Film

Announcement of Film on Muslim Freedom Fighter from Kerala Leads to Hate Campaign 

The right-wing Hindutva aligned ecosystem swung into action to threaten the crew and said that the film will not be allowed to be shot.

New Delhi: The announcement of a film on the life of Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji, a freedom fighter in the Malabar region of Kerala who fought the British in the early 20th century, has led to a hate campaign against the proposed film and its crew, The Hindu reported.

The film, said to be titled Variyamkunnan, is set to be directed by Aashiq Abu and the title role will be played by Prithviraj Sukumaran. It is expected to be released in 2021, to coincide with the 100th year anniversary of the Malabar uprising led by Variyamkunnath.

“He stood up against an empire that ruled a quarter of the world. Etched out his own country with an army that waged a never before war against the British. Though history was burned and buried, the legend lived on! The legend of a leader, a soldier, a patriot. A film on the man who became the face of the 1921 Malabar revolution. #Vaariyamkunnan. Filming begins in 2021. On the 100th anniversary,” Prithviraj wrote on social media.

The right-wing Hindutva aligned ecosystem swung into action to threaten the crew and said that the film will not be allowed to be shot. OpIndia, for instance, referred to Variyamkunnath as a ‘jihadi’ and a ‘terrorist’ in an ‘article’ posted on June 23. It accused the freedom fighter of murdering ‘thousands’ of Hindus in 1921. The article also said that his reign led to destruction of ‘hundreds’ of Hindu temples.

Variyamkunnath, who was a distinguished scholar and was vociferous in his opposition to the British, decided to pick up arms after a Khilafat movement leader Ali Musaliyar was arrested. He then arranged an army with the help of some sepoys and led a rebellion which began to spread across Malabar. It even led to the escape of several British officers leaving large tracts under the control of the rebels. This territory was declared in 1921 an ‘independent state’ with Variyamkunnath as its ruler.

To create divisions within the movement, the British tried to stoke Hindu-Muslim animosity and attempted to paint Variyamkunnath as a ‘Muslim fanatic’, similar to OpIndia’s description. But the freedom fighter ensured that people of all faiths were treated equally.

In 1922, his reign came to an end when a friend colluded with the British to betray him. He was arrested and sentenced to death.