Patriot or Tyrant? The Controversy Born Over Tipu Sultan's Birth Anniversary

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Image of Tipu Sultan and his sword.


Bengaluru:  Was Tipu Sultan, the 18th Century Tiger of Mysore, a heroic freedom fighter or an intolerant king? His wars against the British have many considering him an early freedom fighter. But the Karnataka government's decision to celebrate his birth anniversary has become controversial.

Critics say Tipu Sultan was an intolerant ruler who forcefully converted Hindus and persecuted Christians.

Sangh Parivar outfits have threatened to disrupt the celebrations on November 10, with RSS describing Tipu as "the most intolerant ruler". The BJP has boycotted the celebrations, describing Tipu as a tyrant falsely glorified as a secular freedom fighter.  

"A majority of the people has opposed it," said V Nagaraj, a senior RSS pracharak.  Tipu was a ruler of Mysore but he was also the most intolerant king recorded by history - "not by RSS or any other people," he said.

"You can go through recorded history, his own statements, and what was written on his sword. On his sword it was clearly mentioned it was meant to kill the kaffirs," Mr Nagaraj added.

The Congress government of the state justifies its decision to mark the day.

"Many people would oppose and it is a political game," said home minister Dr G Parameshwar. "Tipu was one person who promoted communal harmony those days and that is why we are trying to celebrate it."

Historians say Tipu was a reformer and there are records of his helping to restore sacked temples.

Historian NV Narasimhaiah said, "Tipu brought sericulture to Karnataka, banned intoxicating liquor". There was a practice in Kerala that lower caste women were not allowed to wear blouses. When Tipu learnt this, he supplied the blouses, Mr Narasimhaiah said.

"Tipu Sultan was known for his self-respect and patriotism. He said, 'I can't be a servant of the Britishers, I can't surrender to you'," he added.

Even within the right wing, there are differing views on Tipu's contribution to society.

Abdul Azeem, a BJP lawmaker, said, "Tipu Sultan was very secular and gave equal treatment to Hindus and Muslims. Not only mosques but also temples were looked after."


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