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Arabic Language Protest of the 1980s; A Historical Milestone in Malabar

My paper discusses the Arabic language protest (Known as BHASHA SAMARAM) of the 1980s and its historical significance in the development of the Arabic language in Kerala,


My paper discusses the Arabic language protest (Known as BHASHA SAMARAM) of the 1980s and its historical significance in the development of the Arabic language in Kerala, especially in Malabar. The history of the Arabic language in Malabar does not complete without referring to the well-known ‘struggle’ (BHASHA SAMARAM) carried by the Muslim Youth League, the Youth Wing of the Indian Union Muslim League, in Kerala Arabic history. In the protest against the Nayanar government for its enacting the Kerala education rule(KER) in Kerala schools, youth league members in Malappuram like Majeed, Rahman, and Kunhippa were shot dead by Kerala police in Munduparamba collectorate march and several other protesters in collectorates of other districts were wounded severely by the brutal approach of the police. The enacting rule had affected Arabic teachers in Kerala and ignored the languages like Sanskrit, Urdu and Arabic from the second category in schools. 

In my paper, I long to express historical aspects of the issue, focusing on the importance of the protest in the history of the Arabic language. The protest has affected well in later coming developments of the language and awakened the authority the sheer need for the Arabic language for Kerala people.



Arabic language struggle of the 1980s is commonly known as Bhasha Samaram in Kerala history. It had a key role in Kerala’s Arabic language development and it is thought of as a historical milestone in Arabic language history in Malabar. The struggles were regular to oppose the government decisions in political Kerala history. Nevertheless, the Arabic language struggle varies from the rest in every aspect. 

In the 1980th communist government enacted a language reformation rule. It suggests a reformative system for Arabic as a second language exteriorly, but internally it was likeable to uproot the growth of Arabic in Kerala schools. The rule is known as Kerala educational rule (K E R). It affected Munshis, Urdu and Sanskrit teachers on many levels. Even Munshis association under all India league (the broken wing of Indian Union Muslim League) while it allied with Nayanar led coalition, opposed the rule. Muslim leaders countered the communist government’s unjust Act unanimously. . Because it directly affected the students of Arabic as a second language and also affected the employment of Munshis. For Muslims, learning the Arabic language is a top priority in their belief. 


Kerala Educational Rule (K E R)

E K Nayanar's government passed the rule in the state assembly in 1980 on July 25. The rule restricts the conditions of classrooms for Arabic teaching and unaffordable qualifications for Munshis and other teachers. This Arabic like language renovation ‘black’ law was known as K E R (Kerala educational rule). It encompasses limitations on second languages like Arabic, Urdu, Sanskrit and other languages

Terms of K E R

  1. Qualification

Arabic Munshis must be qualified in tenth class. Most were holders of the seventh standard passed certificates in that period. 

  1. Accommodation 

Arabic taught classrooms must be twenty (20*20) square feet extended.

  1. Declaration

Parents must declare presently through writing to the headmaster which language their child chose to be taught. The presence of parents wasn’t compulsory then, they may substitute them as guardians.


Arabic Language Struggle

The struggle was initiated mainly by the Kerala Arabic teachers’ federation (KATF) against will come negative results of the Kerala educational rule. Before K A T F, the Muslim students’ federation (MSF) had started the struggle in local areas. In the same year, K A T F carried out a protest before the Secretariat of Trivandrum. But Muslim League leader C H Muhammed Koya declared: “Teachers go back to school. The community has wholeheartedly accepted this struggle”. The Communist government neglected the initial movement against this enactment. So Muslim Youth League (youth wing of the Indian Union Muslim League) decided to picket all the district collectorates in Kerala. M S F supported them.

As a narrative, according to determinations, the collectorate picket started in every district on July 30, Morning 8.30 AM (the 17th day of Ramadan – it was the Battle of Badr Day in Islamic history).In Malappuram, A mass protest march started from Kottappadi ground (near Malappuram town) to the collectorate in Munduparambu (Malappuram government college situates there now). Muslim league main leaders led the mass march on the front row. Policemen were deployed to almost whole areas of the protest. It is accused that they may be planned with precaution toward the protestors. 


Malpractice of Policemen

While the mass protest, police maltreated League activists. Perinthalmanna DySP Vasudevan tried to ram his jeep to protestors as his jeep lost control. He was trying to ram the protestors, but they defended his action. Then, Vasudeva Menon manhandled the protestors, it was just like a pre-planned action to provoke the protestors. After this action, police are deployed to the spot and started the lathi charge and teargas against the protestors. The defensive approach enforced the police to withdraw. At last, police started to set firing toward the crowd. Hundreds of activists are injured due to the police’s brutal action. Protestors scattered to various spots to escape from the firing.

In the firing, like a scar in the history of the Arabic language, three youth league workers and a policeman were killed. Abdul Majeed (24), (Mailappuram), Abdulla ilias Kunhippa (21) (Kalikavu) and chirakkal Abdu Rahaman (21) (Pathoor, Pallikkal) were the three one. Kunhippa was a youth league activist and taping coolie worker. Others also are common men and coolie labourers. 


Significance of the Topic

The struggle day is observed now on behalf of their martyrdom (Shahadah). July 30 and Ramadan 17 are observed as the day of the struggle and martyrdom. According to the English calendar, the Indian Union Muslim league leads the commemoration ceremony every Ramadan. Ramadan 17 is the battle of Badr day, where the historical Islamic first battle occurred. Protestors have taken the Ramadan fast and they foresaw the struggle for the Arabic language as a part of Islamic belief and social crisis. Arabic is the language of the Quran and major Islamic traditions and sacred texts.  

For these causes, Malabar Muslims saw them as a part of their faith. The K E R was not only the problem of Muslims but also it is a setback for Gulf (Pravasi) Malayalees. K E R mainly affects the Malabar area because it has a wide range of Arabic Munshis and the students and Muslims. 

For these social and religious aspects, the Muslim community called them Shaheed and fighters of the Quran language. The dead bodies (Mayyith) are cremated with the mass crowd to witness the funeral sessions of each one. This says the support of the mass Arabic language protest. 

The Elimination of the Act

The demises of three protestors created political instability in the Nayanar government. The government didn’t get ready to withdraw the ‘controversial’ rule firstly. Therefore, the Muslim youth league proclaimed a ‘grand march’ to Raj Bhavan. The Nayanar government is politically enforced and removed the rule without any conditions. 


Criticism of the Issue

  • It is blamed on the struggle as a mind full creation of some league leaders for political gains. It is justified that 14 league MLAs and leaders had directed the government to eliminate the act before the protest. 
  • Now, the conditions of Kerala's educational rule are likely to be promoted in the current educational system. So K E R may be taken as a part of Arabic language development. 
  • League leadership utilized the protest to divert it to religious sentiments. It is geared that K E R mainly will affect Muslims. It coincidently co-occurred both the days of Badr day and July 30.
  • The brother of Kunhipa left IUML membership and chided the league for its inactive approach to the family of Kunhippa. League clarified that CPI (M) used the family for political purposes by convincing them wrongly. 

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