Why did the Congress government in Karnataka plan statewide celebrations of 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan's 165th birth anniversary on November 10? Resurrecting Tipu's memory at this time has no historic significance, except that it may serve the party's political ends.
Eye on polls
Next year, Karnataka will go to polls. And the Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah - a lateral entrant into the party-has nothing much to show for. Thus, the Congress is back to its age old game of divisive politics.
Tipu Sultan Jayanti has raised widespread opposition not only from Hindus but also from many other communities in Karnataka. Christians particularly in Mangalore and the West Coast are opposed to the celebrations.
The United Christian's Association leader Alban Menezes reportedly said, "Tipu Sultan in 1784 had destroyed the Milagres Church in Mangalore built in 1680." Menezes added, "He had imprisoned 60,000 Catholics, suspected of being British spies."
No doubt Tipu put up a brave fight against the British. So he did against the Marathas, the principal power fighting the East India Company. It was only in 1803, after the company forces under General Lake defeated the Maratha army in a battle at Patparganj (present day Noida) that the British captured Delhi and became the rulers of India.
Tipu's opposition to the British did not mean he was in principle opposed to foreigners colonising India. He invited the French to invade the country. After Ghulam Qadir blinded the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II on August 10, 1788, Tipu had no compunction in writing to Zaman Shah Durrani, the then ruler of Afghanistan to attack India and help him finish the Marathas and the British and establish an Islamic empire.
Tipu's father, Hyder Ali, in his last commandant to his son, wrote, "The Muslims are more united and more enterprising than the feeble Hindu. It is to them that should belong the glory of saving Hindustan... My son, combine all your efforts to make the Quran triumph. If god helps this noble endeavour, the day is not far, perhaps, when the sword of Muhammad will place you on the throne of Tamerlane". Tipu tried his best to live up to his father's ideals and even went a few steps further in promoting the Islamic agenda and following, what he perceived, were his religious duties.
Colonel Mark Wilks' historical sketches, KP Padmanabha Menon's History of Cochin State and Sardar KM Panikkar's, Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai's articles and the detailed accounts left behind by the court historians of Tipu vividly describes massive persecution of non-Muslims, destruction of their religious places and forced conversions to Islam that took place under Tipu's watch.
In a letter to Budruz Zuman Khan on January 19, 1790, Tipu states, "Don't you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam? I am determined to march against that cursed 'Raman Nair' (Rama Verma Raja of Travancore) very soon since I am overjoyed at the prospect of converting him and his subjects to Islam, I have happily abandoned the idea of going back to Srirangapatanam now."
Panikkar cites a letter from Tipu, dated January 18, 1790, and written to Syed Abdul Dulal, "With the grace of Prophet Muhammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only on the borders of Cochin state a few are still not converted. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as jihad to achieve that object".
Much is made out of the grants Tipu had made to some Hindu temples. In VR Parameswaran Pillai's biography of the dewan of Travancore, the author states, "Tipu resorted to land grants and other donations to Hindu temples in Mysore including Sringeri Mutt, as per the advice of the local Brahmin astrologers. Most of these were done after his defeat in 1791 and the humiliating Srirangapatanam Treaty in 1792. These grants were not done out of respect or love for Hindus or Hindu religion but for becoming Padushah as predicted by the astrologers".
Sadly, the Congress has been late in recalling what it considers as sterling role of Tipu Sultan in India's history, for Pakistan has done it much earlier. Till date Pakistan Navy has named three of its war ships as "PNS Tipu Sultan". It has also named its missile and several institutions after Tipu. Does not the fact that the Congress and Pakistan share an icon in Tipu Sultan say a lot?