Who could have thought that a historical figure, who lived around 200 years ago, will become a major point of contention between the two major political parties. As if that was not enough, a third political party joined the pandemonium. Tipu Sultan, to whom much of the population never gave a second thought until a certain political party hailed him as a great freedom fighter and the other decided to fight against it, was a ruler of Mysore. (if the poor chap knew he would create such serious fanfare posthumously, he would have done more and better of whatever he did)
The hubbub started when the Siddaramaiah led Congress government decided that Tipu Sultan was a great freedom fighter whose birth anniversary was to be celebrated and so much so that the 2015 Republic Day tableau of Karnataka was centred on Tipu Sultan. This did not go well with a large part of the population of Karnataka for the simple fact that they saw through the propaganda that was being carried out by the government. Tipu Sultan was a despotic monarch who carried out mass murders. A religious fanatic and dictator, Tipu Sultan attempted ethnic cleansing of Kodavas and other Hindu communities of South India and also indulged in mass conversions of the Kodavas to Islam.
Further, portraying Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter who took part in the 1857 mutiny is also based on a flawed reading of history and a classic example of cherry picking from history. The Anglo Mysore war in which Tipu Sultan went up in arms against the British took place back in 1780. So, 1857 was not the first time that Tipu Sultan fought against the British. He was just another monarch who wanted to protect his kingdom from the British conquest.
Read our detailed Article about Tipu Sultan and his legacy
If only this Freedom Fighter: To Be or Not To Be saga had remained confined to the state of Karnataka! The saga was back in news when on the occasion of Republic Day, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal unveiled Tipu Sultan’s portrait in the Delhi Assembly amongst 70 other personalities, including revolutionaries, freedom fighters and heroes. Alongside Tipu Sultan, pictures of Ashfaqulla Khan, Bhagat Singh, Birsa Munda, Rani Chennamma and Subhas Chandra Bose, will be put up in galleries of the Delhi Assembly.
There were obvious objections from members of BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal who felt that it was a form of disrespect to those like, Bhagat Singh who had sacrificed his life for the freedom of the country, if their statue was put with someone who killed thousands of people for his selfish sake.
This couldn’t be a cute little gesture from Arvind Kejriwal’s side considering the amount of furor Tipu Sultan Jayanti caused in Karnataka. Tipu Sultan remains an idol of the minority community and Arvind Kejriwal, being the shrewd politician that he is, must be knowing it quite well. Unveiling Tipu Sultan’s portrait in the Delhi Assembly amounts to “soft-appeasement” by Arvind Kejriwal. He also knows that BJP was bound to get irked by it, which will give the confrontational politician inside him to go on a tweet-rampage. Whether that happens or not, remains to be seen!
How far this political fight about Tipu Sultan goes and whether or not will there be a loser and a winner is something, as a Jeffery Archer fan would say, only time will tell. But one thing is certain, while we do need to learn and respect our history, we need to keep it just there; behind us. History is supposed to teach us lessons and not be the bone while we play dog and the bone.