Tipu Sultan, the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, was one of the greatest rulers in the history of India known for his bravery, innovative and progressive reforms and courage to challenge the British government.
Born on November 20, 1750, Tipu was a renowned leader and a skilled tactician who introduced a number of progressive and modern governing policies unknown to the world before during his rule spanning 17 years. He built his empire around Srirangapatna near Mysuru in Karnataka also encompassing parts of Kerala. His moves like modern taxation acts, land reforms and empowerment of backward classes provoked the ire of the upper class. The local elite groups and British colonial forces saw him as a common enemy. Tipu's invasion into Malabar, Mangalore and Coorg areas irked the locals well who joined with the British to fight against him. He was killed while battling British on May 4, 1799 at the age of 48. The story of Tipu Sultan enthralls all patriots who believe in progressive values. The British were wary of the fierce ruler. They not just plotted against him but spread lies about him as well. The false statements were believed by a few who actively propagated them across the country tarnishing the image of Tipu. He was branded as a religious fanatic and a tyrant who destroyed temples and killed non-Muslims. Tipu Sultan was a courageous ruler who failed to receive the honor and consideration he deserved in history. Any discourses surrounding him would be faded out by the controversies triggered by the flawed historians. The disrespect and neglect shown to Tipu could have been erased, to an extent, by the Karnataka government’s decision of celebrating the 266th birth anniversary of the ruler on November 10, as Tipu Jayanti. The Sangh Parivar outfits have unleashed widespread propaganda against the government’s move with various parties and organizations in the state protesting against the celebrations.
The RSS and the related Hindutwa groups utilized the opportunity to worsen the social atmosphere of Karnataka, which is considered as the experimental lab of the Hindutwa brigade after Gujarat. The conflicts and opening fire against the protestors in areas including Kodagu is also part of this agenda. The Sangh Parivar amends the history according to their sectarian agenda duping people into believing the fabricated statements. The RSS did not have any particular role in the freedom struggle against the British. Their leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar had rescued himself from imprisonment by sending clemency letters to the British asking for forgiveness. It was during the tenure of Vajpayee government that his portrait was first put up in the Central Hall of Parliament. It’s most likely for the Hindutwa extremists who have the portrait of their ‘mentor’ placed in the Parliament to feel sheepish when they hear of Tipu who fought against the British till his last breath and became a martyr. The attempts to tarnish the image of Tipu by presenting him as a religious leader might be to overcome this humiliation. When two Hindu rulers attacked Sringeri Mutt in Maratha, it was Tipu who rushed to protect it. But he was presented as a destroyer of temples by the Hindutwa fanatics thereby misleading the Hindus against the ruler. The rhetoric against the great leader is part of demonizing the historical figures belonging to minority communities and those with progressive outlooks. The Hindutwa elements had triggered a controversy earlier when television soap on Tipu Sultan was broadcast in the 1990s. All these attempts are part of tailoring the country’s history to suit the narrow-minded interests of the right-wing groups. The communal conflicts and the tense atmosphere would only add to their benefit. This is the sole reason behind launching a new Mysore war against Tipu Sultan by the Sangh Parivar. The moves of the progressive historians and social scientists realizing the truth and resisting the attempts by the Hindutwa groups, are therefore laudable.