When the British-Indian government awarded punishment for those who participated in the 1921 Malabar rebellion, there was one non-Muslim among them: MP Narayana Menon.
Menon was a pioneer leader who took the freedom movement from the elite upper class to the lower caste and downtrodden communities of Malabar.
He was the only Hindu leader who was awarded a long jail term under the Moplah Outrages Act, following the Malabar Rebellion of 1921. He served 14 years in prison for ‘waging war against the King’.
Menon was born on March 23, 1887, at Puzhakkattiri of Valluvanad Taluk. He grew up in Angadipuram.
He was called Mappila Menon because he had a large Moplah friend circle and he used to wear clothes such as lungi, like Moplahs. Menon ignored the sarcasm, and rather he took pride when he was called so.
In fact he was among those leaders who had warned Gandhi when he came to Malabar with Maulana Shaukat Ali to urge the Muslims to fight the British as part of the Khilafat movement. He knew the common Muslims, who were reeling under the oppressive tenancy systems, were not politically or philosophically trained for non-violent fights.
When Congress decided to move ahead, he became Khilafat Secretary of Eranad. But when the movement turned violent, he stayed back in affected areas, unlike most Hindu leaders. He tried to calm down the situation as much as he could.
After his release, he was involved in Moplah rehabilitation programs. Menon was also active during the Quit India movement in which he was again jailed until 1946.
A lawyer by training, Menon was the founder of the Kudiyan Nivarana Sangham. He had become hugely popular among ordinary tenants for legally fighting for their rights.
Widely called a socialist Gandhian, Menon had many disciples, including Communist ideologue E.M.S. Namboothiripad.
Menon died in 1966.