B S Yeddyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, on October 30, 2019, made a public announcement that Karnataka will be taking steps to remove Tipu Sultan from school textbooks. According to an Economic Times report, Yeddyurappa, in response to a question at a press meet said, “Yes. 100%. We are not going to allow anything about Tipu in textbooks.”
Tipu Sultan, an 18th century ruler of Mysuru, has been at the centre of heated debates in Karnataka for the last five years. However, none of these debates (at least, the ones that are echoing in the media) are taking place among historians or sociologists or in museums but between political parties- the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Following in the footsteps of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s goal to erase the Mughal and Islamic history, Karnataka’s BJP government has now decided to “remove” Tipu’s name from the history textbooks.
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Apart from the obvious communal motives behind this move and an effort of the RSS-BJP to distort history, there are strong reasons to look at it as a political game.
The former Congress government under the leadership of Siddaramaiah had instigated an uproar in the state by deciding to celebrate Tipu Jayanti every year. The Congress’s reason then was that Tipu was a freedom fighter and he deserves to be commemorated. If it is about reading and knowing the history of Tipu or of any historical figure, the sharper question to ask is, why has this commemoration become the most important concern for these political parties? The answer is to divert attention from the issues plaguing the state and the voices being raised against the government. The then Congress government was doing the same and was accused of “minority appeasement.”
Also read: Why Tipu Sultan? Historical Inaccuracy and Politics of Sentiment in Karnataka
However, what the current BJP government is set to do now is dangerous. It does not want the people to even read, learn or acknowledge a part of the history of the state. As a report in the Nanu Gauri journal rightly noted, this decision of the government will result in a permanent erasure of Tipu from the history of Karnataka. The danger lies in the larger project of the BJP in the country to rewrite history.
Home Minister Amit Shah had recently announced that the history of India must be rewritten and from an “Indian perspective.” We have to note here that by “Indian perspective”, Shah meant the perspective of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindutva forces. In the same speech, he also gave a glimpse of what this history would look like, by falsely claiming that, V D Savarkar was the one who recognised the 1857 revolt as the First War of Independence, which has been disputed by several historians.
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This would be their version of history – full of fantasies and imaginations and far from the scientific truth, without any evidence or worse, fake and planted evidence. Having said this, what is the BJP trying to do by initiating the removal of Tipu from school textbooks?
The answer to this question is simple: first, it is part of consolidating the Hindu vote bank by creating a false narrative that Tipu was an Islamic despot. Second, it is a much needed attempt to divert all the attention from the government’s failure to meet the needs of the flood affected regions in the state.
There is no other reason as to why the BJP would go behind Tipu Sultan, a ruler who died in the 18th century. The picture below throws light on the fact that Tipu Sultan is made into a political tool.
This is the image of Yeddyurappa in the head gear and with a sword, imitating Tipu Sultan. As The News Minute notes, it is not possible to say as to when was this photo taken. But as per sources, the picture was taken probably when Yeddyurappa, after splitting from the BJP had started his own political party called the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). The News Minute also noted that the picture was clicked after he paid his respects to Tipu’s Samadhi in Srirangapatna.
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One might argue that the picture was clicked when he was not with the BJP. However, that is not important. He is now in BJP and is the CM of the state, who is just seen saying yes to everything that the Modi-Shah-Bhagwat trio believes to be right.
The official Twitter handle of the BJP in Karnataka had tweeted, “By ending public celebrations of Tipu Jayanti, our CM has restored dignity to Kannadigas. As the next step, textbooks must be rewritten to portray the real Tipu Sultan to our children. They should be made aware of the Tyrant’s cruelty against Hindus & his anti Kannada rule.” As the bypolls are to be held on December 5 in the state, this seems like an age-old pitch of the BJP to attract the voters: create a false and communally informed victim narrative of the Hindus. Tipu, even though is noted to be a hero by most of the state, is not considered so by the people living in Mangalore, Kodagu and places in the Kerala-Karnataka border. There exists sufficient historical evidence to prove that he and his father Hyder Ali had invaded these places and converted people to Islam.
As a report in the Indian Express notes, “In modern times, the BJP has sought to harness this strand of Tipu’s personality to fulfil its political objectives. For the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, the allegedly anti-Hindu personality of Tipu presents an opportunity to push political conversation towards religious identities, and to force a polarisation.” In fact, the BJP’s campaign for the Assembly elections in 2018 had majorly focused on Tipu Sultan and had used Siddaramaiah's decision to celebrate Tipu Jayanti against the Congress to consolidate Hindu votes.
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