Published: 31st October 2019
Tipu, the original Communist? Why academics believe future generations must study about Tipu Sultan
Tipu Sultan was the first person to introduce land reforms in India before independence which was higly opposed by others
After opposing the celebration of Tipu Jayanthi in Karnataka and politicising the issue, the BJP government in Karnataka is planning to eliminate the chapters on Tipu Sultan from school textbooks. While Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa stated that he does not consider Tipu as a freedom fighter, Madikeri MLA Appachu Ranjan has gone one step ahead by writing a letter to the Karnataka Textbook Society to eliminate all the content and chapters on Tipu Sultan from textbooks.
In the letter that is available with Edex, Ranjan states, "One should study history properly to learn about Tipu Sultan and stop glorifying him in history textbooks. Tipu fought wars against the English men to expand his kingdom and religion and not for the sake of gaining freedom for India. Therefore, he must not be placed under the category of freedom fighters. At a time when the English were ruling India, some parts were occupied by the French Army. Tipu joined hands with the French and supported them by sending his army to fight wars with them. One can understand from this that Tipu was not a freedom fighter. But he converted many people belonging to the Hindu religion to Islam. And those who opposed this were betrayed and killed. He was just a king who wanted to expand his empire for which he sought support from the French army. He was a womaniser and a large number of women from Kodava community were forcefully brought to his kingdom and treated badly."
What does the textbook really say?
In Karnataka's Class VII Social Sciences textbook Part 1, Both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan's rule and their achievements have been included in the chapter called Wodeyars of Mysuru. Whether it is in the Achievements of Hyder Ali or Tipu Sultan, the content does not mention them as 'Freedom Fighters'. The text in the book highlights the wars they fought against the British. However, it is mentioned that Tipu sanctioned grants to many Hindu temples and he gave gifts to Shringeri Math. He is also credited with having brought many changes in the field of sericulture and helped farmers by giving loans which could be repaid in easy instalments.
Not only the class VII but even the class X students also study about Tipu Sultan in a chapter called Opposition to British Rule in Karnataka. As mentioned earlier, there is no use of the word 'freedom fighter' in this chapter too except for the wars they fought. The chapter highlights the kind of technology the duo used during wars and how they strengthened the economy. In a box titled You know this: the textbook committee mentions - Among all the attempts made during the 18th century to stop the British, the efforts of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan stand out due to many aspects. They knew that they could not defeat the British with their traditional arms. Hence, they modernised their army. The soldiers of the Mysore Army were capable of using modern weapons and do drills like the European armies. Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan used rockets during the war for the first time in India. Apart from modern weapons, both of them knew that they needed funds in their treasury for the battles. Hyder Ali had witnessed many Nawabs going bankrupt while waging war against the British. So, both of them took measures to strengthen their economic system by entering into various agreements and trade pacts. They nationalized the Tobacco and Sandalwood. They invited French experts to improve the quality of traditional artefacts of Mysore to gain better market share at international markets.
Appachu Ranjan's three paged letter against Tipu Sultan
He states, "More than 50,000 people from the Christian community in Mangalore were also converted into Islam and they were treated with cruelty. The Nettara Lake near Vitla in Mangalore stands proof to his activity. Around 700 Brahmin families in Melukote and Srirangapatna mourn on the day of Deepavali. This is because he had killed the ancestors of their community and destroyed temples. These stones from temples were later used to build his fort which stands as proof even today. He even travelled to parts of Kerala and converted many people into Islam. He gave his sons to the British men to save his kingdom and not to gain freedom for India."
He alleged that Tipu changed the name of the places from Kannada to Persian. Ranjan states, "Since Persian was the official language of Tipu Sultan, he changed the names of places and opposed the names in Kannada. Tipu changed the name of Mangalore to Jalala Badh, Madikeri to Zafarbadh, Bhagamandala into Afzalbadh, Sakleshpura into Manzarabadh, Mysore to Nazarbadh, Dharwad to Khursedh Sawad and so on. Similarly, he even changed the language on income tax documents to from Kannada to Persian and some words including Jamabhandi is still in use."
Ranjan goes on to say that Tipu Sultan also destroyed several temples during his reign. For instance, the trunk of an elephant in one of the statues in Sri Bhagandeshwara Temple in Bhagamandala is broken, Bhagvathi temple in Arameri continues to remain in shackles, a church in Virajpete, Eshwara temple in Bollumadu was destroyed and continues to remain in bad condition. Justifying his point of not considering him as a freedom fighter and his part of history should be dropped from the textbook, he says, "I am not opposing Tipu Sultan just because he is a Muslim ruler but he converted several people into Islam and killed those who did not. He was only a cruel ruler. Therefore, chapters related to him must be dropped and suggestions must be taken from experts to include stories that speak about the patriotism of people and their sacrifices for the nation."
Teachers disagree with this viewpoint
Shyam Mallangoudar, who is a Social Sciences teacher in one of Dharwad's private schools, says, "The chapter related to Tipu Sultan should not be removed from the textbooks because he has been part of the Mysore kingdom and ruled for a considerable period. Children need not study him as a freedom fighter because he was a friend of the French. That's why he opposed British rule. But by removing such chapters, you are making children miss out on learning about the technology he used during wars or the way he strengthened the economy."
Citing another historical example of how most of the rulers fought the British out of self-preservation, he added, "Similarly, Kittur Rani Chennamma is nowhere considered a freedom fighter. She adopted a son as an heir to her kingdom and drove the British out of her region. None of these rulers had the intention of driving the British out of India except to protect their regions. I believe that political parties should not politicise history and make space for children to learn it as it is. According to me, the actual freedom struggle started in 1885 when Allen Octavian Hume established the Indian National Congress and everything else is history."
There's so much more to Tipu
Professor B P Mahesh Chandra Guru who retired recently from the Media and Communications department in Mysore University has researched about Tipu Sultan and has written a book called Tipu Sultan: Indomitable Nationalist and Martyr. And he plans to release it soon. The book has 12 chapters and it is available in three languages including English, Kannada and Urdu also. Pointing out the reasons why Tipu should be called a freedom fighter and children must be taught this, he says, "According to me, the first war of Indian Independence was not fought in 1857. It was in 1799 when Tipu fought the Fourth Anglo Mysore War and he died fighting the war. The British destroyed his fort and captured his sons. He was a great opponent of British imperialism. Therefore he tried having talks with the Nizam of Hyderabad and other kings to unify and fight the British."
Explaining how modern the ruler was, he says, "Today's Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) Dam was not the idea of M Visvesvaraya. He was a man who planned and built it. It was Tipu Sultan's idea of building this dam. You will find this in the old records of Tipu Sultan's developmental works as well as a stone pillar at KRS. He was a visionary who was extremely against privatisation. Everyone considers Karl Marx as the first communist but I consider Tipu Sultan as the first communist in the world. Because he stressed the fact the everything that the capital invested in and its profits, both belonged to people. He was the first person to bring rocket technology to India and the place from where he launched them still exists in Srirangapattana. Tipu was the first person to bring land reforms into India before independence. He stated that the tiller is the owner of the land. This reform was opposed by the higher caste people like Brahmins, Kodavas and a few others who joined hands with the British to remove the reforms. When Tipu got to know about it, he killed them as he considered it as an anti-national activity against the state."
Prof B P Mahesh Chandra Guru (Pic: Google)
When we asked him if he destroyed temples and troubled Hindus, he says, "I don't agree with this point because when Marathas destroyed the Sharadamba temple and attacked Sringeri Mutt, a priest wrote a letter to Tipu to save them and their temple. Tipu gave money, gold coins, 50 elephants and other necessary things for the mutt. Like this, there are many temples which were rejuvenated by Tipu. In such a case, how can you call him a killer of Hindus or a cruel ruler."
He further adds, "Even when it comes to the change in the name of places, he changed a few to Persian names. But this doesn't mean he opposed Kannada. The change in name of places and streets has happened during the British rule also. Why don't people oppose that? Even today, the names of places in Uttar Pradesh are being changed. Is it the need of the hour in that state?"