Madikeri (Karnataka): A local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader died and several others, including policemen, were injured as violence erupted over the holding of the birth anniversary celebrations of 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan. A youth was also injured in firing by some unidentified persons, police said, adding that prohibitory orders have been clamped in the entire Kodagu district and additional reinforcements sent to the area to bring the situation under control.

Police used tear gas shells and resorted to lathicharge as hundreds of people gathered and clashes erupted between the opponents and supporters of the celebrations. According to police, one Kuttappa, a VHP leader and a former state government employee, suffered head injuries in stone throwing and died on the spot. The violence flared up even as state-wide celebrations are being held by the government for the first time to commemorate the birth anniversary of Tipu which, however, is being boycotted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) amidst opposition by several outfits who see him as a “religious bigot".

Some outfits in Kodagu district had called for a bandh on Tuesday to protest against the government’s decision. Meanwhile, state home minister G. Parameshwara said additional reinforcements were being rushed to Madikeri from Chamarajanagar and Mysuru districts and appealed to people to maintain peace. The BJP has announced a “total boycott" of the celebrations, saying that no public representative from their party at any level would participate in the official function.

Further, the party’s state unit chief Prahlad Joshi said that Tipu was a “fanatic" and “anti-Kannada". Several organisations and individuals, too, have opposed the state government’s move to celebrate “Tipu Sultan Jayanti" on 10 November. Tipu was a ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore and considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799, while defending his fort of Srirangapatna against British forces.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has defended the government’s decision to commemorate his birth anniversary even as he slammed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and “other communal forces" for opposing it. The Mangaluru United Christian Association, too, has protested against the celebrations, alleging that Tipu was responsible for the destruction of many churches in the coastal region and also that Christians were harassed under his rule.

The VHP on Tuesday described the death of a middle-aged man during clashes at a town in Karnataka as “brutal killing" and asked the centre to “protect Hindus against such acts of religious intolerance". “We condemn the brutal killing of a Hindu, staging a peaceful demonstration, by a mob," VHP international working president Praveen Togadia said in a statement. Togadia was referring to the death of a 50-year-old man, said to be associated with the VHP, who succumbed to injuries sustained during a clash that broke out in Madikeri town during a demonstration against the celebration of the birth anniversary of 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan.

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