Indian secularism is rotten to the core. We all knew that already. But in recent years, there has not existed a more perfect example of votebank politics than the Tipu Jayanthi celebrations in Karnataka.
First let us talk about the history of Tipu Sultan. He was an important ruler of Mysore region, one who allied with French colonists against British colonists. If that is an example of fighting for “freedom of India”, so be it.
Now that Tipu Sultan has become an issue in the politics of Karnataka, “eminent” historians have doubtless taken the side of the hand that has fed them generously for seventy years. There are some arguments that they have repeated over and over again and I wish to point them out.
First, they say that Tipu Sultan should be judged in the context of the times he lived in and not in the context of modern times. They say that like almost all rulers in the eighteenth century, he was an autocrat, hungry for power, hungry to expand his power and ruthless in crushing rebellions.
In itself, that’s not an unfair argument. However, this raises the question of why eminent historians and even more eminent journalists never play by the same rules when judging say Manu Smriti. Isn’t Manu Smriti a two thousand year old text, at the very least? How come no historian speaks out on the foolishness of Manu Smriti being burned on a daily basis by modern leftists to protest views that were written 2000 years ago?
Apart from demanding that Tipu Sultan be judged by the values of 18th century and Manu be judged by the standards of postmodern feminism, historians and journalists have recently made it their life’s mission to point out that while Tipu broke some temples, he also patronized others.
The point they try to make is that both of these actions were guided by Tipu’s single aim of consolidating his power, rather than considerations of Hindu vs Muslim.
Again, this argument would hold water only if those advancing it could give examples of Hindu rulers, the Marathas for example, destroying mosques in order to consolidate their power.
Kings worldwide have attacked places of other faiths in order to establish their power. But Maratha kings didn’t destroy mosques. Eminent liberals wanted Tipu Sultan to be judged by the morals of 18th century India and so I did just that.
So, liberals have one of two choices : either Tipu Sultan was a brutal bigot or Hindus of India stand out in world history in being more enlightened than their Muslim or Christian counterparts. Which one is it?
But then Tipu Jayanthi was never about Tipu Sultan at all. As I said before, Tipu Jayanthi celebrations reflect everything that is rotten about Indian secularism.
Did Muslims of Karnataka ask for Tipu Jayanthi celebrations? In fact, Islam is somewhat uncomfortable observing birthdays altogether. Few years ago, the Deoband issued a fatwa against celebrating even the birthday of Prophet Mohammad. The Saudis, who observe the most radical and conservative version of Sunni Islam, deliberately do not have a holiday on the Prophet’s birthday.
Muslims didn’t ask for this. There is one and exactly one entity that should get 100% of the blame for the current fracas over Tipu Jayanthi : the Congress Party.
This is why Tipu Jayanthi reflects Indian secularism at its rotten worst : the Congress Party of Smt. Sonia Gandhi pretends to “give” something of absolutely no value to Muslims, something the Muslims never asked for and likely never wanted.
But by pretending to “give” something to Muslims, Congress Party created a wedge issue where absolutely nothing existed.
Now, everyone in Karnataka is being forced to take a side on an issue they never cared about.
This has been the core of Congress politics of the last sixty years. Dividing the country in every which way possible. In Gujarat 2017 it is the Patidar Patels. In Gujarat of 2012, the Congress was stoking Leuva Patel “anger”. Earlier this year, the Congress and its fellow travelers were busy fanning Jat “anger”. This was a deviation from their previous plan of exploiting Brahmin “anger” against our Prime Minister, who is from an OBC community. And we all know who is behind Maratha “anger” in Maharashtra.
The Congress party’s newest initiative in dividing the people is to promise the Lingayats of Karnataka the status of a separate religion distinct from Hindus.
Rather than copy pasting the British policy of divide and rule, imagine how much good the Congress could have done for this nation had they cared about the people even once during their six decades of power. Now that they are out of power, the Congress is committed to playing this card even more viciously. And they will keep playing it till they can ride their way back to the PM’s residence, no matter in how many pieces that leaves our country.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.