Come election and the BJP’s well-calibrated ‘team’ for digging out non-issues, cooking up false stories, stitching together unconnected events to generate a narration, searching in the garbage of history for relics which suits their divisive design, burrowing into the past and tinkering fakery with the facts, becomes hyper-active and the ‘tales’ they so fabricate to tailor to the need of winning election by disorienting people’s attention from real issues are widely publicized in both mainstream media as well as the social media accounts launched as well as managed by the RSS-BJP IT cells. Now assembly election of Karnataka is in the offing. And the ruling BJP is visibly apprehensive about its prospects because of surfeit of anti-people steps its incumbent government had adopted and spurt in corruption during the past five years. So, the BJP leadership has no other alternative but to foment communal divide and polarize the voters along religious lines. But they need some ‘fodder’ to fire the canon. The attuned team has found that also. So, the axe has fallen on Tipu Sultan, an 18th century king of Mysore. Tipu by birth was a Muslim. Hence, smearing the image of Tipu with a surfeit of counterfeit stories and fables would fit well with the strategy of exacerbating anti-Muslim hatred.
Maligning Tipu Sultan with concocted stories
And so has been spread a propaganda that Tipu, a Muslim ruler, was bigoted, and his religious policies targeted Hindus during his reign, which lasted for less than two decades between 1782 and 1799. A story has been cooked up that Tipu Sultan had forced 3000 Brahmins to convert into Islam. This is wanton falsification of history. According to the Mysore Gazetteer, Tipu Sultan used to give annual grants to 156 Hindu temples including Shankaracharya’s Shringheri temple.
As a part of the ploy to smear Tipu’s image, the RSS-BJP- Sangh Parivar have created two mythical characters belonging to the Vokkaliga community and claim that they valourously killed Tipu in the battlefield during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War on 4 May 1799. These two dramatis personae, called Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda, started making their appearance on the social media pages of arch communal Hindutva brigade in 2017. Prominent BJP leaders of Karnataka such as C.T. Ravi continuously harped on the brave role of these two soldiers in vanquishing the ‘‘Hindu-hater Tipu Sultan’’. The myth further received a boost when Addanda Cariappa, a playwright and BJP loyalist, published a play in Kannada last year titled Tipu Nija Kanasagalu (‘‘The Real Dreams of Tipu Sultan’’) where Tipu is killed by Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda.
The manufactured ‘myth’ has become such an integral part of the BJP campaign now that a hastily erected arch in Mandya, the heartland of the Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka, as mark of homage to the two supposed warriors, was slated to welcome Prime Minister Modi when he visited the town on 12 March last. The arch, however, had to be demolished before Modi’s arrival after an uproar over this brazen falsification of history which has shocked many in the state.
But the issue has been kept alive by the BJP top brass. The RSS-BJP have been working overtime to prove Tipu a reviled figure. Interestingly, just the other day, several senior BJP leaders such as former Chief Ministers B.S. Yeddyurappa and Jagadish Shettar had even appeared in public functions commemorating Tipu and had adorned green turbans and held aloft faux swords mimicking the ruler’s battle pose. But now to extract electoral mileage, they have turned 180 degree and joined the bandwagon of anti-Tipu tirade.
Brief history of Tipu Sultan
It is pertinent to have a brief understanding of history of Tipu Sultan who is regarded by contemporary Indian historians as a persistent enemy of the British, a competent administrator, and an innovator. Tipu was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore based in Southern part of the Indian subcontinent during later part of 18th century in the vicinity of the modern city of Mysore. It is completely ahistorical and senseless to judge him with respect to present day standards. As was the case throughout most of the world, in India also feudal social system was existing and capitalism was at its embryonic stage at that period. Present day India was not there under a single kingdom. Mughal Empire was disintegrating. There were many independent kingdoms. Avadh, Bengal, Hyderabad, Maratha, Rajput and Punjab were notable among them. Expansion into and annexation of other kingdoms was the order of those days. Tipu Sultan, or any other ruler belonging to any religion cannot be judged by the standards of today. It is important to consider historical figures within the context of their times, where war was commonplace and there were no limits to what could be done in fighting such wars.
The French and British colonial powers also were fighting for their domination in the subcontinent. To consolidate and expand their sphere of influence politically and economically the British colonial rulers used to make agreements with some rulers and fight with some others. Tipu and the kingdom of Mysore were not different from other kingdoms. He also fought wars for protecting and expanding his kingdom. Whoever came in his way, either from within or from outside he used to suppress it with the power of his sword. Not only Tipu Sultan, all the kings and emperors belonging to any religion did the same thing. Looting and plundering also used to be part of these attacks and wars. That was the order of the day.
In the middle to late 18th century, during the post-Mughal era, the Kingdom of Mysore led by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan had acquired economic prosperity. It is important to note that unlike many other the then kings, Tipu did not surrender to the British rulers even when two of his sons who were taken hostage by them were killed. Tipu also had no sectarian feeling. Rather he was very liberal and did not tolerate any wrongdoing. In a battle, when some of his Muslim soldiers misbehaved with Hindu women of the other side, Tipu is stated to have ordered death penalty for his criminal soldiers. Tipu was also known for safeguarding the honour of womenfolk unlike many kings. When the Maratha army invaded the renowned Sringeri Mutt that Shankaracharya founded, Tipu issued an order to provide financial support for the reinstallation of the holy idol. He contributed to the well-known Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud and Lakshmikanta temple in Kalale. He donated 10,000 gold coins to finish the construction of the temple in Kanchi. The temple town of Srirangapatna remained his permanent capital till the end of his reign. He also contributed to the building of Mysore’s first church.
Tipu has a pride of place in the hearts of the general public of Karnataka. A great warrior he was known as ‘Tiger of Mysore’. No wonder he was a nightmare for the British. In addition to the British, Tipu fought the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad at different times in his life. By conquest, he sought to expand and consolidate his kingdom at the expense of the rulers of Travancore and Coorg. His treatment of the Malabaris and Kodavas is part of an almost continuous power struggle between the warring kingdoms, as historians have repeatedly pointed out. The British rulers were defeated twice by Tipu. But then Tipu paid with his life because of betrayal from inside. His own minister Mir Sadiq allowed the entry of British soldiers inside the fort at Seringapatam secretly, so that Tipu who was resting there could easily be overpowered and killed. That’s why in Karnataka it became a household parlance that any traitor would be termed as Mir Sadiq.
Precipitated controversy centering Tipu Sultan by RSS-BJP is to derive electoral benefit
Attack on Tipu is not just diversionary tactics by the Sangh Parivar but they want to smash the high image of Tipu from the hearts of millions of people of Karnataka and hence of any Muslim for that matter. The allegations against Tipu have been contested by a wide array of respectable historians such as Mysuru-based P.V. Nanjaraj Urs, who considers him to have been one of the earliest rulers to resist to British colonialism but, in the din of social media, these scholarly rebuttals are drowned.
The RSS-BJP leaders know that aggressive attempt to make inroads into rural southern Karnataka is required by them as the Vokkaliga community which dominate the region had resisted the saffron brigade’s charms in the past. Historically, it is the Vokkaligas who had immensely benefited from Tipu’s agricultural policies. Tipu is very dear to the Vokkaligas. As mentioned above, the BJP top brass sought to woo the community by exhibiting friendly overtures towards Tipu and thereby penetrate among that community. So, the characters like Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda have been manufactured to denigrate Tipu and orchestrate a communal divide between the Vokkaligas and Muslims. If this vile strategy succeeds, the BJP leaders feel they would have a easy sailing in the forthcoming assembly election. It would be most unfortunate if the Vokkaligas fall prey to these fabrications now as that would mean the Vokkaligas had fought against an Indian ruler on the side of the British which is travesty of truth. Pertinent to mention that the incumbent BJP government has of late used another deceptive tool to endear the community.
It has announced increase in the reservation quota for the two politically powerful and dominant castes— Lingayats and Vokkaligas—by 2% each. as per the announcement, the Lingayats will enjoy 7% reservation in government jobs and education and the Vokkaligas 6% under the newly created 2D and 2C categories, respectively.
All these are the ploys of the ruthless oppressors, exploiters and the enemies of the people to confuse, hoodwink and poison the people and create polarization along religious or casteist line to win election. The precipitated controversy around Tipu Sultan is nothing but one such ploy and is in consonance with the RSS-BJP’s declared policy of distorting history.