Personally I feel that the To’ Janggut Rebellion is a very localized sporadic conflict and as such does not really deserve being elevated to that being of an “incipient independent movement”. At the end of the day, the main grievances contested by the Kelantanese were concerning the taxation system and fiscal reasons. A question that pops in my mind while reading See Ching’s and Justin’s entries is why, who, when and how To’ Janggut evolved to emerge as one of Malaysia’s anti-colonial hero? Why is this local Kampong hero being embraced by present day Malaysia as their Jose Rizal and Ho Chi Minh (ok maybe not exactly like JR and HCM)?
See Ching did provide a list of romanticized accounts of To’ Janggut in a number of different novels highlighting his hero-like portrayal by post WW2 Malay novelists. I got curious myself and googled up To’ Janggut on the internet and realized that actually To’ Janggut is seen by many Malaysians as a warrior who was martyred at the hands of the evil British in his struggle for Tanah Melayu. There’s an interesting online discussion forum (http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=597411) on To’ Janggut in which some of Malaysia’s netizens openly expressed their admiration to To’ Janggut and commended To’ Jangut for “fighting for his motherland against the colonial oppressors”, “freeing Malaya from the grips of the colonialist” and “being an inspiration to the younger generation”, amongst many other postings.
Apart from novels, this portrayal is also highlighted through various other means. I stumbled upon this snippet of To’ Janggut off the Malaysian National Archive which again sees him as a national hero defending the oppressed Malays against the British. This article appeared as if it was being taken off some school textbook and I am not surprised myself if the students in Malaysia are taught as such.
In the realm of the Arts too, the legend of To’ Janggut is still alive and kicking. There was a theatre production on To’ Janggut which was staged last year which typically exemplify him being the Malay hero whom all Malaysians should be proud of. There was also an artist who painted a vivid painting of To’ Janggut and is selling it for RM 25, 000.
At this point of time there were very vague notions of Malaya and pan-Malaya unity, especially in the rural countryside such as Kelantan. I am speculating that To’ Janggut himself would not care so much about the Johoreans or the Negri Sembilan-ians. So when does this perpetration of him being portrayed as a national hero starts? As Zahra and Russell had pointed out, we can trace it back to the writing of the state narrative during the post WW2 period. Why then did the writers and gatekeepers of history choose a rather skewered portrayal of history? Embarrassingly the answer is probably because the Malays are unable to find a genuine anti-colonial figure to legitimize their history book! In the lecture Dr Emmanuel mentioned that during colonialism, the enemies of the Malays were actually the Chinese and the British were seen as their “penaung” or protector. Decades of being all chummy with the British made it hard for them to try and locate an anti-British Malay hero. That was why the leader of the localized revolt in the form of To’ Janggut is elevated to that of a national warrior.