“I heard that you people shoot prisoners from behind after blindfolding them. I want you to shoot me from the front without blindfolding me. I want to die seeing the soil of this land.”
2021 January 20 marks the 99th death anniversary of Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, the brave freedom fighter who stood up to the British in Kerala’s Malabar in early 20th century and even established a short-lived regime of his own.
Haji was born in a Muslim merchant family with a history of anti colonial struggles, in 1877. Haji’s father, Moideenkutty Haji was deported and jailed in the Andaman Islands for his participation in a rebellion against the British.
In his early ages, Variyamkunnath had used the performance art against British rule. He conducted speeches accompanied by songs against British and landlords. His speeches filled with Badr padappattu, Malappuram padappattu, Cheroorpadappattu; the songs which were banned by British, reminded the community the revolutionary tradition of Mappilas and aroused their anger against British rule.
Haji who is an important figure in the echelons of Kerala’s colonial history, ran a parallel government in open defiance of British rulers, for more than six months in most parts of the then Eranadu and Valluvanadu taluks.
He seized control of a large area from the British rule and set up a government against British in Malabar, named ‘Malayala Rajyam’ and now part of the Kerala State, India, with his long term mentor, friend and brave freedom fighter Ali Musliyar.
The Haji’s state had its own passport, currency and system of taxation. During the time, an extensive army was built with the express aim of thwarting any attempt by the British to overthrow the Khilafat rule. Tenants were also 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 arrested Haji from and produced him before a British judge. He was sentenced to death along with his compatriots. British officials burnt his dead body along with all government records and documents relating to his five months long parallel government.