Tipu Sultan Pioneered Resistance Against British Imperialism. Maligning him Amounts to a Grand Distortion!

Tipu Sultan Pioneered Resistance Against British Imperialism. Maligning him Amounts to a Grand Distortion!
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Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Tipu Sultan’s anniversary (also called Tipu Jayanthi )has once again been marred by protests and hate speeches. While for the right wing Hindutva organizations in Karnataka, who have been spearheading these protests every year on the eve of the anniversary, it was a rite of passage, other parties have now joined the fray. The JanataDal (S) and Congress Government in Karnataka went to the extent of taking a journalist working with a local Kannada daily into custody in Kodagu district.
Previously, only the RSS, the BJP and their supporters had been calling Tipu Sultan a tyrant and mass murderer, now this hate campaign is spreading across Karnataka and other Indian states. Not only right wing politicians but even journalists are maligning the great Sultan’s image.
A Kannada journalist, Santhosh Thammaiah , was arrested by Karnataka police recently for making hate speech against Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and Tipu Sultan (Shaheed) . He has been charged with section 259A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).A local newspaper had published a report quoting Santhosh’s speech made at a protest rally against Tipu Jayanti at Gonikoppal in Kodagu district on November 9. The journalist was arrested and but later bailed out by a local court.
After being labelled as a mass murderer by the Rashtriya SwayamsevakSangh (RSS) ,Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Anant Kumar , a senior BJP leader from Bangalore and former Union Minister who died very recently had called Tipu Sultan (RA) , the 18th century ruler of Mysore, a rapist.
The list of unwarranted, malicious and motivated attacks against Tipu Sultan does not end here.
There were protests against the Government sponsored Tipu Jayanti celebrations for the 5th consecutive year in Karnataka. BJP leaders have been enforcing a boycott of this event. The BJP leaders (MLAs , MPs), during the 2016 celebrations had conveyed to the Karnataka Government that their their names on the invitation cards not be printed. The current Chief Minister and JD (S) leader H D Kumaraswami buckled under the pressure of the RSS and BJP who forced him to quit the event during this year’s celebrations. Later-on he cited ill health for remaining absent during the celebrations. (Only his cabinet colleagues attended the recently held November 10thcelebrations)
It is not for the first time that RSS and its allies have started this hate campaign; in-fact, it has been brewing since decades. As a BJP Government is in power in New Delhi, the hate campaign against Shaheed Tipu Sultan has gained momentum since the past four years.
Against the cacophony of noise and malicious maligning of Tipu’s image, what is elided over or sought to be obfuscated is his strength of character and the indomitable spirit of resistance that he employed against British imperialism.
The great Sultan was martyred while fighting the British East India Company troops and their Maratha allies in 1799 at Srirangapatna , Mysore. When the Second War of Mysore (1784) came to an end with the signing of Treaty of Mangalore , Tipu Sultan had upper hand over British forces. This was, in-fact, the last occasion when an Indian king dictated terms to the British. This treaty is a prestigious document in history.

Tipu’s Tolerance
Tipu Sultan was not only a great warrior who resisted the British but also an epitome of tolerance.
The Directorate of Archaeology, in the former Mysore state , around the year 1916 discovered 30 letters written in Kannada language which had been exchanged between the Shankaracharya of Sringeri and Tipu Sultan. Most of these letters were written by Shankaracharya to Tipu Sultan in 1791 when Maratha soldiers had raided the temple and the Mathh at Sringeri. During the raid Maratha soldiers had killed and wounded many civilians and also looted the temple and Mathh of all cash , jewelry and other valuable items. The Shankaracharya , who was also the custodian of the famous temple and math had appealed Tipu Sultan for help. While replying to one of the letters the eminence grise, Tipu Sultan had expressed his serious concern and grief over the plunder. He, in one of his replies, had said :
“People who have sinned against such a holy place are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds at no distant date in this Kalyug. People do evil deeds smilingly but suffer the consequences crying”
This was not just rhetorical. There was immediate, tangible follow up. The Lion of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, without wasting any time directed the Asaf of Bednur to supply 200 rahatis (fanams), in cash, and other gifts to the Shankaracharya. The great Sultan’s letters, written post 1791, are still preserved which makes it clear that he was in constant touch with the Shankaracharya of Sringeri and concerned about him and the matth. This incident is not a figment of my imagination but is real.
It is not the only incident which proves Tipu Sultan’s love and affection towards his non Muslim subjects, but there are dozens of such instances which make it clear that Tipu was an extremely tolerant and an affectionate ruler who laid down his life in the battle field fighting against the British East India company. But, the irony is that the RSS led right wing Hindu forces are leaving no stone unturned to defame Tipu Sultan.

Hindu Ministers of Sultan
Moreover, had Tipu Sultan been an intolerant figure, he would had never appointed Hindus to head his important Ministries. For example, Krishna Rao was his treasurer of, ShamaiyaIyengar was his Minister for Internal security and Posts. Similarly, Shamaiya’s brother Ranga Iyengar was also a senior officer in Tipu’s administration. Purnaiya Pandit held the very important post of “Mir Asaf”. Moolchand and Sujan Rai were his chief agents at the Mughal court, and his chief “Peshkar”, Suba Rao, was also a Hindu. The editor of Mysore Gazettes, Srikantaiah has listed 156 temples, to which Tipu regularly paid annual grants. Between 1782 and 1799, the Lion of Mysore, issued 34 “Sanadsipu Sultan” (deeds) of endowment to temples in his domain. He also presented many of them with gifts of silver and gold plates. The Srikanteswara Temple in Nanjangud still possesses a jeweled cup presented by the great Sultan.
Tipu Sultan was a polymath and a genius. He was well versed in Kannada, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English and French. More importantly, he was a great and a brave warrior who pioneered resistance against the British East India Company, at a time, when the rajas and maharajas across historical India had almost surrendered or had become their allies and stooges. The Maratha rulers who call themselves patriots had also allied with British forces. Tipu Sultan singlehandedly fought against all of these forces.

I say with authority that Tipu fought first war of Indian independence much before Mutiny of 1857, but history has not given any credit to Tipu Sultan in view of his Islamic beliefs. If this brave warrior, who sacrificed his life for the freedom of India, is portrayed as a rapist and a murderer by the BJP , the RSS and their allies merely on the grounds that he was a Muslim, then this not only constitutes a travesty but also is in the nature of a commentary on the times we live in

The author can be reached at: bhatrajamuzaffar@gmail.com