Ignominious Indian habit of exhuming and autopsying history
By Dr George Jacob
Kochi: Before the controversy over Taj Mahal, caused by BJP ‘leaders’ Sangeeth Som and Vinay Katiyar, could die down, Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Anant Kumar Hegde, set off another.
Karnataka has observed the birth anniversary of Tipu Siltan, as Tipu Jayanti, for long. However, the BJP in the southern Indian state opposes this practice, saying it is “an act of Muslim appeasement by the ruling Congress Party, in view of the legislative assembly elections scheduled for 2018.
Earlier, Hegde had called the anniversary “a shameful event of glorifying a person known as brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist.” He had also demanded his name be removed from the invitation of the state’s Tipu Jayanti celebrations. Big deal; as if Tipu Sultan would care!
Who was this Tipu Sultan, by the way, who merits his birthday to be celebrated by an entire state?
Tipu Sultan, also known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ was a ruler of the kingdom of Mysore. He introduced a number of administrative innovations viz: coinage of a new Mauludilunisolar calendar, and a new land revenue system that initiated the growth of the Mysore silk industry. He expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets, and is considered the pioneer in the use of rocket artillery, which he put to good use against the advances of the British forces and their allies during the Anglo-Mysore wars, including the battle of Pollilur and siege of Seringapatam.
Tipu Sultan also embarked on an ambitious economic development program that established Mysore as a major economic power, with some of the world’s highest real wages and living standards in the late 18th century. He was also involved in conflicts with neighbors, including the Maratha-Mysore war, where he defeated the Maratha Empire. Marathas later ransacked Hindu temples in his kingdom such as Sringeri Sharada Peetham, which Tipu Sultan rebuilt.
Tipu Sultan, whose image in India is complex and controversial, is recognized by many as one of the few South Indian kings(along with Hyder Ali and kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja) to have provided stiff resistance to British imperialism. Historians of the Indian nationalist tradition have venerated Tipu as ‘a national hero, a secular ruler and freedom fighter.’ He has also been praised for his technological and military innovations and prowess, and for economic reforms that substantially improved the incomes and living standards of Mysoreans.
Why then shouldn’t the Kannadigas celebrate their erstwhile king’s birthday?
They have every right to. And it surely seems justified too. In fact, India needs more Tipu Sultans:
• To redeem her economy that has been derailed due to two disastrous policies of the BJP-led NDA like demonetization and the GST, which the central government is evidently attempting to undo and wriggle out of!
• To modernize the country’s weapons in her armamentarium to neutralize the terrorists sneaking into the nation across the porous Indo-Pak border, to upset peace and safety of Indians within India. The Indian policemen must be armed with smarter ‘weapons’ than lathis and plastic chairs, which were available to protect themselves from a marauding Ajmal Kasab at the Chitrapati Shivaji terminus during the 26/11 mayhem in Mumbai!
• To take head-on, rather, win freedom from the enemies within-enemies that seek to tear asunder the secular fabric of the nation through mischievous mechanizations viz; religious conversion, love jihad, religious extremism, and blatant hatred for a fellow Indian just because he/she belongs to another religion, or caste. Enemies who mindlessly and rather wantonly lynch and kill people for consuming food of their choice.
• To take on the sex-hungry monsters that stalk every nook and corner of the nation, including the metropolis, to pounce on women and girl children unleashing their sexual prowess on hapless and physically less-equipped victims.
The Tipu Sultan controversy was blown out of proportion, and his detractors were left red-faced when president Ram Nath Kovind referred to the Mysore king of yesteryears as a ‘hero.’ The president, while addressing a joint session of the Karnataka Assembly, the Vidhana Soudha, on the occasion of its diamond jubilee, said ‘Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British.’ He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore Rockets in warfare’, he added. This had the anti-Tipu crusaders robe themselves in ash cloth like in the Old Testament times!
If Tipu Sultan is indeed a traitor, can there be a greater traitor than Nathuram Godse, the assassin of the Father of the Nation? Why is Godse being eulogized by the very people who throw stones at Tipu Sultan? It must be because Godse is not Muslim! In fact, there have been attempts in the past to make a ‘hero’ out of Godse by the right-wing forces.
Thanks to the controversies created out of Taj Mahal, and more recently, Tipu Sultan, a supposedly mature democracy like India seems to have adopted an absolutely wasteful and vain exercise to exhume history and autopsy it, much to the consternation of her citizens. The irrelevant exercise has had Indians hang their heads in shame as citizens of a progressive and modern nation.
Why are the BJP-led rightist forces dwelling on the irrelevant? Why are they tending to look back at history, which seems to haunt them? Why are skeletons being pulled out from mausoleums built decades ago?
Is it because of their lack of confidence in themselves in the India of today? Or, looking further ahead, does the future seem less promising to them, that they tend to dwell in the past?
It seems to be none of those.
• It seems to be the nervousness created out of the failure of demonetization, the GST, and arm-twisting hapless citizens to link their Aadhaar cards to their bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, which have abruptly reduced Indians look suspicious within their own country. Suspicious like those terrorists that sneak into the country from not-so-friendly neighbors like Pakistan, or their mainland supporters! The above-said have been taken umbrage under as a tactic to distract people’s attention from a not-so-promising present.
• It also seems to be compulsions of the General Elections slated to be held in 2019, which increasingly seem to have gone a long way away from an expected walkthrough, and a foregone conclusion of a landslide victory for the BJP-led NDA to a long and bitter battle against a rejuvenated Congress, whose ‘prince charming’, Rahul Gandhi seems to have suddenly grown out of his toddler days.
• Or is it the glaring Islamophobia which seems to eat into the BJP and its cronies? One wonders if a mess would have been created by the rightists if the person involved in the controversy was Kerala Varma Pazhazzi Raja and not Tipu Sultan! Somehow, the BJP-led forces seem to be scared of minorities, especially the Muslims. Anything Muslim seems to give them a nightmare, or to throw up a tantrum, like a kindergarten tiny tot over a chocolate!
• It could even be their uncertainty and insecurity of the present and plain dread of the future. Having tasted a trailblazing victory under Modi in the last general elections to place them on the seat of power in New Delhi, a drubbing at the hustings in future is something which they cannot, and will not take lying down. BJP seems to have taken for granted a walkthrough in every election in Independent India in future. They are drunk on the victory of the previous general elections. At least the hangover hasn’t left them yet.
What needs to be done by the BJP to have the Indians have their heads held high once again?
The party must learn
To address relevant issues, and not issues like people consuming beef, observance of the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan (born on 20 November 1750), existence of the iconic Taj, which is but a glorified mausoleum within the nation, and many such.
It must learn to address the more pressing issues of the present. Issues like people being killed and physically violated for consuming beef, an ailing economy, and attack on women and the girl children by apparently sex-starved men folk of the country, who do not think twice before attacking even the tourists. A group of men chased and attacked a Swiss couple on October 22, 2017 with sticks and stones in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra in the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, to be left wounded and bleeding on the wayside. Is this the India envisaged for the future? Has the BJP lost control? Has the baton of governance that instills pride and honor in Indians slipped out of the BJP-led NDA’s hands?
It must urgently learn to tame the loudmouths and its runaway sister concerns, especially the RSS, who seem to be governing the nation through proxy.
It must practice to master the art of believing in India of the present, and its history which forms the bedrock on which the nation is built on, and is very much a part of. Something which cannot be wished or washed away. It must cease from making a fuss out of some convenient part of history to serve its short-term goals.
Irrespective of the BJP, and its cronies, the Taj and Tipu Sultan would continue to remain etched in Indian history until time immemorial.