'Mass murderer' or 'freedom fighter'? Ram Nath Kovind's praise for Tipu Sultan reignites debate over Mysore ruler

The controversy sparked by the Congress-ruled Karnataka government's plan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan on 10 November was fuelled on Wednesday by President Ram Nath Kovind's comments praising the erstwhile Mysore ruler, inviting the ire of the BJP.

Several BJP legislators had rejected the state government's invitation, with senior party leaders like Union minister Anantkumar Hegde calling the event "shameful".

According to MoneyControl, BJP MLA Ashwanth Narayan said, "Tipu as a ruler, has killed thousands of people and done forcible conversions... It is a party stand. Government is trying to instigate and bring communal tension".

Kovind, while addressing a joint session of Karnataka Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council on the 60th anniversary of Vidhan Soudha on Wednesday, hailed Tipu's sacrifice. He said, "Tipu Sultan died a historic death fighting the British. He also pioneered the use of Mysore rockets in warfare." Congress members thumped the desks in appreciation as the President mentioned Tipu's name, much to the embarrassment of the BJP members present in the Assembly. The controversy Kovind's comments, that differ from the ruling BJP's views, have reignited an issue that has been mired in controversy since 2015, when the Congress-led government in Karnataka decided to celebrate for the first time, the birth anniversary of the controversial Tipu. As news of the celebrations had spread, riots broke out all over the state, leading to violent clashes resulting in the death of two people.

Now, the BJP has again accused Congress of using the Tipu Jayanti celebration for political gains before the Assembly election slated in May 2018, the report added.

Karnataka's home minister Ramalinga Reddy said, "Any MLA or MP will be invited to an event happening in his or her constituency. It is a protocol, and has been done earlier and will be continued in future too… To attend Tipu Jayanti or not is up to Hegde."

Who really was Tipu Sultan? Usurper or saviour? Getty Images/File photo

Who really was Tipu Sultan? Usurper or saviour? Getty Images/File photo

As per the BJP, the Siddaramaiah-led state government is using the Tipu Jayanti celebrations to gain political mileage before the Assembly elections that are due in May 2018.

While the BJP has unequivocally stated that Tipu was an 'anti-Hindu and anti-Kannada' ruler, who was responsible for the killing of Hindus and Christians, the Congress has stayed firm in stating that he was a freedom fighter, who fought against the Britishers.

As per The Indian Express, "Opposing historical narratives have frequently been used as ammunition in political battles — a tendency that has quickened alongside calls for 'rewriting' Indian history in a 'nationalist' mould."

"The disagreement over Tipu is old and has been brought alive every few years by political provocation. In much of India, history is seen through an ethnic, communal, regional or religious lens. As both BJP and Congress push their political agendas aggressively as the election approaches, the controversy will likely be raked up repeatedly," the report adds.

The fact that Kovind differed from the BJP's stand and hailed Tipu as a hero might draw flak from the party, given that they nominated him for the president's post. It has surely reignited a long-standing debate: Who really was Tipu? Usurper or saviour of Mysuru?

Updated Date: Oct 26, 2017 18:41 PM

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