The insistence of the Siddaramaiah-led state govt to celebrate the Tipu Jayanti comes as no surprise as Muslims make a significant portion of the chief minister’s AHINDA support base which helped him storm to power in 2013. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
The insistence of the Siddaramaiah-led state govt to celebrate the Tipu Jayanti comes as no surprise as Muslims make a significant portion of the chief minister’s AHINDA support base which helped him storm to power in 2013. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Siddaramaiah govt set to celebrate Tipu Jayanti despite protests

While Congress and BJP spar over the celebration of Tipu Jayanti on 10 November, authorities in Karnataka are taking no chances

Bengaluru: Despite protests, the Karnataka government is set to celebrate Tipu (Sultan) Jayanti on 10 November across the state amid tight security.

The insistence of the Siddaramaiah-led state government to celebrate the birth of the 18th century ruler—considered the first to oppose the British East India Company and using rocket technology in battle—comes as no surprise as Muslims make a significant portion of the chief minister’s AHINDA (acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalit) support base which helped him storm to power in 2013.

The Karnataka high court on Tuesday struck down a petition to restrict celebrations on 10 November this year, paying the way for the Congress government to go ahead with the event. The court has given the government four weeks’ time to file its objections to another plea which seeks a complete ban on any celebrations associated with Tipu Sultan in the future.

Tipu Sultan was born on 10 November 1750 at Devanahalli, in the outskirts of Bengaluru, and was the ruler of then Mysore from 1782 till his death in 1799. As the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cross swords over the issue, district and law enforcement authorities are taking no chances.

Prohibitory orders have been issued in coastal districts of Karnataka as well as Kodagu—about 250 km from Bengaluru—as these regions, with a large presence of right-wing organisations, saw violent clashes between majority and minority groups on the day since 2015.

Authorities have also refused the BJP’s “Nava Karnataka Parivarthana Rally"—a 75 day tour across all the 224 constituencies led by former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa—permission to enter Kodagu on 8 November.

“It’s not that they (BJP rally) are not allowed, but police have said that they were unable to provide security on 8 (November). That’s why they were asked to postpone the event till after the 10 (November)," Richard Vincent D’souza, Kodagu Deputy Commissioner of Kodagu district told Mint.

The district, which has a large number of Kerala Muslim population due to its proximity with the neighbouring state, has been the hotbed of protests on this issue. Two people died as a result of clashes on 10 November 2015.

While the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP’s ideological arm, will hold protests on Wednesday, other organisations like the Veera Vanite Onake Obavva Samiti have already made their opposition public across the state.

However, the BJP, which spearheads the protests, has been pushed to the backfoot, especially after pictures of former chief ministers Yeddyurappa and Jagadish Shettar, posing as Tipu Sultan, started soing the rounds on social media. Both have attended Tipu Sultan Jayanti events (though it was made a state government programme only in 2015) during the BJP’s term in the state from 2008-2013.

President Ramnath Kovind’s speech hailing Tipu Sultan as having “died a heroic death fighting the British", while addressing a joint session of the Karnataka legislature on 25 October, further isolated BJP’s opposition to the ruler.

Even as the controversy rages on, descendants of the ruler said political parties are using Tipu Sultan’s name for electoral gains in the run up to the 2018 assembly elections in the state.

“To be very honest, it’s become very politicised," Sahebzaade Syed Mansoor Ali Tipu, a seventh-generation descendent of Tipu Sultan told Mint on Tuesday.

He added that there are 26 “Jayantis" celebrated in Karnataka of famous personalities, social reformers and religious figures and not one of them face the opposition or controversy that happens on 10 November.

“I think it (the controversy) will be a yearly phenomenon... (After 10 November) it dies down, nobody talks of Tipu Sultan, nobody worries about Tipu Sultan. Nobody even wants to take care of the archaeological sites of Tipu Sultan," he said.

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