In the previous issue of dissecting the Moplah genocide, we talked about a series of small riots from 1836 to 1921 by the Moplah Muslims across the region that led to the subsequent genocide against the Hindus where innocent children, women and men were butchered by the fundamentalists. However, in this issue, we will talk about how Germany’s defeat in World War I marked the end of Turkey’s Islamic caliphate, and how the demolition of the Ottoman Empire proved to be one of the major factors in the Moplah massacre.
Sun of Ottoman empire setting
By the end of the 19th century, the Malabar region was amid grave political instability. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, it wasn’t only limited to Malabar, albeit the entire planet was facing a similar quandary. On one hand, due to the industrial revolution in Europe, the region was bathing in pure glory, meanwhile, the sun of the Islamic sultanate was setting in Central Asia, located a short distance from Europe.
It is pertinent to note that during this particular stage of Islamic history, Saudi Arabia was not the undisputed leader of the Islamic world, while the United Arab Emirates, as we know it today, didn’t even cease to exist. The Ottoman Empire of Turkey was the universal leader of the Islamic world, and its emperor was the Caliph of the Islamic world.
Germany and Turkey – two unlikely allies
However, after years of glory, the Ottoman Empire was at the wane of its powers. Wanting to regain the prestige of olden times, the first World War presented a golden opportunity for the Calipha to turn the clock back.
This was the time when Germany was making giant strides in its economy, courtesy of the Industrial revolution. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that it was the country that benefitted the most from the mechanisation of industries. It quickly became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, industrially, economically, and financially, and soon turned its attention to prosperous countries such as the UK and the US. Much like the China of today, Germany wanted to expand and expand rapidly, not thinking about the repercussions of its actions.
Germany and Turkey found each other as an unlikely companion and ally. Turkey was strategically important for Germany, whereas Deutschland’s support for Turkey would have meant strengthening the Ottoman Empire. However, the result of World War 1 didn’t find the objectives of either of the two parties. Germany lost and alongside, the Ottoman empire lost.
Humiliation for the Calipha
However, this is where the story takes shape. According to an agreement signed in the French city of Sèvres in 1920, defeated Turkey had to cede a considerable area under its control to its indigenous owners, that is, the original inhabitants. This marked the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. But what did this have to do with India, and what was the role of the Turkish Khilafat Empire in the Moplah massacre of Malabar?
It is a perfectly known fact that the Caliph of Turkey, at the time was considered a universal leader for Muslims of the world. In such a situation, the insult of the Caliph meant humiliation for the entire Islamic world. The fresh converts of the subcontinent, especially India took the insult to their heart. The agreement of Sevres was not only a matter of disgrace for Turkey, but it also became a matter of humiliation for Indian Muslims.
Indian Muslims enraged at the humiliation of Calipha
Till World War 1, Muslims had little to nothing to do with the Indian freedom movement. A handful of Muslims did participate in the revolt of 1857, but most of them were loyal to the Maratha Empire.
No Indian Islamic leader had participated in the revolt of 1857 to free India and more so, their allegiances toward the Britishers increased after the revolt of 1857. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan said that the Muslim community would always be loyal to the British, and subsequently, according to the ‘Divide and Rule policy of the British, the All India Muslim League was formed in 1906, which would later play a significant role in the partition of the country and birthing the terror state of Pakistan, as we know today.
Indian Muslims breaking their allegiances to the British
However, after the defeat of Turkey and the falling of the Ottoman Empire, at the hands of Britishers, one of the ally partners – Muslims of India started questioning their allegiances. This is where the foundation of the Khilafat Movement was put in place. The Ali brothers –Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali spearheaded the campaign, only to be supported by Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar, Muhiyuddin Ahmed, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
The objective was clear – to launch a campaign from India’s side against the ‘injustice’ meted out to the deposed Caliph of Turkey, and sadly enough, the Congress party without understanding the true intentions of the Islamists jumped on the bandwagon, lending its full support to the campaign.
Congress and its secularism
At the time when the Khilafat movement started, coincidentally the non-cooperation movement against the British also began in India. During the Congress session of Calcutta in 1920, ‘father of the nation’ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi gave the slogan of ‘total non-cooperation’, under which the countrymen would not give any provide any cooperation to the British government at any level, and completely boycott all kinds of things related to the British.
Under this movement, Gandhi also wanted to prove to the British that people of every community could be united against them, and for this purpose, he invited the Khilafat Movement and its activists to join forces and subsequently participated in the Indian Freedom Movement.
Gandhi serenading the Khilafats
Gandhi had two objectives behind the call – first, he wanted to present an image of a strong India to the British, and secondly, he wanted to present himself as a leader who could take everyone along. But in his utopia, Gandhi forgot all but one important thing – the basic objective of the Khilafat movement.
The basic objective of the Khilafat movement was to put pressure on the British Empire and Europe to restore the Ottoman Empire and to restore their place in the Turkish Caliphate. It didn’t have anything related to the culture of India and it certainly was not in any shape or form beneficial to the cause of the Indian freedom movement.
However, the history books which present Mahatma Gandhi as the apostle of peace and non-violence, who could do nothing wrong, committed the biggest blunder of his political career by supporting the Khilafat Movement. It was Gandhi’s short-sightedness that demands of the Khilafat movement were raised from the Congress platform.
The Naïve Congress and Gandhi
If anyone wondered where the current iteration of secularism prevalent in the country came from, look no further than Congress serenading the Khilafats and paving the way for the genocide of Hindus in Malabar.
Just as continuous appeasement created a horrific tragedy like Direct Action Day, Gandhi’s acute lack of understanding and Congress’s policy of appeasement created the background for the Moplah massacre. If the Khilafat movement had not been vehemently promoted by the Congress on its platform, the Moplah massacre might not have occurred, and even if it did, it would not have carried the same scale of barbarity.
Make no qualms, Gandhi and Congress have the blood of thousands of innocent Hindus on their hands. They made bed with the devil, fed it, nurtured it, and made it the monster that it became later.
The next edition of the Moplah massacre will build on from here and explain how Congress tried to distance itself from the genocide of Moplah by terming it as part of the Indian freedom movement.