Published: 12th December 2019
How the BJP went from honouring Tipu's memory to clamouring for his ouster from textbooks in 8 years
Historians and educationists in Karnataka opine that the government should not interfere in academic perspectives and consider the report submitted by the Karnataka Text Book Society
While the Karnataka Text Book Society has finally submitted its report to the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT) with a recommendation to retain the chapters on Tipu Sultan in the school textbooks, the decision now squarely vested in the hands of the government. The Yediyurappa-led government still has the power to include or drop chapters from the curriculum, the report from academics notwithstanding. What will they do next?
When the BJP was proud of Tipu a decade ago
Educationists and historians are firmly backing Tipu to stay. In the textbooks, if not in people's memories. People like Nanjeraj Urs, a historian from Mysuru who has been researching Tipu Sultan and will be releasing a book on the emperor of yore soon, believes that the government should not interfere in history or academics. Narrating an incident that happened when the BJP was in power in Karnataka in 2012-2013, he said, "When Jagadish Shettar was the chief minister of the state, a book called Tipu Sultan - a Crusader for Change was written by Dr B Sheik Ali and printed by the Karnataka Government to commemorate the 150th year of the Indian Freedom Struggle of 1857. You will be surprised that the former CM himself wrote an appreciation letter to the author and Secretary of Kannada and Culture and Chief Editor, Karnataka Gazetteer Department for collecting information, creating beautiful illustrations and bringing out this book."
He went on to explain how the government fell and the issue quickly changed colour, "While Shettar was about to release this book, his government did not survive. Later, Siddaramaiah was elected as the CM of Karnataka and he had to release this book and took the credit. Today, the same BJP politicians are asking us to remove chapters on Tipu Sultan. This is disappointing and not to be expected of them. When Tipu ruled the state of Mysore, it was economically and socially strong. Why do they comment on his rule and policies that were formed decades ago depending on the situation in his state?"
Former CM Siddaramaiah posted this picture on his twitter account a few months ago criticising the present BJP government in Karnataka who wore a costume of Tipu Sultan during Tipu Jayanthi (Pic: Twitter)
Leave politics out of academics
Similar sentiments are echoed by Mahesh Chandra Guru, a former professor from the Mysore University, who believes that the government has no place making these kinds of calls, "They don't have the competence to go against the suggestions given by experts who command respect for academic excellence. The mediocre politicians should not sit on the driver's seat and do injustice to the history of the country. Today, they may get a lot of satisfaction by doing this but people will soon understand and will teach them a lesson politically or otherwise," he said.
Guru contends that textbooks ought to be left to academics and academics alone. He explained, "The chapters on Tipu Sultan can be added in the school textbooks on the basis of academic considerations rather than political compulsions. The expert committee has given the right report to the government stating that the contents on Tipu are neither objectionable nor uncalled for. They have considered it objectively and suggested that no changes or modifications should be made with due respect to the truth and subject matter."
The present Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa wore a costume of Tipu Sultan when he became the CM in Karnataka for the first time in 2007 (Pic; Twitter)
Are they qualified to judge Tipu's value?
Agreeing with him is D Shashi Kumar, General Secretary, Associated Management of English Medium Schools, Karnataka, who has welcomed the decision of the Karnataka Text Book Society. He said, "As an educationist, I welcome this decision but the government should not interfere or influence this report. Otherwise, there is no purpose behind having the Karnataka Text Book Society or making them research this for months together. The state government should not get involved in imbibing hatred in the minds of youngsters and children. We want the government to keep the chapters on Tipu Sultan as they are and not remove them."
Why leave the other despots in the textbooks?
Lambasting the government's duplicity, he went as far as to say that there were other more vicious rulers who still enjoyed space in textbooks. Urs said, "If they would like to remove the content of Tipu Sultan, then they should remove the content about King Ashoka who killed thousands of people in the Kalinga war. He should not be glorified in textbooks. Similarly, I don't consider Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter because he wanted to throw the British out of Mysuru. Even Rani Chennamma of Kittur or Manikarnika, Queen of Jhansi never fought for the freedom of the country. They only fought for the freedom of their states. The actual fight for the freedom of our country began with Mahatma Gandhi."
Responding to claims that he had eroded a Hanuman temple to build a mosque, Urs added, "People say he destroyed the Hanuman temple which was located near the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangapatna. Every historian has made a note of this. The Tipu army needed a watchtower to safeguard their kingdom from enemies. That is why they built a masjid which was used as a watchtower for the kingdom. Even today, if you stand on this watchtower, you can see the terrain till Malavalli. However, he ensured that they did reestablish the statue of Hanuman in some other place."