Developing multiperspectivity through history teaching: a case study of Mopla rebellion – II

Avinash Kumar

In the first part of this essay we saw how contesting interpretations of historical events as well as individuals/groups and their actions, often lead to the genesis, persistence and shaping of conflicts that can have wide-ranging and severe ramifications. It is thus critical that history classes not just teach students about past events, individuals and groups but also provide them the means to think historically about them.

We also saw how a good way of encouraging students to think historically about a past event is to use multiperspectivity in history teaching which is “a way of viewing, and a predisposition to view, historical events, personalities, developments, cultures and societies from different perspectives through drawing on procedures and processes which are fundamental to history as a discipline.” (ibid)

South-Malabar-1921 Taking the Mopla outbreaks and rebellion of the 19th and early 20th century as a case study, we began to explore how multiperspectivity can be used in the Indian context and in classrooms.

A commonly encountered perspective to interpret and explain the Malabar Outbreaks and the Mopla Rebellion is the Marxist view, which emphasizes the role of the material conditions of the Mopla rebels and the economic pressures that were prevalent in the region during this era. The religious perspective, on the other hand, stresses on the role of religious indoctrination and fanaticism in the violent outbreaks and rebellion. A third perspective, which is anti-colonial, highlights the role and failures of the British government as one of the primary cause for the rebellion. And related to this, though distinct, is the political perspective, which underscores the substantial role played by the Khilafat movement in the Mopla rebellion of 1921.

The Marxist perspective
Those who adopt this perspective generally interpret Mopla outbreaks as peasants’ resistance and revolt against the land-holding classes, and argue that the rebellion was “directly and solely a response to radical challenges induced in the agricultural economy of Malabar District” (Dale, 1975; p. 85) in the 19th Century.

In support of this position, they offer evidences from primary and secondary sources. For instance, in a report authored by William Logan (special commissioner of the district between 1881 and 1882), they note, it was recorded that “well over 90 per cent of the big landlords in the district were Nambudris or Nairs; while majority of the Moplas held their land on lease or mortgage.” He also showed that the landed class were using the British judicial system to evict the agriculturists (the eviction decrees rose from 1891 in the year 1862 to 8,335 in 1880) and that “the courts were used more frequently against the Moplas than the Hindus” – though the percentage of Mopla agriculturists was 27 per cent, more than 33 per cent of the eviction decrees had been issued against them.

Further, when Logan solicited petitions from Malabar agriculturists, almost three quarters of the petitioners were Moplas who were complaining against the evictions.

The author works at Wipro where he manages an initiative called Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS), which partners with a network of civil society organizations to build capacities for school education reform in India. He can be reached at avinash.kumar@apu.edu.in.

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