The Gruesome Murder of Mr. Conolly: The Mapilla Retribution
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The Gruesome Murder of Mr. Conolly: The Mapilla Retribution

How a group of Mapilla convicts escape jail and murder the British Collector Conolly

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

The outcome of the ratification of T.L. Strange’s report is the passing of the (Mapilla) Acts XXIII and XXIV in 1854. Act XXIII imposes fines and punishments on the perpetrators and suspects of the aforementioned Jihads. Act XXIV outlaws the possession of war knives. Between December 1854 and January 1855, Conolly confiscates a total of 10,286 war knives during his tour throughout the Jihad-torn regions of Malabar.

Retribution is swift.

On 4 August 1855, four Mapilla convicts Valasseri Emalu, Puliyakunat

Tenu, Chemban Moidin Kutti, and Vellattadayatta Parumbil Moidin escape from the Kozhikode jail and reach Walluvanad. Their sole objective: vengeance for the expulsion of their beloved bigot, Sayyid Fazl. On 20 August, they recruit a barber boy named Ossan Hyderman and on 24 August evening, they’re kneeling before the Dargah of the Taramal Tangal in the compound of the Mambaram mosque praying earnestly for success. On 9 September, they are encamped just two kilometres away from Conolly’s house, sheltered in Malakkal Mammu’s home. The next day, they celebrate a nercha (a feast where a religious vow is made). Part of this ritual consists of singing a song called Moidin Mala Pattu (War song of Moidin. Logan calls is the “fanatical song”). Then the war-knife is passed around through the smoke of the incense burnt for the ritual. The oath is sealed.

Around 1 A.M. on 12 September 1855, the Sub-Collector of Malabar, G.B. Todd wires a cable to the Chief Secretary to the (British) Government:

It is my melancholy duty to inform you, for the information of the Right Honourable the Governor in Council, that Mr. Conolly, the Collector of this district, was most barbarously murdered this evening, between eight and nine o’clock, in the presence of his wife. He received seven wounds, one of which at least was mortal. So far as the details at present are ascertained, the perpetrators were three Mappillas, who rushed into the verandah and completed their deadly work before assistance could be called.

And then describes in graphic detail how Conolly was butchered to death the previous day. At around 8 or 9 PM, the revenge-thirsty Moplah fugitives noiselessly entered Conolly’s house. This is what happened next.

Nothing could exceed the treachery with which the murder was begun, or the brutal butchery with which it was completed. Mr. Conollv was seated in a small verandah…on a low sofa. Mrs. Conolly was on one opposite, a low table with lights on it being between them ; he was approached from behind, and even Mrs. Conolly did not catch sight of the first blow, which would alone have proved fatal; the next moment the lights were all swept off the table and the ruffians bounded upon their victim, slashing him in all directions. The left hand was nearly severed, the right knee deeply cut, and repeated stabs inflicted in the back. The wounds (twenty-seven in number) could have been inflicted only by fiends actuated by the most desperate malice…Mr. Conolly lingered another half hour and then expired, having addressed a few words only to Mrs. Conolly, and apparently endured intense agony. [Emphasis added]

Quite obviously, the British mount a determined pursuit of the Jihadis who are finally shot dead on 17 September not before they assault a few innocent people in Tamarasseri, Tiruvambadi, and Eddamannapara where they die.

The aforementioned Acts of XXIII and XIV are characterised as repressive measures by the British. Yet, the Mapilla Jihads resurface at regular intervals undeterred, even after Conolloy’s savage murder and the police action in its aftermath. It’s the same theme again: bigoted preaching by the Islamic clergy.

In late August 1857, a Mullah of the Ponmala mosque in Ernad, who was the

the depositary of the fanatical songs and ballads of the people, had collected prisoners and incited them to deeds of violence and bloodshed by reciting to them the famous “ Cherur ballad,” commemorating the feats of their relatives in the outbreak of 19th October 1843.

The atmosphere is pregnant with violence but the British force acts decisively by launching a shock raid in which seven Mapillas are arrested and deported.

And then there is Vanji Cudorat Kunji Mayan, a former convict and cleric of sorts who begins preaching Jihadi sermons on the streets of Thalassery “invoking the people in the name of God to rid the country of the Kafirs (Europeans).” He is arrested on 3 September 1857.

At length, between 1857-58, the Mapilla Outrages Act is put in force in all these hotbeds of violent Mapilla bigotry. Even this does not deter them because their insane fanaticism recognises no law and fears nothing. In the memorable words of the scholar and historian Sita Ram Goel, the Mapilla outrages are “determined gangsterism” backed by religious sanction. In fact, a close reading of the history of these repeated Mapilla depredations during the1800-1900 century reveals the fact that the suppression of every Jihad was only a lull before the next occurrence. Nothing else explains the massive figure of fifty-one Mapilla Jihads in just one century, an average of two Jihads each year.

To call this a mere “outbreak” or “peasant rebellion” defies logic and wages war against not only recorded facts but eyewitness accounts and official Government reports.

To be continued

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