Karnataka government might drop Tipu Sultan chapters from textbooks

Bengaluru, Karnataka, IndiaWritten By: Nischita VerrendraUpdated: Oct 30, 2019, 06:28 PM IST
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The controversial Tipu Jayanti was celebrated for three years on November 10, amidst tight security up until 2018.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa kicked up another storm over the contentious historical figure Tipu Sultan when he said that his government was absolutely against celebrating the former ruler of Mysuru. 

He went a step further and stressed that his government was working towards dropping lessons on the Tiger of Mysuru from textbooks in the state. 'I don't think Tipu was a freedom fighter. We are against everything to do with Tipu, including his references in textbooks' said the Chief Minister while addressing the media in Bengaluru. 

The statement comes just a day after Suresh Kumar, the state's Primary and Secondary Education Minister formed a committee to look into a proposal to drop references to Tipu Sultan from school textbooks. 

The committee is set to meet on November 7 and will be submitting a report on the same. 

The committee was formed after MLA Appachu Ranjan shot multiple letters alleging that history was being distorted in the textbooks and that the ruler was a bigot and not a freedom fighter. 

While speaking to WION, Ranjan said that Tipu is being unfairly glorified in the textbooks and hence he placed the demand to drop the lessons before the government. 

'I am saying that Tipu should be dropped from textbooks because the books say he is a freedom fighter. But he is not at all a freedom fighter. He fought only to expand his kingdom. If Tipu was a freedom fighter, he would not have looted temples in Mangalore and other places. There are many examples where he forcibly converted subjects to Islam. That is the reason I feel Tipu should not be called a freedom fighter. We should tell the truth to our younger generation. That is the reason I am insisting that Tipu should be dropped from textbook lessons.' said Ranjan. 

Just days after swearing-in as Chief Minister of Karnataka in July this year, BS Yediyurappa cancelled the controversial Tipu Jayanti celebrations. The Tipu Jayanti festivities had become a bone of contention between the Congress and the BJP after the then Siddaramaiah government had made it a state-sponsored festival. The BJP had hit back at the Congress government, accusing it of attempting to please minorities while hurting sentiments of people in Kodagu and Mangaluru who view the 18th-century ruler as a tyrant. However, historians believe that debate is being generated for purely political gains without any academic merit. 

'A blanket statement saying all references to Tipu Sultan is school textbooks should be removed is very odd and completely unacceptable. 

I say it's odd because this very Chief Minister had donned the costume of Tipu Sultan 7 years ago at a function to say he identified with what Tipu Sultan stood for. This debate cannot be on the knowledge that is new as Tipu Sultan has been dead for more than 200 years now. The other reason is if you have a problem with Tipu Sultan because of the violence he inflicted on a particular community, you must have an objection to all kings because all kings have killed people from one community or another. Every community can now say that their ancestors were killed by a certain king so there should be no references to him.' says Prof Chandan Gowda, Historian. 

The debate has however boiled down to a single question of whether Tipu Sultan was a freedom fighter. While critics of the ruler feel he was no freedom fighter and was merely protecting his kingdom, historians have a different view on the matter. 'Tipu Sultan had a sense that the British were not like any other enemy. He did try to get the Nizam of Hyderabad and Marathas to unite against the British. Which he was not able to do. So his struggle to keep them out can be seen as part of freedom struggle history. If Kittur Rani Chennamma can be part of the freedom struggle, Tipu Sultan qualifies for it... There was no India at that time. Tipu was defending Mysuru. But if defending Mysuru is all that he cared for then that's all he would've done. Would he then have tried to build a larger alliance of the Marathas and the Nizam to keep them(British) out of Peninsular India?' questions Prof Gowda. 

The controversial Tipu Jayanti was celebrated for three years on November 10, amidst tight security up until 2018. While 65000 police personnel including Rapid Action Force had been deployed for the celebrations, in 2017 Section 144 had to be imposed in Kodagu to contain the violence. As Karnataka struggles with over 100 taluks being hit by floods and unprecedented rains leading to loss of crops and life, politicians continue to fight over a historical figure from the 18th century.