The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to reconsider its decision to cancel the birth anniversary celebrations of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom who fought British oppression, but declined to stay the order. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S R Krishna Kumar, issued the order while hearing a PIL challenging the government’s decision to cancel the November 10 Tipu Jayanti celebrations as a state event.
It directed the government to reconsider its decision in two months. “It should not look like the decision was taken arbitrarily,” the bench observed, adding that it felt the state took the decision without considering the reasons mentioned in the previous decisions to celebrate Tipu Jayanti.
The state government told the court that it had not banned private celebrations. Noting this, the court directed the government to provide protection to such celebrations and ensure peace.
Soon after coming to power in Karnataka, the BJP government had in July scrapped the celebration of Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary. The party had been opposing the annual event since it was started by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in 2015.
Recently, a BJP MLA from Kodagu had demanded removal of a lesson on Tipu Sultan from school textbooks, following which the government formed a committee to look into it and submit a report.
BJP and right-wing organisations have been strongly against Tipu Sultan, calling the erstwhile Mysore king a “religious bigot”.
Tipu Sultan was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort at Srirangapatna against the British forces.
Tipu Sultan, however, is a controversial figure in Kodagu district, as the Kodavas (Coorgis), a martial race, believe thousands of their men and women were seized and held captive during his occupation and subjected to torture, death and forcible conversion to Islam. He was also accused of execution of Mandyam Iyengars in the temple town of Melkote in Mandya district on Diwali, as they supported the then Maharaja of Mysuru.
However, the scale of such suppression is disputed by several historians, who see Tipu Sultan as a secular and modern ruler who took on the might of the British. A few Kannada outfits also call Tipu Sultan “anti-Kannada”, alleging that he had promoted Persian at the cost of the local language.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had also announced that the state government is trying to remove Tipu Sultan’s history lessons from textbooks in the state since his topic “must not find a place in textbooks. 101% we are not going to allow such things to happen.” The official Twitter handle of the BJP in Karnataka posted, “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.”