Tipu Jayanti: Just another day in ‘secular’ India

In the secular state of India, it is perfectly acceptable for intellectuals and political parties to demonize entire Hindu castes for sins that were committed by their ancestors when they were not even alive and themselves had absolutely no part in and yet, celebrate tyrants who took intense pleasure in forcibly converting Hindus to Islam.

“Don’t you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam? I am determined to march against that cursed Raman Nair (Rajah of Travancore) very soon. Since I am overjoyed at the prospect of converting him and his subjects to Islam, I have happily abandoned the idea of going back to Srirangapatanam now.”

These were the words of Tipu Sultan spoken to the Governor of Bekal (near Kasaragod) in a letter in 1790. This is the man whose birth anniversary the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka is hell-bent on celebrating.

Tipu’s atrocities aren’t limited to only that of course. He had conquered Kodagu through treachery after being unable to defeat them Kodavas in the field of battle. Beleaguered by the guerrilla warfare tactics employed by the Hindus to thwart his attacks, Tipu is said to have proclaimed, “If you ever dare to ambush my men again, I will honour every one of you with Islam”. Eventually, Tipu defeated the Kodavas after making an offer of friendship. When the Hindus of Kodagu accepted the offer of friendship and welcomed him to their land, the treacherous Sultan attacked them when they were most vulnerable. What followed was a complete rout. Hundreds and thousands were captured and forced to either convert to Islam or were tortured and put to death.

Tipu himself stated in another letter, “We proceeded with the utmost speed, and, at once, made prisoners of 40,000 occasion-seeking and sedition-exciting Coorgis, who alarmed at the approach of our victorious army, had slunk into woods, and concealed themselves in lofty mountains, inaccessible even to birds. Then carrying them away from their native country, we raised them to the honour of Islam, and incorporated them into our Ahmedy corps.”

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In 1788, in a letter to Abdul Kadir, Tipu says, “Over 12,000 Hindus were ‘honoured’ with Islam. There were many Namboodiris (Brahmins) among them. This achievement should be widely publicised among the Hindus. There the local Hindus should be brought before you and then converted to Islam. No Namboodiri (Brahmin) should be spared. Also, they should be confined there till the dress materials sent for them, reach you.”

In another letter in 1790 to Syed Abdul Dulai, the tyrant asserts, “With the grace of Prophet Muhammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin State. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.”

There have been many other recorded instances where Tipu had committed severe atrocities against Hindus. The Mysore Gazetteer asserts that over 8000 Hindu Temples were destroyed across South India by Tipu and his army. In his article, “Tipu Sultan: As known in Kerala”, Ravi Verma mentions several Temples which were destroyed by Tipu. Some of them were Triprangot, Thrichembaram, Thirunavaya, Thiruvannoor, Calicut Thali, Hemambika Temple, the Jain Temple in Palghat, Mammiyur, Parambatali, Venkitangu, Pemmayanadu, Tiruvanjikulam, Terumanam, Vadakhumnnathan Temple of Trichur, Belur Siva Temple, Shri Veliyanattukava, Varakkal, Puthu, Govindapuram, Keraladhiswara, Trikkandiyur, Sukapuram, Maranehei Temple of Aaalvancheiri Tambrakkal, Vengara Temple of Aranadu, Tikulam, Ramanathakra, Azhinjalam Indiannur, Mannur Narayan Kanniar and Vadukunda Siva Temple of Madai.

One especially brutal description of Tipu’s cruelty is mentioned by the famous traveller and historian, Fra Bartolomaco, in his well-known book, Voyage to East India. A verbatim description of events by a Christian victim in the book is as follows:

“First a corps of 30,000 barbarians who butchered everybody on the way, followed by the Field-Gun Unit under the French Commander, M. Lally. Tipu Sultan was riding on an elephant behind which another army of 30,000 soldiers followed. Most of the men and women were hanged in Calicut. First mothers were hanged with children tied to the necks of their mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move about till the bodies of the helpless victims were tom to pieces.

Temples and Churches were ordered to be burnt, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Muhammadans and similarly their men were forced to marry Muhammadan women. Those Christians who refused to be ‘honoured’ with Islam, were ordered to be killed by hanging then and there. The above version of the atrocities was obtained from the sorrowful narration by the victims who escaped from Tipu’s army and reached Varapuzha (near Alwaye) which is the centre of Carmichael Christian Mission. I myself helped many victims to cross the Varapuzha river by boats” (Cited in Cochin History by K.P. Padmanabha Menon, p. 573).

Tipu Sultan committed the most despicable of atrocities against Hindus, and Christians as well. And yet, it appears acceptance of Tipu Sultan as a hero has become another litmus test for secularism in India after Aurangzeb. One is forced to wonder, why is it that the Indian secular state is so desperate to lionize tyrants and whitewash the crimes of mass murderers in order to feel good about its secularism?

Meanwhile, Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde has condemned the decision of the state government’s decision to celebrate Tipu Sultan’s birthday and has made it clear that he will not appreciate an invitation to the event.

An argument that is often provided in defence of Tipu is that he fought against the British. It seems pretty ridiculous that one has to say it so explicitly but not everyone who fought the British was a saint or worthy of celebration. Adolf Hitler fought the British as well, that for sure doesn’t make him worthy of being celebrated by anyone. Jinnah was against the British as well and only a person with the IQ of a 2-year-old baboon will make the argument that Indians should celebrate his legacy as well. More importantly, Tipu fought to retain his own Empire, neither his values are not consistent with our own nor were his motives honourable enough to garner appreciation. It’s an indictment of our secular state that we choose to celebrate tyrants whose primary legacy is the oppression of Hindus.

The predominant belief that dominates the worldview of the Indian intellectual elites is that India began from a blank slate on the 15th of August, 1947, severing every tie with its Hindu past. That is the primary reason why when we look around today, Hindu traditions are under attack on every front, our festivals are under attack while political parties, especially one that claims to have a Janeudhari Hindu as its President, feel completely at ease celebrating tyrants who oppressed Hindus. That is primarily due to the nature of our constitution that refuses to recognize the exclusive Hindu nature of India.

In the secular state of India, it is perfectly acceptable for intellectuals and political parties to demonize entire Hindu castes for sins that were committed by their ancestors when they were not even alive and themselves had absolutely no part in and yet, celebrate tyrants who took intense pleasure in forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. People are being arrested for celebrating Diwali in the manner they have for years and yet, it is completely acceptable to celebrate bigots. The sheer duplicity of the secular state is second to none.

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