By: C.P. Belliappa
Tipu Sultan is all set to haunt Kodagu once again this November. However, what is even more disturbing is the efforts of a senior and once respected politician of Kodagu Mr AK Subbaiah (AKS), to whitewash the atrocities committed by Tipu and Hyder on the people of Kodagu during the period 1780 to 1791.
The present Congress government, in their quest to garnering votes, is resorting to uncalled for division and disharmony in the State. Karnataka witnessed violent protests last November and lives were lost. The government seem hell-bent on repeating the same mistake this year as well. By trying to prop up a known tyrant whose cruelties and forced conversions are well documented, the Congress is only losing more votes than gaining.
This entire exercise is highly insulting to the Kodavas and other communities who had to bear the brunt of the brutalities of Tipu and Hyder. The Kodava Samajas have rightly appealed to the government not to impose this ‘celebration’ of the tyrant’s jayanthi on the people of Kodagu. The State government can certainly party Tipu Jayanthi in Bangalore, or elsewhere, where he is supposed to be a hero. But to impose this on the people, at enormous cost, at every district headquarters and taluks is foolhardy. I am sure there are many pressing needs where this fund could be gainfully utilized.
Tipu has been both demonized as well as romanticized. He is touted as secular as well as a religious bigot. He is hailed as a patriot as well as someone who tried to replace one colonial power by another. His most admired action is that he stood up to the British. The question is: whether fighting the British post 1857 qualifies as ‘freedom struggle’. British were not the only invaders and colonizers of India. Brutalities by anyone is to be condemned, not celebrated.
AKS’s main contention is that a massacre did not take place in Devattiparambu. Well, he is partly correct since there is no historical record of a massacre as such. However, something equally horrendous happened on that fateful day, which AKS is not mentioning. Tipu used treachery to lure the battle weary Kodavas and other communities in Kodagu to make peace with him at Devattiparambu. He then had his troops pounce on the unsuspecting, unarmed men, women, and children who had gathered there. It is on record as to how he forced tens of thousands of them to walk all the way to Srirangapatna. Many perished en route. The survivors were converted against their will. Tipu boasts, in his own written records, about how he converted lakhs of people in Kodagu, Mangalore and Kerala. There is also a well-documented brutal killing of 700 to 800 Mandyam Brahmin men, women and children at Tipu’s behest, at Melkote, on Deepavalli day in 1790.
For Kodavas, it is in our collective memory handed down over several generations as to how our ancestors were tormented by Tipu and his father for 11 long years. Many of our places of worship were vandalized. Karnataka government is opening old wounds to insult those who suffered at Tipu’s hands. The Chief Minister will win more votes if he concentrates on issues and projects that help the people of Karnataka instead of unnecessarily provoking and pitting one community against another.