Until a decade or two ago, it would have been unthinkable that a celebration such as Tipu Sultan Jayanti would be the subject of violent protests or for that matter even mild objections. Generations of school children in Karnataka grew up learning that Tipu was a great nationalist hero who not only valiantly fought the British colonisers but was a just and secular ruler, most generous towards his Hindu subjects, making endowments to their religious places. Plays and books, too numerous to count, have been written in praise of Tipu, whose renown spread far beyond Karnataka’s borders. Mention of Karnataka as the place of one’s origin in faraway towns led occasionally to praise for Tipu, one of the greatest heroes the state can boast of.
Should Hindutva accounts – no doubt borrowed from mischievous British ones – of Tipu’s attitude towards Hindus are to be believed, especially of alleged killings of those who did not convert to Islam, the communal complexion of Karnataka and Kerala would have been vastly different. But obviously, Hindu fanatics and supremacists would prefer not to let logic get in the way of their hate trip.
Also, until recent decades, it would have been quite unthinkable that any Hindu in Karnataka would lay claim to the revered shrine of the Sufi saint, Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Dargah, in Chikmagalur district.
Baba Budan Giri is a mini southern Indian version of Ajmer Shareef, the highly revered Dargah of Ghareeb Nawaz Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti – a pilgrimage centre for people of all faiths. And even for those of no faiths: Sufi saints, Sufi philosophy and Sufi music having such compelling humanistic quality. And yet, as Hindutva supremacists have been growing in size and strength in the state, their terror outfits have done so too, raising controversies over people and places that had long been universally revered.
Plus, until a couple of decades ago the Hindutva camp – the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh and its current manifestation, Bharatiya Janata Party – had little legislative representation in Karnataka. This is a land where not only Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali but many other people of the Muslim faith have been held in high esteem. And they include a celebrated son of the Karnataka soil, Dewan Mirza Ismail – one of the state’s greatest Dewans who was, incidentally, appointed by a Hindu Maharaja, underlining the syncretic tradition of Karnataka – and benevolent businessman Enayatullah Mehkri (often misspelt as Mekhri), after whom a very busy junction on the road to the airport in Bangalore is named.
Over the past couple of days, many writers have been pointing out that Tipu Sultan’s Dewan, Purnaiya, was a Hindu as were several other ministers and generals. A fascinating account by a historian, Dr Jyotsna Kamat, focusing on education in Karnataka – and it is definitely worth a quick perusal at the very least – offers a long list of illustrious rulers who contributed immensely to education in the state.
BIn some ways, Karnataka rather strangely reflects what has been happening in the nation in terms of ideological (mis)developments. Thanks to opportunism among both the Sangh camp and that of a former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, BJP tasted power several years ago and has not looked back.
BJP leader in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa became chief minister in 2007 and presided over so corrupt an administration that the party high command was alarmed and got him replaced. But during the BJP rule in the state, hundreds of crores of rupees got diverted to Sangh Parivar outfits such as the RSS and the Rashtrotthana Parishath and to Hindu religious Matths.
A communalised police looked the other way as Hindu terror outfits began to stage attacks on women and the minorities in parts of the state. Ever since, dozens of Muslim youths’ lives have been destroyed as they have been implicated in false cases of terrorism and locked away. In one high profile instance right in Bangalore, three bright young Muslims got incarcerated for months while the press ate out of the bizarre police handouts until the National Investigation Agency found the three had no case to answer and let them go.
The damage to their careers had been done. No apology and no compensation for the physical and psychological trauma to them and their parents and relatives. Hindu terrorists go mostly scot free, meanwhile.
Karnataka’s current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is arguably the most aurally challenged of politicians in India. The man and his Congress party seem to be unwilling to hear any advice as regards the rights of the under-privileged: the Dalits, minorities, other indigent peoples such as a lot of bus commuters, manual scavengers and street vendors, to mention only a few. It may be that the CM is an agnostic leaning towards secularism, several liberal minded people having lapped up his recent comment about his freedom to consume beef and his decision to hold the Tipu Sultan Jayanti. But he has failed to act against communal elements or to rein in the communalised police force.
It is highly unfortunate that a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Madikeri in Coorg succumbed to injuries he sustained falling from a wall while fleeing police action to quell a clash between two unruly mobs.
No one, not even those who harbour hatred towards other communities ought to die premature deaths. The Congress administration in Karnataka is incapable of quelling rising Hindutva supremacist communalism and terrorism. The state desperately needs a third force: A major homework for those who want to see a Karnataka – and an India – that is peaceful, tolerant and inclusive, one that can go back to celebrating with little fuss the memory of the great nationalist and internationalist, Tipu Sultan.