Home India How BJP Turned ‘Tiger of Mysore’ into Hate Figure to Buck Anti-Incumbency

How BJP Turned ‘Tiger of Mysore’ into Hate Figure to Buck Anti-Incumbency

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How BJP Turned ‘Tiger of Mysore’ into Hate Figure to Buck Anti-Incumbency

Kavya Dubey

Tipu Sultan is known for giving the colonial British a fierce fight when they eyed his territory. But lately, he has been placed under the spotlight by way of propagating extreme nationalist views.

Setting aside the Tiger of Mysore’s military accomplishments and administrative acumen, a particular chapter from 1788 shows Tipu Sultan in a less than heroic light, when he issued a social reform proclamation to the Nairs of Malabar.

This was met with great resentment and eventually, the Hindus of Malabar rose in rebellion. As matters escalated, about 30,000 Brahmins fled to Travancore.

The people from Karnataka’s Kodagu region (Coorg) had reservations over the massacre of Kodava community members by Tipu Sultan, but the bitterness never came out as a public mood – unlike today.

Fast forward to present times, in October 2017, when Anant Kumar Hegde refused to attend Tipu Sultan Jayanti in Karnataka, it led to a political stir and raked up discussions about the celebrated ruler of Mysore and his cultural orientation.

Pegging his dissent on the claim that Tipu Sultan was “against Kannada language and was anti-Hindu,” he threatened to obstruct celebrations in Uttara Kannada district the previous year, and was subsequently arrested.

The BJP in Karnataka has been opposing the Tipu Jayanti celebrations, and criticises the state government’s decision to celebrate the day calling it an antic for “minority appeasement”.

In the recent past, shortly after Karnataka BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel made the contentious remark that supporters and descendents of Tipu Sultan should be driven out of the state and only those worshipping Lord Ram and Hanuman should be allowed to stay, the statement expectedly spiralled into a political duel.

While Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed his admiration for Tipu Sultan, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi went a step further and challenged the BJP to arrest him for admiring the Mysore king.

Siddaramaiah also pointed out that Hedge could have simply turned down the invite instead of kicking up a commotion.

However, this is not the first time that the Tiger of Mysore has polarised Karnataka.

When the Congress was in power, the state government had organised celebrations for Tipu Sultan Jayanti in the state secretariat. At this time, late actor-writer Girish Karnad called Tipu Sultan “a freedom fighter” and expressed his thoughts about naming Bengaluru airport after him.

The Jnanpith awardee compared him to Chhatrapati Shivaji, and stated that had Tipu Sultan been Hindu, he “would have been honoured just like Shivaji” (as with the international airport in Mumbai named after him).

It was in 2017 that Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde stirred a controversy afresh after he asked to not be invited for the programmes for Tipu Sultan Jayanti.

In a letter to the Karnataka Secretariat and Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner, the Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship categorically asked to be excluded from the list of invitees for the Tipu Jayanti event which will be held on November 10.

He expressed in a tweet: “(I have) conveyed (to) Karnataka government not to invite me to shameful event of glorifying a person known as brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist.”

A young face of Hindutva, Anant Kumar Hegde is a five-time BJP Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time at age 27, when he defeated sitting Congress MP Margaret Alva. He has not lost an election since.

He served the government in different member and ministerial capacities including parliamentary standing committees on finance, home affairs, human resource development, commerce, agriculture and external affairs.

Beginning as an RSS member and later being an ABVP activist, Hedge rose to prominence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

(Kavya Dubey may be reached at kavya.d@ians.in)

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