Volume 4, No. 11, November 2003


Tippu Sultan: The Tiger of Mysore and A Great Freedom Warrior

Continuing resistance to Sangh Parivar in Karnataka


With over five thousand people from different walks of life turning up on May 4 this year, Shreerangapattana in Karnataka witnessed another historic event in the history of the anti-communal struggle of the state. The Bababudangiri Communal Solidarity Conference held at Chikkamagalur on 29th of December last year was the first one, that succeeded in refuting all the designs of the Hindu communalists. There also, around 10,000 people had taken part to pose stiff resistance to the Sangh Parivar. This event, in fact, was the inspiration to hold another big rally and public meeting to refute the false propaganda of Sangha Parivar against Tippu Sultan.

The Gujarat communal carnage that claimed over 2,000 innocent people and the fascist Modi clique once again assuming power in the state in a tide of Hindu communal fanaticism, made democrats, peace loving people of Karnataka, as elsewhere, seriously think over the growing threat of fascism. In fact, they used to reveal their anger against Hindu communalism whenever atrocities on the minority community took place. But, with the Gujarat developments, their resistance is further consolidated in an organised manner.

In South India, the Sangh Parivar has chosen Karnataka to gain grounds first, since Tamil Nadu and Kerala have a strong anti-Brahmnical and communist heritage respectively and thus they find it difficult to spread their ideology. Since Andhra Pradesh also has a strong anti feudal armed struggle, it would be very difficult for them to extended their tentacles there. Therefore, they have considered Karnataka as fertile soil and initiated their activities towards that direction.

In order to create communal frenzy, they have chosen the issue of Bababudangiri in 1996 itself. Bababudangiri is a religious place where there is a common Darga of Hindus and Muslims, and both communities, since centuries, have been offering worship without any discrimination and dispute. This kind of co-worshipping Dargas can be seen in each and every corner of the state. These Dargas stand as witness to the fact of communal harmony between Hindu and Muslim communities. But the Sangh Parivar, with an eye of utilizing this issue to their end, targeted Bababudangiri at first and started constructing a cock and bull stories that once it was a Hindu Datta Peetha and later it was occupied by the Muslims so on and so forth, and thus Hindus should liberate this Darga from Muslims at even the cost of their lives.

But contrary to their anticipation, they had to face stiff resistance from both the communities as well as the democrats and peace loving people. Ever since they took up the issue, they have been relegated politically on account of this resistance. (see report in March 03 issue)

With this shameful political defeat, the Sangh Parivar set about to seek another issue and found the issue of Tippu Sultan. They started discrediting the great freedom warrior Tippu Sultan since he was a Muslim king. They started the propaganda that Tippu Sultan promoted Muslim fanaticism and pushed the majority Hindus to lead a miserable life; that he made forcible conversions; that the present Jumma Masque at Shreerang-apattana was once a Hindu temple and he destroyed it and built the mosque on its remains, so on and so forth. With D. H Shanka-rmurthy, a MLC of the BJP, making a statement in the assembly that Tippu Sultan is a traitor and anti Hindu, this debate further intensified. But they could not distort history as most of the intellectuals, historians condemned and exposed these attempts of distorting the history of Tippu Sultan.

Who is Tippu Sultan?

Tippu Sultan is a King who ruled Mysore kingdom between 1782 and 1799. He was a great freedom fighter, secular, and efficient ruler. Some may feel that each and every king in the history, since they were representing the feudal class, exploited the common people and fought with other kings either to expand and sustain their rule or to defend their own power from attacking kings; that Tippu also might, likewise, have fought the British rulers with the same cause. But, it is not at all totally true as facts unfold a different story. One thing is to be noted here that Tippu was representing the then emerging capitalist class. At that particular stage of history, it was certainly a progressive role.

It was a transition period that India was passing through. There were feudal warlords in Karnataka, locally called as Palegaras, having thousands of acres of land and their own feudal armies. He attacked them with his army and distributed the land to the landless people. For the first time in the history of India, landless Dalits got land and became landowners. Due to the land reforms he made, the landlord class started to disappear and a class of peasantry having smallholdings started to emerge. Since he promoted trade and commerce some trade centers developed. Since he established some factories, on a small scale, a capitalist mode of production came into existence at its primordial stage. As a result of all these, a bourgeois social system started, in its embryonic form, to emerge in the womb of the feudal system.

Tippu Sultan is the reason behind the fact that today Karnataka is in the first position in silk production. He for the first time introduced silk production by setting up 21 silk production centers.

Like his father, Hyder Ali, who ruled the Mysore kingdom between 1761 and 1782, Tippu Sultan was also secular minded. Both of them, though they were considered as Muslims, never made any discrimination along the lines of religion. (In fact, Hyder Ali was the follower of no religion and Tippu followed the Sufi sect of Islam.)

Many historical evidences unfold the fact that Tippu Sultan used to financially support many Hindu temples. He not only protected the big Ranganath Temple, which is situated vary close to his palace but also developed it. If he were to be a Muslim fanatic, he would have destroyed it. Many significant letters written by Tippu to Sringeri Matt were discovered in 1916 and these further justified the fact that he used to help Hindu temples. When Sringeri Matt, a Hindu religious place, was attacked and looted by the very Hindu Marathas, Tippu, considered being a Muslim king came forward to help financially and tried his best to make good the losses inflicted by the Marathas. But in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar Tippu is still a Muslim fanatic and Marathas who looted Hindu Matts and never fought against the Britishers but against their own countrymen for their selfish ends, are patriots!

Tippu was a great freedom fighter. He strongly felt that unless and until the British Empire was thrown out of India, it would never be possible to achieve any qualitative development and for that just cause he fought the British army till his last breath.

In the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he had to give his two children to the British rulers, as hostages till the amount of war compensation was paid. Rarely in history do we see a king who was ready to sacrifice his own children for the broad interest of the kingdom and people. In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War of 1799 at Shreerangapattana, he was alone, as the Nizam of Hyderabad and Marathas had joined hands with the British army. On the other hand with the help of these two forces, the British army had become a very strong one. Tippu had, indeed, known the fact that he, with his small army, could not win the war against the huge and strong British army. But at that crucial moment also he did not take to his heels. Had Tippu surrendered to the British rulers, he could have survived and continued as the King of Mysore. But he did not do so; he chose to live as a tiger rather than a slave under British rulers. Tippu, along with his well-disciplined small army fought with the huge British army and laid down his life in the battlefield itself on May 4th, 1799. The British rulers could never claim to have won India till the death of Tippu. They were in fact afraid of Tippu, whom the common people used to call as the Tiger of Mysore. On hearing that Tippu had fallen, the British Governor General is reported to have exclaimed that they had now conquered India! With the death of Tippu, the last and strong obstacle to rule the whole of India disappeared for the British rulers; they converted the whole sub-continent into their complete colony and their exploitation was reinforced a hundred times.

Tippu Memorial Conference at Shreerangapattana

Just as the Sangh Parivar took up the campaign of belittling Tippu Sultan, all the intelligentsia and several democratic organisations of the state responded in a tremendous way. With the initiative of the Karnataka Vimochana Ranga (Karnataka Liberation front – KVR), they all came under the banner of Communal Solidarity Front and decided to hold a rally and public meeting on May 4th, the date of Tippu’s martyrdom, at Shreerangapattana, the capital of Tippu and where Tippu laid down his life.

In order to impart the real history of Tippu and to expose the conspiracy behind the propaganda of the Hindu fascists against Tippu, a weeklong campaign was organised. The activists of mainly the Karnataka Vimichana Ranga (KVR) and Mahila Jagruthi, a women’s organisation and a constituent of the Front, actively participated in this campaign. They divided themselves in several teams and went to the countryside. Some teams covered cities like Mandya and Mysore. Walls of Shreerangapattana, Mandya, Maddur, Mysore, Bangalore, Shimoga, Chikkamagalur, Davanagere and other cities and towns exhibited the slogans of upholding the heritage of Tippu and exposing of the real intention of the Sangh Parivar’s false propaganda. Children of 10 years to old age persons actively took part in the campaign.

On the day, people from different parts of the state turned up like tides and the whole Shreerangapattana was filled with people. Prof. G .K. Govinda Rao, a film star and who is associated with the anti communal struggles since decades, inaugurated the rally at the spot where the dead body of Tippu had been found in Shreerangapattana. Prominent progressive intellectuals Prof. K. Ramadas, Gouri Lankesh, the editor of the Kannada tabloid Lankesh Patrike, Mallika Ghanti, reader of Gulbarga University, Sanath Kumar Belagali, co-editor of Janavahini Kannada daily, Prof. Karimuddin and others addressed the rally.

The rally marched through the main streets of the town. On the one hand the sound of drums and on the other hand cultural teams gave a colourful appearance to the rally. The slogans like, "Give up Caste, Give up Religion and Give birth to Humanity", "Let us remember Tippu, Let us root out Communalism", "Hindu-Muslims can never become foes and Hindu communalists can never become Friends", etc, reverberated in the sky.

As scheduled, the public meeting started at 2.30 p.m. near the Tippu’s summer palace. Chenna Mallikarjuna Swami, a well-known anti-communalist, of Nidumamidi Matt inaugurated the public meeting. Dr. Bandi Gouda, veteran freedom-fighter and a former MLA and a prominent anti communalist, K. H. Keshavamurthy, the president of Communal Solidarity Forum – Mandya, Halage Gouda, former MLA, K. S. Puttannaih, the president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), Asghar Ali Engineer of Mumbai, Kalkuli Vithal Hegde, the president of Forum Against Kudremukh National Park, Dr. Rahamath Tarikere, reader of Hampi Kannada University and a well-known writer, Prof. K Phaniraj, Prof. V. S. Shreedhar, Bhanu Musthaq, a well-known writer, Devanoor Mahadeva, a well-known Dalit writer, Agni Shreedhar, the editor of Kannada tabloid Agni, K.L Ashok, secretary of KVR and others spoke on the occasion.

All of them in strongest terms condemned the Sangh Parivar for its false propaganda against Tippu and they strongly upheld the legacy of Tippu. They challenged the Sangh Parivar, "Let the people of the Sangha Parivar come and expound that Tippu was a turncoat and we will prove that he was a great patriot". They asserted, "As long as communalists go on creating communal anxiety among the people, also our efforts to refute them would always be on". They called on the people to continue the struggle against the Hindu fascists till fascism was uprooted completely.

A colourful cultural programme was performed during the meeting. A street play was performed with the kernel of refuting the arguments of the Sangh Parivar.

The tremendous success of this rally and public meeting and its impact on the political arena of the state has further relegated the communal fascists to the dustbin. But it is not the end. They will either trace out another issue or create a new one to impart their communal frenzy. That is their trait. In accordance with that, we too have to prepare ourselves to resist it. As they employ different methods, we too should do so to defeat it. We should keep on the resistance till it disappears completely. We should plant this germinated seed of anti fascism in the other states also. Let this new glow in the eyes of both the minority community and democratic sections of the state become the same elsewhere.




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