Social Scientist. v 18, no. 200-01 (Jan-Feb 1990) p. 96.


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BOOK REVIEW

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Mappila Peasant Revolts

K.N. Panikar, Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar 1836-1921, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1989, pp. 232, Price Rs. 175

This is a study of the Mappila peasant revolts in Malabar in the nineteenth century, culminating in the historic 1921 uprising against British rule. K.N. Panikkar's book is a significant addition to the growing body of work on this important peasant revolt in colonial India.

The 1921 peasant rebellion in Malabar, with the Mappila peasantry in the vanguard, had both an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist content. It was, however, complicated by the fact that religion played a binding role in mobilising the Mappila peasantry and the religious idiom expressed the anti-landlord and anti-British sentiments. In tracing the genesis of the Mappila peasant revolts, Panikkar draws on the wealth of material available in the British administration's official records, to effectively delineate the nature of the agrarian society, which created the oppressive conditions leading to the Mappila peasants' discontent. The jenmi system of landlordism in Malabar was strengthened and distorted by the British administration which succeeded the Tipu Sultan regime in Malabar. Panikkar endorses Logan's argument that the jenmi as absolute proprietor of the soil 'is founded on error and has been brought about by engrafting on the customary Malayali law usages which spring from European ideas of property having a totally distinct origiiv and history'. This introduction of the jenmi as the absolute proprietor of land upset the traditional tenurial relations with the intermediary tenant, the Kanakkaran, and the actual cultivator, the verumpattakaran.

In the case of the Mappilas, they were disadvantaged from the outset with the bulk of the jenmis being Namboodiris or Nairs and the intermediaries also belonging predominantly to the Nair community. The Mappilas of Malabar, right from the beginning of the British colonisation, developed antagonistic relations with the British rulers. This was also due to the fact that the British restored the lands of the jenmis and rajas who had fled the Tipu regime. The Mappilas found



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