Mysore: Amid tough resistance from the BJP to mark the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan on November 10, the Karnataka government is going ahead with the celebrations. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah confirmed "there will be no change in plan".
The Congress government had started celebrating his birth anniversary in 2015 terming the 18th century ruler of Mysore a freedom fighter, who got killed in 4th Anglo-Mysore war. The BJP, RSS and others, however, call him a brutal king who persecuted Hindus and Christians in large numbers, especially those who refused to convert to Islam.
Even historians and scholars are a divided lot. Those who back Tipu talk about him fighting the British and his contributions to Hindu temples. "Tipu's 75% cabinet comprised Hindus. And when Marathas plundered Sringeri temple and the idol was on the road, the Swamiji wrote to Tipu and he restored the temple," said Islamic scholar Shafiulla S.
Other historians refer to writings of British and Tipu's own commander while mentioning the killings of thousands of Hindus and Christians in Madikeri-Malabar region and the forced conversions that Tipu allegedly carried out.
"Tippu was not a freedom fighter. He was defending his kingdom from British like other kings. Hindus in Calicut in Kerala were given two options -- bullet or Quran," said Historian Chidananda Murthy.
When President Ram Nath Kovind praised Tipu Sultan in his joint address to the Karnataka legislature last week, his speech intensified the debate on the sultan's legacy. The state government had to issue a clarification that it had not prepared the President's speech.
The most vocal protest against glorification of Tipu comes from Kodagu. The Kodavas argue that their race was pushed to the verge of extinction after Tipu killed 70,000 of them and captured another 90,000 in Devati Parambu in Kodagu.
They see Tipu Jayanti as a provocation. "Kodavas have never objected to or spoke about vengeance or revenge in the last 300 years. We have lived with it, buried the past. We have been tolerant, we don't know if you can take it for granted today," said Kishoo Uthappa, a proud Kodava.
With the BJP and its leaders like Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde hardening their stance against Tipu Jayanti, the debate will only intensify in the coming days.