Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji
The legend of Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, the brave freedom fighter who stood up to the British in Kerala’s Malabar region in early 20th century and even established a short-lived regime of his own, is all set to be portrayed on the silver screen.
Who is 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 was 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 to the locals and to his own family.
- His father, Moideenkutty Haji, was deported and jailed in the Andaman Islands for his participation in a rebellion against the British. Such personal incidents, very early on in his life, played an important role in lighting the fire of vengeance inside Kunjahammed.
Struggle against British Raj
- An interesting facet in Haji’s early life was his fascination with traditional music-based art forms like Daffumutt and poems like ‘Malappuram Padappattu’ and ‘Badr Padappattu’ and how he used art as an instrument to rally the locals against the British.
- By invoking such poems, that spoke of the exploitation of the peasants by feudal lords under the British and which were later banned by them, Kunjahammed Haji was simultaneously challenging the British and igniting sentiments against them 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.
- During a meeting in Manjeri, Kattilassery Muhammad Musaliyar and MP Narayana Menon, leaders of Khilafat movement and the Indian National Congress, introduced him to the Khilafat cause, “though he thought that it was a Turkish question”. However, he promised to join with them against the atrocities of the British and the landlords.
- 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, leaving vast tracts of territory firmly under the control of the local rebels. 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, with even its own separate passport, currency and system of taxation. During the time, an extensive army with the participation of Hindu men was built with the express aim of thwarting any attempt by the British to overthrow the Khilafat rule. Tenants were granted the power over the lands they cultivated along with tax incentives.
- But the rule did not last long. In January 1922, under the guise of a treaty, the British betrayed Haji through his close friend Unyan Musaliyar, arresting him from his hideout and producing him before a British judge. He was sentenced to death along with his compatriots.