Why Kodagu Always Has And Always Will Oppose Tipu Jayanti Celebrations
Karnataka state government celebrates Tipu Jayanti today (10 November).
This brings the debate back on the table—considering Tipu Sultan’s deeds, especially in the Kodagu region, does the ruler deserve to be celebrated at all?
The Kodavas have an unambiguous stand.
The debate is back—the decision of the Karnataka government to celebrate Tipu Jayanti has once again come under question. A freedom fighter for some and a religious bigot, who partook in religious conversions, for many, the talk about Tipu is back as the state government celebrates his birth anniversary today (10 November).
The celebrations this year, however, would be comparatively muted, with the ruling Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition saying there would be no processions like those witnessed in the past couple of years.
There is an interesting story behind this year’s celebrations, though. The Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), believes that celebrating the Jayanti brings bad luck. However, it had to agree to the celebrations, although muted, owing to coalition compulsions. The invitation card for the official event does not carry the name of the Chief Minister, H D Kumaraswamy. Instead, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara of the Congress will grace the occasion in Kumaraswamy’s place.
Bringing Bad Luck
One of the main factors behind JD(S) opposing the celebrations is a superstition, according to insider accounts. Sanjay Khan, who made a biographical film on Tipu Sultan, almost lost his life when fire engulfed the studio at Mysuru, where he was shooting. And then there is Vijay Mallya, who had brought the Sword of Tipu back to Karnataka from London. He is now living in London as a fugitive.
Within government circles this year, there has been a disagreement over the celebrations. Some within the Congress had seen Siddaramaiah’s decision to go all out and celebrate the Jayanti as an unwanted controversy. The JD(S), too, was not keen on it, and cited unnecessary law-and-order problems.
The Congress, on the other hand, was in a spot of bother and did not know how to get out of the situation. They felt that going all out would stir unnecessary problems. However, the only reason they decided that the celebrations be held this year is because they did not want to be branded anti-Muslim.
The official reason given by Kumaraswamy’s office for his absence from the official event is that he has been advised rest for three days during 9-11 November. In a recent presser, the Chief Minister, who had earlier opposed the celebrations, said those who did not want to be a part of it, should not be.
Patriot Vs Bigot
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always seen Tipu as a religious bigot. B S Yeddyurappa, the chief of the Karnataka BJP, has said that the party would oppose the Jayanti and that this celebration was planned by the Congress to appease the Muslim community. He said the government’s intention was only to satisfy the Muslim community. Even within the Congress and JD(S), there were many who were opposing this move, he added.
The Congress, however, continued to maintain that Tipu was a patriot. Congress leader D K Shivakumar said the BJP always opposed national patriots, and that Tipu has had a long history, and it wasn’t wrong to celebrate Tipu Jayanti. The BJP has its political agenda and wants to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims, he added.
While there are several historical accounts of Tipu fighting the British, his intentions have always been questioned. Many are of the belief that he fought the British only to defend his capital, Srirangapatna. The BJP maintains that he was anti-Hindu and anti-Kannada.
In Kodagu, Tipu Was A Cheat, Bigot
No matter what the debate around Tipu may be, there is one district in Karnataka that will not bow to the sultan, come what may. Kodagu, which is 240 kilometres from Bengaluru, prides itself on having produced the two greatest Indian Generals, Field Marshal K M Cariappa and General K S Thimayya.
Ask anyone in Kodagu about Tipu Sultan and they will speak with the utmost contempt about the ruler. Tipu had his eyes set on Kodagu as it was a gateway for him to reach Mangalore (now Mangaluru), which has a port. History shows that the Kodavas and Tipu Sultan have shared a bitter rivalry.
The attempts to capture Kodagu began not with Tipu but with his father, Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali failed to capture Kodagu on several occasions. Tipu’s attempts, too, went in vain several times, as he was unable to battle the Kodavas, who had vast knowledge of the mountainous region. Moreover, the Kodavas held an advantage against Tipu because of their guerrilla warfare methods.
It has been suggested that the Kodavas, despite being outnumbered 1:3, always defeated Tipu even though he managed to reach the capital of the district, Madikeri, on several occasions. One time, he provoked the Kodavas and said, “If you ambush my men, I will honour all of you with Islam.” Enraged, the Kodavas drove him out.
Tipu, after several failed attempts to win over Kodagu, offered a hand of friendship, and the Kodavas made the error of trusting him. Tipu then took the help of the nawab of Kurnool and launched an attack on the unarmed Kodavas, capturing thousands of people.
The Kodava Hindus in captivity were subject to forcible conversions to Islam and faced torture and death. Tipu is also said to have had a great mass of the locals circumcised. He then separated them into groups and converted them to Islam. They were trained and made to form 8 Assad Ilahi (Asadulai) and Ahmadi Risalas (or regiments).
There are also claims that 70,000 Kodavas were converted, when 40 years later, the entire population of Kodagu numbered to fewer than that figure.
Tipu is also accused of destroying nearly 300 temples in Kodagu. On 13 December 1785, Tipu had invited the Kodavas for a compromise at Devatparamb near Bhagamandala and then massacred thousands of unarmed men, women, and children.
With this background, a petition was filed in the Karnataka High Court by a social activist, K P Manjunath, seeking a ban on the celebrations. He said Tipu was no freedom fighter, and the state government had only been glorifying him for the sake of vote-bank politics.
Security Stepped Up
Celebrating Tipu Jayanti has been politically costly for the Congress in Kodagu. In the recently held elections, the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of both Virajpet and Madikeri won with increased margins. K G Bopaiah of the BJP won with a margin of 10,000 votes, which was twice his margin from 2013. Madikeri MLA Appachu Ranjan won by a margin of 15,000 votes, which, incidentally, is his highest margin in the last four elections.
Now, with Tipu Jayanti being celebrated today (10 November), there is increased security in the district. Over 30 Kodava Samajas and various other organisations are protesting, and have decided to observe a black day. In addition, there have also been calls for a Kodagu bandh (strike).
Tight security is in place in the coastal regions as well. Not just the Kodavas but even the Catholics have opposed the celebrations. In 2015, it may be recalled that the United Christian Association had protested outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Mangalore (Mangaluru). They said that in 1784, Tipu had destroyed the Milagres Church there. He is also said to have imprisoned 50,000 Catholics on the suspicion that they were spies of the British.
The Association further accused Tipu of being responsible for the death of 4,000 Catholics. He is said to have captured the Catholics and made them walk from Mangalore (Mangaluru) to Mysore (Mysuru), which resulted in the death of many. Till date, the Catholics observe a day’s mourning in memory of those killed by Tipu.
While the celebrations today would be subdued in comparison to the last two years, it still brings back dark memories to many, especially to those living in Kodagu, a region that would always remember Tipu as a religious bigot who carried out conversions of its people to Islam on a large scale.
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