Since the past couple of years, come November 10 and there is a controversy raked up in Karnataka. The issue is Tipu Jayanti.

It was a relatively peaceful and unknown affair until the Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah decided to make it an official affair in the year 2015. Violence broke out in Kodagu, 240 kilometres away from Bengaluru and one person died, while several others were injured.

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Since then it has managed to stir up a controversy every year. This year however after the BJP came to power, the government led by BS Yediyurappa decided to cancel the state sponsored celebrations of Tipu Jayanti on November 10. The move was challenged in the high court and while the government was pulled up for its decision, no stay was awarded on the government order.

The court was of the view that the order cancelling the official celebrations was taken without proper thought or reasoning and the government had not prepared a report on the possible violence if the state sponsored celebrations continued. However, a bare reading of the court’s observation is that Tipu Jayanti would not be officially celebrated by the state as there is no stay granted on the government order.

Rabid fanatic:

The argument by a few in Karnataka is that Tipu Jayanti should be celebrated because he was a freedom fighter who fought the British. The other side of the argument is that he was a religious bigot, an insecure man and spent a considerable amount of time Islamising places, replacing Kannada with Persian as the court language among a few other things.

SL Bhyrappa, while describing Tipu Sultan says that he was rabid fanatic who could be compared to Aurangazeb. He killed more than 1 lakh people in the Malabar for refusing to convert to Islam.

Tipu had also invited Zayan Shah of Afghanistan to invade India from the North, assuring that he would invade from the South. The plan was to cover India into Islam. Bhyrappa also noted that on Deepavali, Tipu massacred the Vaishnava devotees in Melukote.

The government of the day has imposed no restrictions on private celebrations but has made it clear that this time it shall not be an official affair. The government has conveyed that any celebration needs to be organic and cannot be thrust down the throats of the people.

The sentiments against Tipu are particularly high in Kodagu and Mangaluru. The Kodavas and the Catholics have protested several times against such celebrations and said that a religious bigot like him deserves no place in history, leave along a grand state sponsored celebration.

Tipu has on several occasions tried to capture Kodagu but had been beaten down. He was defeated despite the Kodavas being outnumbered 1:3. On one occasion, the Kodavas put up a brave fight and drove him back to Mysore, when he had said, if his men were ambushed, he would honour the Kodavas with Islam.

However, the Kodavas fell prey to a strategy by Tipu when he offered his hand of friendship. They were caught completely off guard when Tipu’s men attacked them while they were unarmed. Several were taken by him as prisoners and it is believed that they were lodged in a jail at Srirangapatana before being converted. Historians have said that the number of conversions that took place were in the range of 65,000 to 85,000.

Even in Mangalore, the Catholics were up in arms against Tipu after he destroyed the Milagres Church in the year 1784. He imprisoned 50,000 Catholics. He later made them walk from Mangalore to Mysore and it is said that during that journey at least 4,000 lost their lives.

The freedom fighter debate:

DK Hari, founder of Bharat Gyan, tells MyNation that one must celebrate someone who has done good for you. The celebrations need to be organic and from the people. We need to question whether a person has done good or not so good. This is what we need to question.

It has been almost 300 years since Tipu died. Let us question and find out what he has done first.

Would the Mandayam Iyengars of Melukote be happy to celebrate Tipu Jayanti? Would the Kodavas be happy to celebrate it. Would the Mysore Maharajas who have been benevolent to the land be happy to celebrate Tipu Jayanti? The Wodeyars have contributed to half the heritage buildings in Bengaluru and Mysuru. Similarly, would SL Bhyrappa be happy to celebrate it?

We need to ask the people directly whether they will be happy to celebrate Tipu Jayanti. We need to ask the people whom he has helped and whom he has oppressed. Let us find out which is more says Hari.

Tipu ransacked the whole of Malabar. People have not forgotten what he did out there. I was there last week at Kannur and someone still pointed fingers at him. Will the people of this region be happy about a Tipu Jayanti?

Mahatma Gandhi had said ‘my life is my message.’ We celebrate Visvesvaraya an Sheshadri Iyer for their deeds. Let us see what the people really have to say about Tipu, let us go ask the people to judge him by deeds.

Now, what are Tipu’s deeds? He fought the British. But did he fight for India or did he fight for his kingdom in an alliance with a few other Muslim kings, Hari asks. He fought for his kingship or his kingdom or for his land. You will find your own answers to this.

What was Tipu’s stand on Kannada language? Did he make Kannada his court language or did he have a foreign language? His court language was Persian. What is the language of the soil? It is Kannada. Wasn’t Persian the language of a faraway foreign land? Asks Hari. We need to weigh this out and strike a balance.

A freedom fighter is the one who fights for freedom of the land and not for himself. We cannot put a person in the bracket of a freedom fighter when he has fought for himself, Hari further points out.