While the Tipu Jayanti is just four days away, several for and against debates on Tipu Sultan’s religious fundamentalism and him being termed as the ‘patriot’ over the past two centuries have surfaced again.
Amid the memories of the bloodshed of previous year’s Tipu Jayanti celebrations still afresh in the minds of many people of Mysuru and Kodagu districts, the state government is gearing up to celebrate the jayanti on November 10.
It all began when Tipu Jayanti was observed on November 10 last year which led to violent clashes resulting in the loss of two innocent lives belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities in Madikeri. This led to heated debates and ugly spat between the Hindu and Muslim communities. It is also important to note that Congress was the first government to declare the birth centenary of Tipu Sultan, a controversial historical personality, as a state festival.
This time around, the move to celebrate the jayanti by the government is witnessing a unique formation of protesters ranging from RSS leaders, representatives of the Catholic church and even a Congress spokesperson hailing from the state. Pro-Hindu outfits have called for state-wide protest, condemning the decision to celebrate the Tipu Jayanti. No doubt, Tipu was also one of the prominent kings who ruled the region of Mysuru and Malabar region. The major hurdle in the Tipu’s issue lies with the three contrasting questions raised by different outfits. Was Tipu a religious bigot? Was Tipu the hater of Kannada language? Was Tipu a patriot and a freedom fighter? The issue has become talk of the town after the Karnataka High Court wondered if Tipu was a freedom fighter. “What is the logic behind celebrating Tipu Jayanti? He was not a freedom fighter, but a monarch who fought the opponents to safeguard his interests,” said the High court recently.
A controversial figure
Tipu is a controversial personality particularly in the southern Kodagu (Coorg) district where he is blamed for the carnage of Hindus, forcible conversion of over 40,000 and desecration of hundreds of temples in the 18th century. The main opposition by the BJP has discovered a new angle this time. They claim that celebration of Tipu Jayanti is an insult to the Nayakas as Tipu and his father Hyder Ali invaded and killed the last ruler of Chitradurga, Madakari Nayaka, who was a tribal king. Tipu and Hyder’s army also killed Onake Obavva, who single-handedly defended the Chitradurga fort by killing enemy soldiers.
As per the information shared by those Catholics who survived the worst mayhem and other historical accounts available, Tipu had taken about 80,000 Mangaluru Catholics into captivity and either converted or killed many of them with only 20,000 returning from captivity to give a tell-tale account of the cruelty. For Christians, the very mention of Tipu brings back memories of the infamous captivity to Srirangaptanam and the untold miseries he had inflicted on Catholics.
Tyrant or tolerant
That brings us to the fundamental argument – whether Tipu was secular, patriot or an intolerant fanatic who killed non-Muslims and destroyed churches and temples. Accusations are made that a calibrated move by some elements to project him as patriot for obvious reasons and even history books are replete with such distorted facts and half truths. A section of people believes that the even the government has resorted to such machinations of certain individuals and institutions.
Whether Tipu was an intolerant, religious bigot, cruel or a patriot, tolerant and benevolent ruler, still remains a mystery in Indian history. There are instances that say he donated generously to temples and mutts. But that act in itself does not justify he was secular and benevolent.
The state government bowing to the wishes of a section of the society across the state, has decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu. This move comes at a time when the ‘tolerance’ has become a much discussed and debated topic in the country. Tipu, being a contentious figure, as is known to us through history, this decision of the government has come in for severe criticism from several individuals and organisations, especially Christians and Hindus, who have been spearheading a vociferous campaign against this action of the government. There are allegations of vote bank politics by the Congress government in the name of Tipu Sultan. Whatever may be the stand of the government, precautionary measures must be taken as this Jayanti is celebrated amid severe criticism and tension.
Prof K S Bhagwan,
“With my knowledge of history, Tipu is free from all allegations of religious fundamentalism. He gave an administration which was secular in every sense of the term. Tipu is more misunderstood than understood. People with vested interests have termed him as a religious intolerant and killed many people in Kodagu, Melkote and other regions. There are no records as such and this might also be viewed in other sense. People might have conspired against him and he might have punished him severely. He is justified in that sense. There might be instance where he had rescued people from other communities also. From this you, can’t say Tipu was a religious bigot, testimony to which Tipu had 13 Brahmin ministers. If that was the case why there is no single case of conversion? Actually, we must thank the British that they united this country politically and geographically. Calling Tipu a non patriot is not justified. There sources which say Shankaracharaya in his commentary on Bramhasutra says anybody who reads Vedas should be put to death. How can say he was a lover of his country? Tipu’s contribution to the field of agriculture and the nation is immense. He was a true patriot in every sense of the term”
Vidwan Bhargava Narasimha Melkote
“Celebrating Tyarant Tippu’s birthday is like celebrating the anniversary of Aurangazeb! This is a strategic move by the government to appease the Muslim community and polarise vote bank! This tyrant massacred thousands of Melkote Iyengars in Srirangapatna on the day of Deepawali! Their wives and sisters were mercilessly raped and converted to Islam. The same thing happened with the Kodavas and palegar soldiers of Chitradurga. The state government under Siddaramaiah seems to have lost their mental balance and they are using a word called “jayanti” which is a pure Sanskrit word and 100% Purohitashaayi, for which Tippu himself would be cursing these people from so called Jannat along with 72 virgin angels. Also more importantly, Muslims don’t celebrate the birthday of the prophet or any of their religious messengers. But the government is all set to celebrate tyrant Tipu jayanti! So funny and laughable!!
The government has exposed itself. Hope there will not be any communal clash like last year”