Tipu Sultan: Common icon of Pakistan and Congress – Balbir Punj

Tipu Sultan

Balbir Punj“Tipu’s ambition, no doubt, was to achieve personal power. The only ideological underpinning to his life was his commitment to Islam. And starting with Muhammad Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, and Aurangzeb, he had many precedents available to him to follow in his conduct as a ruler. The reign of each one of them (and several others) is marked by wanton destruction of Hindu temples, killing of ‘infidels’ and forcible conversions of non-Muslims to Islam.” – Balbir Punj

Tipu Sultan's SwordWhy did the Congress government in Karnataka plan state-wide celebrations of 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan’s 165th birth anniversary on November 10th?  Resurrecting Tipu’s memory at this time has no historic significance, except that it may serve the party’s political ends.

Next year Karnataka goes to polls.  And Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah—a lateral entrant into the party has nothing much to show the tech savvy state voter to get back to power once again. In fact, he is facing the combined opposition of several interest groups within his own party. These groups have been knocking on the doors of  Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi for some time now, in hopes of showing Siddaramaiah the door.

It is under this circumstance that the Congress has resorted to its age-old game of divisive politics. Reviving Tipu Sultan’s memory on November 10 has raised widespread opposition in Karnataka, and not from Hindus alone, but from many other communities, including Christians from Mangaluru and the West Coast of Karnataka.

According to news reports from Mangalore, an important Christian centre, United Christian’s Association leader Alban Menezes said that  Tipu in 1784 had  destroyed the Milagres Church in Mangaluru built in 1680. Menezes added: “Tipu had imprisoned 60,000 Catholics,  suspected of being British spies.”

History records that the Congress’ new found ‘secular icon’, Tipu, made the captive Christians walk all the way to Mysuru without any food or water and thousands perished on the way. In 2013, the same Christian organisation had protested along with Hindu organisations against naming a central university in Srirangapatnam after Tipu.

Tipu Sultan Stamp India Post (15 July 1974)No doubt, Tipu put up a brave fight against the British. He did so against the Marathas as well, the principal power fighting the East India Company, which was striving to colonise India. 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 real rulers of India. The then Mughal emperor, who was a pensioner of the Marathas, happily started accepting the dole from his new masters!

Tipu’s opposition to the British did not mean he was in principal opposed to foreigners colonising India. He invited the French to invade the country. After a eunuch 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 to establish an Islamic empire.

Tipu’s ambition, no doubt, was to achieve personal power. The only ideological underpinning to his life was his commitment to Islam. And starting with Muhammad Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, and Aurangzeb, he had many precedents available to him to follow in his conduct as a ruler. The reign of each one of them (and several others) is marked by wanton destruction of Hindu temples, killing of ‘infidels’ and forcible conversions of non-Muslims to Islam.

Hyder AliTipu’s father Hyder Ali had usurped the kingdom from the Wodyars, the Hindu ruling family of Mysuru state. Hyder who was a military officer in the state, rapidly rose to power and emerged the defacto ruler of Mysuru in 1761. He claimed descent from the Quraysh tribe of Arabs, the—tribe prophet Muhammad belonged to. In his last commandant to his son Tipu, Hyder wrote,  “The Mussalmans 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 Koran triumph. If God helps this noble endeavour, the day is not far, perhaps, when the sword of Muhmmad will place you on the throne of Tamerlane .”

Tipu tried his best to live up to the expectations and the ideals his father had laid for him 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, K. P. Padmanabha Menon’s History of Cochin State and Sardar K. M. Panikkar’s and Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai’s articles and the detailed accounts left behind by the court historians of Tipu vividly bring out the ugly reality that the 17 odd years of his regime witnessed massive persecution of non-Muslims, vandalisation of their religious places and forced conversions to Islam.

One of the leading Congressmen of pre-independence days K. Madhava Nair observes in Malabar Kalapam (Mappila Outrage), “The communal Mappila outrage of 1921 in Malabar could be easily traced to the forcible mass conversions and related Islamic atrocities of Tipu Sultan. Many thousands of Hindus were forcibly converted into the Muhammadan faith.”

In a letter to Budruz Zuman Khan on 19 January 1790, Tipu himself 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 Varma 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 18 January 1790, and written to Syed Abdul Dulal: “With the grace of Prophet Mohammed 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 objective.” Tipu tried to replace Kannada with Persian and made the latter a Court language. He changed the names of several places. The new names had Islamic colour.

PNS Tipu SultanMuch is made out of the grants Tipu had made to some Hindu temples. In V. R. Parameswaran Pillai’s biography of the Dewan of Travancore, the author states: “With respect to the much-published land-grants, I had explained the reasons about 40 years back. Tipu had immense faith in astrological predictions. It was to become Emperor (Padushah) after destroying the might of the British that Tipu resorted to land grants and other donations to Hindu temples in Mysuru, 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 for the Congress, it has been late in recalling what it considers the sterling role of Tipu Sultan in India’s history, for Pakistan has done it much earlier and on a far bigger scale. Till date the Pakistan Navy has named three of its war ships as PNS Tipu Sultan. The first was acquired in 1949 (in service until 1979), second in 1980 (scrapped in 1994) and the last one in 1994. It has also named its missile and several educational institutions after Tipu.

Does not the fact that Congress and Pakistan share a secular icon in Tipu say a lot? – The New Indian Express, 14 November 2015

» Balbir Punj is a senior journalist, columnist, and BJP member of the Raja Sabha.

Tipu Sultan, Republic Day tableau representing Karnataka, 2014

See also

2 Responses

  1. See this Speaking Tree slide show

    The Real Truth Of Tipu Sultan

  2. Subramanian Swamy

    Tipu Sultan Had No Qualities Worth Celebrating, Says Subramanian Swamy – All India – Press Trust of India – November 14, 2015

    BENGALURU: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy today described Tipu Sultan as a “servant of the French” and said the 18th century ruler of Mysore had no qualities for his memory to be celebrated.

    “His (Tipu) supporters say he fought the British, well he fought the British not as an independent entity, he fought the British as what I would say as the servant of the French,” Mr Swamy said.

    He said,”Napolean had arrived in Africa. He was confident of winning the war there and he wanted to come to India, so there was an alliance made by the French and Tipu Sultan to fight the British together.”

    “Of course, Napolean lost the war and ended up also losing his position in France. But there is nothing to say that this man (Tipu) has any qualities for which we can celebrate his memory,” Mr Swamy told reporters after a ‘discussion’ organised by “The Open Platform for Netaji.”

    Karnataka government has decided to celebrate Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary from this year with the main event held here on November 10.

    The celebration amidst protest from few pro-Hindu outfits had led to death of two persons in Kodagu district following clashes, and a man was stabbed in Bantwal taluk near Mangaluru.

    Stating that there is no academically or scholarly or intellectually acceptable biography of Tipu Sultan, Mr Swamy said the only authentic records “we have is the letters he wrote to his commander in chief, friends and so on.”

    He said “on the basis of whatever material that is available, there is no doubt that in various parts of India like Coorg, Kerala, Malabar in particular, of course in Trivandrum area where he got a beating- there he has engaged in a severe brutality with focus on Poojari’s of the area.”

    He said rocketry for which Tipu is credited for by few historians was developed much before and was used by Kings earlier also.

    Pointing out that for 216 years no government ever thought of celebrating Tipu or even remembering him, Mr Swamy said, “It is being deliberately done because Congress party is desperate that they may lose the next elections.”

    Mr Swamy said he will request for reopening of cases into the deaths of few national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi after the secret files related to Subhas Chandra Bose will be declassified by the central government beginning January 23.

    “I will have to request for Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya case also….” he said.

    On Subhas Chandra Bose case, Mr Swamy said “After January 23 basic thing will be clear that Subhas Chandra Bose did not die in the air crash, he reached Russia after that what happened everything will be out.”

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