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Can history be struck off?

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Can history be struck off?
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A decision by the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) to delist the 387 names of freedom fighters Variyan Kunnathu Kunjahammed Haji and Ali Musliyar, front-line warriors of the Malabar rebellion from the Dictionary of Dictionary of Martyrs of India's Freedom Struggle from 1857 to 1947, has triggered major debates. Malabar Rebellion is in fact the name of the most popular and spirited people's agitation in Indian history against the British. It evolved into an epic struggle when the local landlords and colonial occupation forces together strangulated the lives of the people, Mappilas, who constituted the lower stratum of the population. Now it is at the time when the 100th anniversary of legndary resistance is being celebrated that a decision is being taken to remove the names of martyrs who took part in it. This move is not based on any new historical research finding. On the other hand, it merely fulfils the long-term demand of the sangh parivar. And it forms part of the Hinduisation attempts of the Central government in education, history, arts and all cultural domains.

All this can be treated as predictable when a class rooted in the right-wing Hindutva is ruling the country. If the intellectual driving force of Malabar rebellion was the Muslim scholars, its vanguard was formed mostly by Muslim masses. But also forming part of the struggle were the backward Hindus who were victims of the feudalist atrocities and forward caste Hindus spurred by anti-imperialist and anti-landlord convictions. That history also tells us of numerous instances of Hindu and Muslim leaders entering mosques together and giving lectures there to mobilise the people. Hindu-Muslim unity and rejection of landlordism during the Malabar mutiny may also be bitter pills to chew for the sangh parivar. As a corollary they would not see eye to eye with that struggle being part of official history and even contemplating on how to bring the memory of Malabar struggle during its centenary under a dark cloud.

The sangh parivar would pose a question how the protests against the ouster of the caliph of Turkey at the hands of the British can qualify as freedom struggle. The fact that the British degraded the caliph was only one of the triggers of the anti-British agitation. All forms of resistance against Britain, in that era when the concept of 'India' in the form it exists now, was yet to take shape, have been listed under the struggle for independence and this has been the historical line accepted so far. Scores of fighters right from Rani of Jhansi to Pazhassi Raja, who are revered as heroes and heroines in that class, had not fought the British centred on the India we see today, but on the grounds of their regional kingdoms or due to other specific conflicts. That is why no one would raise the question how Rani Lakshmi Bai who led the mutiny to protect the indigenous kingdom of Jhansi would become a heroine in India's freedom struggle. And why doesn't any one cast doubts about how Pazhassi Raja who fought for the right to levy taxes, qualifying as a fighter for independence? Suffice is to say that each regional protagonist against the British had his own causes, goals and justifications. The British act of humiliating the title of Caliph and the institution of Caliphate, which bear religious and spiritual significance for Muslims, infuriated the Mappilas against the colonial power. In fact it is the anti-British sentiments that crystallised through several such courses of events that later got evolved into the idea of Indian nationalist movement and the reality of India.

In the present, what becomes incumbent upon the governments and cultural institutions of the day is to absorb the fact that the India so formed is a collective entity consisting of that cross section, and to lead the country forward on that basis. But groups who are allergic to the very premise of an India comprising all, are incapable of it. For their constant search is for ways to force Muslims into a mass exodus from the present. Or else there would be relevance for the sangh parivar pursuit to wipe out an epic struggle, which took shape with Muslims' initiative, from the past. Probably emboldened by the rule at the Centre, they may be able to delete the names of those great martyrs. But the soil on which we stand is one stained with the blood shed by them, that will not be washed away soon. For the memories they left behind are so piercing. The ICHR step may be able to delete them from official documents. But that will only cause the names of Variyan Kunnath and his companions remain etched more resplendent in our memory and thoughts.

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TAGS:ICHR Mappila Rebellion martyrs removing Muslim martyrs' names streams of anti-British agitation 
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