs;they shared the same platforms with Congress leaders. The Ali brothers,Muhammad and Shaukath, hijacked Gandhi at the national level and Gandhi became a hostage of Muslim fundamentalists. Haji was under the impression that India will come under the Turkey Khalifate,after the Khalifa was placed back in his throne.He did not know that the people of Turkey never wanted the Khalifa.
By this time, the Communist Party had taken shape in Tashkent under the leadership of M N Roy, who recruited Muhajirs to the Party.the Muhajirs were the band of Muslims who had left India to fight for the Turkey Khalifate-Jihadis.
Few days before the rebellion,the British got wind of the fanaticism and had reinforced its Sevond Leinster Regiment at Calicut with three more platoons from Madras, of the same Regiment.It was planned to search the hidden weapons of the Muslim fanatics at Thirurangadi. The Magistrate with these forces reached Thirurangadi on the early morning of Saturday, 20 August, 1921. Three people were arrested by 10 am after the search. Information came that 2000 Mappilas have reached Parappanangadi railway station from Thanur,and they were heading for Thirurangadi. By 12.30 this Mapoila mob was confronted by Meinvering, Hitchcok, and Amu Sahib.The mob had held the Khilafat flag. The police bayonets were attacked with iron rods by the mob.One Constable’s head got split into two.Nine in the mob were killed in the police firing.When the mob withdrew,the British caught Thanur Khilafat Committee Secretary Kunjikhadar and 40 Mappilas.
When the Forces left,a small band of the Force,under Lt W R Johnston and Rowley.Another 2000 strong Mappila mob that came from another direction attacked this small British force-Johnston, Rowley and the interpretor head constable Moytheen were killed. The mutilated dead bodies lay on the road.
The 1921 Mappila Jihad began.The war ship HMS Comus reached the Malabar coast. On 26th morning, a Mappila mob attacked the British forces at Pookottoor and in the fight that lasted five hours,400 Mappilas were killed.Two British army men got killed. A S P Lancaster,who was injured,breathed his last, later.
The incidents that led to Mappila Jihad of 1921 began on 20 August with the attack of Ali Musaliyar and his gang, on Thirurangadi Revenue Office. They killed some Policemen and seized the police station. Collector and other officials fled to Calicut.The criminals took shelter at the Thirurangadi mosque. Following the evacuation of the Thirurangadi Mosque in 30 August 1921, fundamentalists were up in arms. In the attack from the mosque, 34 Mappilas were killed.Musaliyar and Haji mobilised them They attacked and seized police station, treasuries, courts, registrar and other government offices. The rebellion soon spread to the nearby areas of Malappuram, Manjeri, Pandikad and Tirur under leadership of Variyan Kunnath Kunjahammad Haji, Seethi Koya Thangal, Chembrassery Thangal and Ali Musliyar. Hindus, Police, army, and other British officials fled from areas like Malappuram, Manjeri, Thiruragadi and Perinthalmanna, The Muslim rowdies destroyed railway and telephone lines, bridges and roads.
Ali Musaliyar was anointed the King on 22 August.In Thekkekalam meeting held on the same day, Haji appointed commanders under these leaders, and it was duty of these commanders to recruit soldiers, train them and collect weapons. Nayik Chekkutty was the commander of Kunjahammed Haji. Anamundan Mammad, Thaliyil Unnenkutty Haji, Vadakkuvettil Mammad were some other commanders among them.Since the police and other forces fled from Eranad, Valluvanadu and Ponnani, Haji declared it as an Independent state from British. According to Hitchcock,the name of this state was Doula; Arabic equivalent word for state. Haji got few Muslim ex-military men who fought for British in First World War. Nayik Thaami, the commander of Variyan Kunnath wrote in his diary that Doula had almost 60000 soldiers in his Army.
Variyan Kunnath Kunjahammad Haji took over command of the rebellion from Ali Musliyar,after Musaliyar was arrested after the Thirurangadi mosque incident. Public proclamations were issued by Variyan Kunnath Haji to the effect that he is Amir of Muslims, King of Hindus and Colonel of the forces. In 30 August 1921 the mob under Haji killed Khan Bahadur Chekkutty, Muslim British police Inspector.While he was dying on the lap of his wife, his hands and legs were chopped off by Haji and his gangster team.The state declaration was conducted in Manjeri.. By 28 August 1921, British administration had virtually come to an end in Malappuram, Tirurangadi, Manjeri, and Perinthalmanna, which then fell into the hands of the criminals who established complete domination over the Eranad and Valluvanad Taluks. He had blacksmiths to make weapons and he had weapons that rebels seized from police stations.
On 25 August Haji started armed training.The tax was charged for the goods from Wayanad to Tamilnadu.Hindus were subjected to Haji’s punishment, branding them as informants of the British. He captured Pukkottur Kovilakam and their properties were distributed among the Muslims.
One of the most notable attacks that British had to face was Battle Of Pookkottur on 26 August and Battle Of Pandikkadu. In which British sustained many casualties and had to retreat from the field. On 1 September British declared Martial law in Malabar. Haji fled and started his suicidal attacks on 13 September. On 16 September Variyan Kunnath declared Martial Law against British, he appointed guards on the border of his territory, established courts for the trial and issued passport for those who were travelling to other areas.
Hindus could heave a sigh of relief only after the Pokottor episode. Musaliyar and Haji had planned to catch all Hindus from Manjeri and neighbouring places on 26 August and convert them en masse to Islam after the Jama namas.The caps and dresses were ready.
After fleeing, on 16 October, Haji and his gang destroyed the Nellikat bridge in Pandikkad.On 26 October, Haji’s notorious and cruel hench man Kothampara Unithari was killed with 100 gangsters by the Chin Cachin Regiment..
By 1 January 1922, Haji’s gang had been reduced to just 80.They were confronted on 30 December at Pandallur hill.
The British seized Unyan Musaliyar, Haji’s hench man, and told him that they are interested in signing a treaty if Haji is ready to surrender. According to this treaty Haji has to disperse his illegal administration, he has to surrender and he will be deported to Mecca. Unyan went to Haji’s hidden base at Chokkad to inform him about the treaty offered. Haji had no other option since his days were numbered and his army had thinned.Unyan went to meet Haji with CI Ramanatha Iyer but Iyer brought Subedar Gopala Menon and the force along with him and they surrounded Haji’s base. Haji and Unyan were unaware of battalions;they arrested him on 5 January 1922. They captured all the illegal documents of his administration and confined all the gangsters with him. On 6 January they were taken to Manjeri. He was sent to Malappuram along with his commander Nayik Chekkutty.
C Gopalan Nair’s book, Moplah Rebellion 1921 records:
7 January, ’21 :Kunhamad Haji with 21 followers, one. 303 rifle, 10 police rifles, and four other B. L. firearms were captured by a specially organised Police Force under the leadership of Subadar Gopala Menon and Sub-Inspector Ramanatha Iyer at Chokad yesterday.
The British Court in its judgement recorded the killings of two Muslims by Haji thus:
These were the two of the most brutal murders in the rebellion which cost the lives of two loyal Government officers who were killed for doing their duty and for their services to the Crown. It is difficult to say which of the two was the more dreadful and the callous crime. In Chekutti’s case the murderers had the decency to send away the women-folk before they finished the deceased off, but they were guilty of appalling barbarity in subsequently parading the head on a spear. In the case of Hydross the murder was carried out in the presence of his wife and children and in spite of the entreaties of the latter and the efforts of his wife to protect her husband.
He was sentenced to death by a British military court. Haji’s death virtually ended the rebellion for a Caliphate, and peace and the order of the British government was restored in a few months from January. Gopalan Nair records:
20 January, ’22:Variankunnath Kunhamad Haji and six other Moplahs who were charged with waging war and tried by a Military court, were shot at Malappuram to-day.
Madras Mail 23 January,1922:
The capture of the ” Khilafat King “, Varian Kunnath Kunhamad Haji, marked the collapse of the rebellion. ” There are only two bands of active rebels left to be dealt with. They are under the leadership of two minor leaders, Konnara Tangal and Moideen Kutty Haji. They are being vigorously pursued and are decreasing in numbers owing to surrenders and casualties. Various detachments of troops have already left the area and it is hoped that the two battalions will have left by the 25th instant, and the force will be reduced to approximately peace garrison by the middle of next month. The total approximate rebel casualties up to date are 2,266 killed, 1,615 wounded and 5,688 captured and 38,256 surrenders.
Records show that Haji committed the following crimes:
Killing of Police Inspector Khan Bahadur Chekkutti, decapitating the head, and parading the head on a spike. Collection of taxes (collecting of harvest directly from the Nilambur Tirumulpad Estate. Collection of money called Ayudha Fund, towards purchase of weapons for the uprising.
Issuance of passports to people to leave Malabar. Rs 5 Passes for transit from his area.
Warfare on British officers in various militant engagements with the officers in 1921.
Haji was sentenced to death by Martial law Commander Colonel Humphrey and was shot dead on 20 January 1922 at Kottakkunnu. British officials burnt his dead body along with all government records and documents relating to his five months long parallel government.
The Mappila Jihad was never a class war;that it was a class war was the perversive interpretation contained in the first Communist document of it by Abani MuMukkerji,handed over to Lenin in October 1921 and published in March 1922.It was titled Moplha Rebellion 1921. The Marxist historians of Kerala are keeping mum on this document, which I found in London in 2019.Mukherji, while trying to interpret it as class war, also highlights the fanatic content of the rebellion. He observes that the Khilafat movement was coopted and subjugated by the fanatic Muslim clergy. He avows that the mullahs, forgetting the aim of the movement, diverted their rank and file, against their peace-loving Hindu neighbors. The Hindus were given the option,” death or Islam”. Thus, the Hindus were massacred, forcibly converted and if they refused, were hacked to death. They ransacked the military depot at Malappuram and looted treasury of 40,000 pounds.
Marxist historians have a pervasive tendency to infer first, distort facts and then theorize. Thus, Fazal Pookkoya Thangal, leader of the Malabar jihad, who had declared three fatwas against Hindus and hence deported to Arabia, has become an expert in class wars, in the eyes of Marxist historians like K N Panikkar and K K N Kurup. When jihad becomes class war, fundamentalists become Marxists. Same is the case now with Variyamkunnan.