Moplah Riots

Moplah Riots

This article deals with ‘ Moplah Riots  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Area = Malabar coast
  • Moplahs are descendants of Arab traders who settled in this region & married local Nair & Tiyar woman & gradually they became dependent on agriculture & turned out to be cultivating tenants , landless labourers , fishermen etc

System of Agriculture in Malabar

1 . Before Britishers

Agriculture system was based on equal sharing of net produce between

  • Janmi/ Jenmi ie holder of land which were generally  Nambudiri Brahmins and Nambiar chieftains)
  • Cultivator mostly Moplahs

but some occupancy right of Moplahs were also there.

2 . Tipu’s Rule

  • Hindu Jenmis were against Tipu’s rule . Hence, there were widespread atrocities on  Hindu population. The landowners were forced to take refuge in neighboring states. Those who could not escape were forcibly converted into Islam.
  • Then Tipu’s Sultanate reached accord with the Muslim peasants and made revenue arrangement with them.

3 . British Control

  • Britishers took control after 4th Anglo Mysore War .
  • They made earlier Jenmis (Namboodiri Brahmins & Nayyars) ABSOLUTE OWNERS of the land.
  • This reduced Moplahs to status of tenants with no occupancy rights (hence earlier system was disturbed)

Start of Revolts

  • Due to above system of occupancy rights, Jenmi Landlords started to evict Moplahs as their wish.
  • Revenue officials, law courts and the police also supported Jenmis.
  • This forced Moplah peasantry to rose up in revolt
  • First occurred in 1836 ,  then in 1882 and 1896
  • Pattern was same
    • Group of Moplah youths attacked a Brahmin Jenmi or a Nayar official or a Jenmi’s servant, burning or defiling a temple or attacking the landlords’ house.
    • Police would then crack down on them and the rebels would then seek refuge in  a Mosque

Revolt/Riot of 1921

  • The Moplah Movement of 1921 was altogether different. It was characterised by severe violence & Hindu-Muslim riot.

What different happened this time

  • Khilafat Movement going on in whole country  united them.  Moplahs took active part in Khilafat movement .
  • Main leaders of Khilafat Movement and Congress were arrested during course of events and as a reasult whole movement came under control of radical leaders like Ali Musaliar who were preaching violence
  • British Government was weak after losses in World War I & not able to take strict action initially which emboldened the spirits of Moplah rioters.

=>  Moplahs became more militant after the Majlis-ul-Ulema (Council of Muslim learned men), which caIled upon the Moplah masses to launch a jihad. As a result, attacks on Jenmis increased and forcible conversions to Islam was seen. (600 Hindus were killed and some 2500 forcibly converted (according to Arya Samajist source))

Final Breakdown

  • Police arrested Ali Musaliar . But as a result, people became violent . In firing , Moplahs were killed which started riots in which government offices were destroyed, records burnt and the treasury looted.
  • After that, Britishers suppressed it with heavy hand and crushed it so badly and demoralised Moplahs to such an extent that till independence their participation in any form of politics was almost nil (2337 rebels killed, 1652 wounded, and no less than 45,404 prisoners)
  • Ali Musaliar was among a dozen leaders who were tried and sentenced to death. 

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