The controversy surrounding the celebration of Tipu Sultan Jayanti in Karnataka has raked up the old demand of autonomy for Codavas. NU Nachappa, the Codava National Council (CNC) president, told Firspost that "since this government is glorifying Tipu Sultan, who had massacred thousands of my tribesmen at Devatparamb, the government becomes the natural enemy of the Codavas".
"If the government persists on holding Tipu Jayanti, the CNC would ask it to give Kodagu a separate entity on the lines of a hill council or autonomous area," he said.
About 4,000 policemen have been deployed across Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts. Adequate security measures have been taken in Bengaluru as well, said city police commissioner T Suneel Kumar. He said the situation has remained peaceful in Bangalore but the police are keeping an eye on those who might want to create mischief.
In response to Tipu Jayanti Virodhi Samiti's call for a shutdown, shops, commercial complexes, banks, schools and colleges remained closed in Kodagu district. Government offices, however, worked with skeletal staff. Since autorickshaws, private buses and jeeps were off the road in both urban and rural pockets, life came to a standstill. Those who had arrived at Kodagu to enjoy the weekend had to stay put in homestays. Following indications of trouble from the protesters, the district administration enforced Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits a gathering of more than five people, among other things. Superintendent of Police P Rajendra Prasad said that 292 persons were taken into custody under the Karnataka Police Act. He said 112 arrests were made in Somwarpet, 102 in Madikeri, 48 in Kushalnagar and 30 in Virajpet.
Last year, a local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) member and another youth were killed in the same district in the violence that erupted over celebrating Tipu's birth anniversary. Prohibitory orders were clamped and additional reinforcements were sent to the area to bring the situation under control.
Chief guests criticise event
The state government-led celebrations in Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada took a strange turn of events when the chief guests themselves unleashed a tirade against the government and Tipu Sultan.
At Virajpet in Kodagu, MLA KG Bopaiah of the BJP came down heavily on the Siddaramaiah government. At Madikeri, MLC Sunil Subramani and MLA Appacchu Ranjan of the BJP said that Tipu had massacred thousands of valiant Codava soldiers by deceit when he could not win over them with a fair warfare. Both of them courted arrest after the event. In Somawarpet taluk, protests were held under the leadership of taluk panchayat vice-president Abhimanyu Kumar.
In Mangaluru, none of the BJP party workers or leaders showed up for the celebrations. Sources said the partymen here stayed away from trouble owing to its Parivarthana Rally, which arrives here on Saturday. If things were to go out of hand, the district administration would have clamped Section 144, "causing the rally to fail". BJP MP Nalin Kumar Kateel told Firstpost that organisers must consider themselves lucky he did not show up, else they would have faced a big embarrassment.
In Udupi, officials were not able to spell out reasons behind the absence of district in-charge minister Pramod Madhwaraj. Former BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat and BJP district unit president Mattar Rathnakar Hegde created a ruckus at the event and later courted arrest. More than 80 persons were arrested for "obstructing official programme", said district police chief Sanjiv Patil.
Not against Muslims, says BJP
Members of Bajrang Dal, VHP and BJP held protests outside the Zilla Panchayat office in Urva. They contended that Tipu Sultan had demolished many temples in his kingdom and tormented Hindus. They said the Congress government was trying to create an icon for Muslims in the state and the country.
BJP state general secretary CT Ravi said, "We will fight tooth and nail if the government tries to make a hero out of Tipu Sultan. The history knows him as a marauder and a Muslim fundamentalist. While we are not against Muslims or any other minorities, we strongly oppose Tipu Sultan as an icon of minorities. On the same platform, we are ready to back the government if they want to celebrate the anniversary for Shishunala Sharifa, the reformer saint, or former President APJ Abdul Kalam.”
The former head of Mangaluru University’s history department, Surendra Rao, took a more balanced view of the events. "History says that Tipu had fought three wars with the British. The first Anglo-Mysore war was fought by his father, Hyder Ali. The second war was begun by Ali but completed by Tipu. The third and the fourth Anglo-Mysore wars were entirely fought by Tipu. History also states that Tipu took a large number of people of the Hindu and Christian community captive, but the veracity of these numbers and the brutality is subject to verification," Rao said.
Bengaluru Police cautious
The Bengaluru Police too laid restrictive orders on all kinds of public processions and did not grant permission for protests planned by the opposition and certain members of the Kodagu community. City police commissioner informed that more than 13,000 policemen and Garud Commando Force were deployed across the city, and nearly 30 platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) and 20 platoons of the City Armed Reserve (CAR) were posted in "sensitive areas".
Besides, the state decided to move the official celebration to Friday evening, keeping in mind the namaz timings of the Muslim community. Sources revealed that the official celebration was arranged to be held in the Vidhana Soudha to ensure restricted entry and better security during the event. The event, to be held at 5.30 pm, is slated to be attended by the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
M Raghuram is a Mangaluru based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
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