“Why is the name of our ancestor Tipu Sultan being dragged and politicised at every given opportunity?” This is the question being raised by the descendants of the 18th-Century Mysore ruler. Speaking to News18, Tipu Sultan’s descendants say they are planning to approach the courts to put an end to the “constant badgering” of Tipu Sultan’s image in political slugfests.
“We have had enough. Political parties cannot use his name whenever they feel it is convenient. We will be forced to file defamation cases against those who misuse his name from now on,” Tipu Sultan’s descendent Sahabzada Mansoor Ali told News18.
This statement from Mansoor Ali, who is the 17th descendant of Tipu Sultan, comes in the backdrop of the political jousting between the BJP and the Congress on making the Mysore ruler an election issue.
His descendants say Tipu Sultan’s scientific and administrative prowess has been recorded by historians over centuries. So why are political parties hell-bent on twisting history to benefit their political fortunes, they question.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in his recent visit to Karnataka, had taken a jibe at the Congress and the JD-S, saying that those who believe in the 18th-Century ruler of the Mysore region cannot do any good for the state. This statement from Shah came just after Karnataka BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel said the upcoming Assembly election in the state “is all about Tipu versus Savarkar.”
“We hurt each time they drag our ancestor’s name,” said Shahzada Ismail Sha, the seventh great-grandson of Tipu Sultan who lives in Kolkata and is running a garment business. “We all want to stay away from politics, much harm has already been done to the family name,” he said when asked about how it has become a part of the electoral debate in Karnataka.
Two hundred and twenty-four years after his death in 1799 at the hands of the British forces, Tipu Sultan continues to remain in the eye of the storm. As the election season hots up in Karnataka, the BJP and the Congress are seen locking horns over the legacy and influence of the ruler.
Mansoor Ali said that even though they were happy that the Congress had announced during their rule that ‘Hazrat Tipu Sultan Jayanti’ would be celebrated every November 10, it was not gazetted, making it clear that it was nothing but a political tactic.
In 2016, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government announced that Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary celebration would be a state-sponsored event. The Congress called the ruler a freedom fighter who fought against the British. The party also said his contributions to the development of Mysore made him worthy of the honour.
“The Congress has been using the name of Tipu Sultan to gain ground among the minority community, that is Muslims. The BJP is using Tipu Sultan’s name to divide. Just stop politicising him. Tipu was a great ruler and administered the Mysore kingdom a lot better than the present dispensation,” Shahzada Ismail Sha said.
“We do not want to comment on the political opposition, we would like to request people to first study Tipu’s history and then make any comment,” he added.
Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha said the BJP is neither using nor misusing Tipu Sultan’s name. “But the Congress and other so-called secular parties are glorifying a pygmy like Tipu Sultan. So we are countering such glorification with facts and actual history,” said Simha on the allegations made by Tipu Sultan’s family.
When the BJP came to power in Karnataka in 2019, one of the first decisions taken by then chief minister BS Yediyurappa was to put an end to the Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary celebrations. The BJP claims Tipu Sultan was a ruthless bigot who, during his tyrannical rule, promoted forced conversions of Hindus to Islam, manslaughter, and demolished numerous temples.
Historians like Vikram Sampath recall recorded instances like Tipu Sultan forcing the people of Kodagu (Coorg), Malabar and Mangaluru regions to convert to Islam or face execution. The ruler has been accused of slaughtering thousands of people who opposed him.
“I have no problem if people celebrate Tipu Sultan. But when you’re doing it on taxpayers’ money, given the atrocities he committed of which communities have a living memory, it is really stretching the appeasement politics," Sampath had said in the CNN-News18 Bengaluru Townhall last week.
Some other historians point out that Tipu had a lot of path-breaking administrative and technological qualities that helped the Mysore kingdom prosper.
One such historian was Dr Sheikh Ali, who passed away in September. In his research works, he pointed out Tipu’s contributions as a pioneer of rocket technology by building the country’s first rocket, developing trade, industries and agriculture in the Mysore region.
He also said that Tipu was a good administrator who established a network of banks and cooperatives that encouraged people to invest and laid the foundations for Mysore’s famous Krishnaraja Sagar dam in Mandya, which today is a major water source for the Mysuru and Bengaluru regions.
Prof Ali, whose books and research are considered to be the most extensive ones on Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s rule, also points out how Tipu use to give an annual grant to 156 temples across Karnataka, including the famous Sringeri Mutt which he saved from the hands of the Marathas.
However, textbooks in Karnataka no longer carry chapters on the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. Only the contents of Tipu’s rule without glorifying him as a “nationalist” remain in the school syllabus.
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