Tok Janggut

Tok Janggut or Haji Mohd Hassan bin Munas (1853 – June 25, 1915) was a famous Malay warrior in Kelantan during British protectorate. He was named Tok Janggut because of his long beard, almost reaching his chest (‘janggut’ being the Malay word for beard).  The headman of a village called Kampung Nering in Pasir Putih, Kelantan,  Tok Janggut was a Silat exponent and businessman. He received his early education in Mecca.

The prelude to the Tok Janggut uprising was the Bangkok Treaty on March 10, 1909, when British and Siam (Thailand) agreed to share the States of north and eastern Malaya without consulting the local chiefs and the people. Siam took Patani, Menara, Jalor and Setol, while British took control of Kedah, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan. On 29 April 1915, the administration of Pasir Putih subsequently fall to British hands.

The British governor of the Straits Settlement, Sir John Anderson arrived at Kota Baru from Singapore on a gunboat in 1910 and forced Long Senik, local chieftain to accept the British direct rule over Kelantan, Long Senik was powerless to fight the British and on Oct 22 that year, he was forced to recognise the Bangkok Treaty and in return the British recognised him as Sultan Mahmud – IV. He was given $2,000 as allowance and $4,800 annually as pension.

State administration was by order of British Advisors and administration of districts was under district officers (DO) who were outsiders, either British or locals. One such DO, Abdul Latif from Singapore, was given the mandate to rule Pasir Putih. The British forced the locals to pay a high tax per head as well as tax on beetle nuts and coconuts. British was making it harder for everyone to pay the tax by either putting them in prison or fining them. Some lost their land titles and inheritance. Tok janggut was not against befriending the British, but he resented their patronising attitude towards the indigenous people of Kelantan who were racially labelled as lesser beings only fit for being peasants. He also opposed the excessive taxation which British imposed on the people of Kelantan, especially the low-income peasants. In protest, Tok Janggut and his followers boycotted the tax collection exercise.

On 29 April 1915, the British tax officer, Abdul Latiff sent Sergeant Sulaiman, better known as Sergeant Che Wan, to arrest Tok Janggut for failing to pay the government tax. Tok Janggut agreed but refused to walk in front of them and a fight occurred, in which Tok Janggut manages to stab the sergeant. Following the event, Tok Janggut assembled all his men and marched towards to Pasir Puteh fought a battle against the British forces in which ultimately, they are successful. Abdul Latiff, out of fear, quickly fled Pasir Puteh before the invasion. Tok Janggut remained in Pasir Puteh for three days and declared the independence of Pasir Puteh from British rule. Engku Besar Jeram was selected King of Pasir Puteh and Tok Janggut as Prime Minister. Britain immediately decreed Tok Janggut and his fellow comrades as ‘traitors.’ British also promised a reward of $500 for the person who caught Tok Janggut or his comrades, dead or alive.

Meantime, British officers in Kelantan took immediate action by burning down Tok Janggut’s house, as well as his followers’ houses, too. Tok Janggut immediately replied by laying a siege on Pasir Puteh. As tok Janggut was a blue-blooded aristocrat descended from ancient Sultans of his home state, his rebellion had such broad support in the countryside that British had to send troops in three warships from Singapore to crush it. This time, luck was on British’s side, Tok Janggut was killed in the gruesome battle near Kampung Pupuh. His dead body was exhibited throughout Kota Bharu and Pasir Puteh and was hung for several hours in front of the Kelantan Royal Palace. But later tok Janggut was given a decent burial on the orders of Sultan Muhammad Petra 4, the then Kelantan monarch. His body was buried in Pasir Pekan, ending the rebellion against British rule in Kelantan.

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