Tipu, Hitler and religious tolerance
By the time this column is out, Karnataka hopefully would have been through Tipu Sultan Jayanti celebrations. Recently, the country witnessed former President Pranab Mukherjee paying glowing tributes to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and the father of Muslim separatism in the Indian subcontinent.
The occasion was the 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed. He is a part of the trio which is described in Pakistan schoolbooks as the spiritual founders of Pakistan—the other two being Muhammad Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Though Sir Syed died nearly half a century before the country of his dreams became a reality, numerous prestigious institutions are named after him in Pakistan to underline his unmatched contribution in promoting the two-nation theory which ultimately led to the vivisection of India. President Mukherjee spoke about his “vision” and several newspapers carried articles eulogising Sir Syed and recalled his “services” to the country and Muslim community.
Meanwhile knives were out last month for the BJP and Sangh Parivar after Sangeet Som, a BJP MLA from UP, committed “blasphemy” (as per secular norms) by questioning the status of the iconic Taj Mahal as a symbol of love and for doubting the patriotism of Mughals. The ‘secular’ uproar that followed Som’s remarks forced the BJP to distance itself from the controversy.
But how can the Karnataka government and Pranab Mukherjee get away with daylight murder, while the BJP has to pay a heavy penalty even for what at worst may be merely a parking offence? Is it because the Left has enjoyed complete control over public discourse since Independence, to the complete exclusion of other valid narratives?
In this context one is reminded of a TV programme called ‘Alternative Views’ which was a great hit in the US. It was one of the longest-running public-access TV programmes, with 563 shows telecast from 1978 to 1998. It covered news, interviews and opinions from a new and progressive perspective.
Nothing of this sort has happened in India. No wonder, we continue to suffer a doctored version of history, manufactured by the Macaulay-Marxist combine to suit its ideological ends. Ironically those responsible for this gagging have also appropriated the label of ‘liberals’ and style themselves as ‘left-liberals’! An oxymoron in the Indian context.
The two celebrated ‘secular icons’, Sir Syed and Tipu Sultan had adopted diagonally opposite approaches to promote their community interests. Sir Syed collaborated with the British and worked to promote a Muslim-British alliance against Hindus. Sir Syed justified the alliance on the basis that both Christians and Muslims, were ‘People of the Book’. For his services, the British empire conferred on him various titles such as Khan Bahadhur and Knight Commander of the order of Star of India.
Tipu Sultan, on the other hand, is hailed for resisting the British. But why did Tipu oppose the British? Not because they were foreign invaders. In fact Tipu himself sought the assistance of several foreign powers—including the French, who were manoeuvring to establish their domination in the country. The ambitious Sultan solicited the help of Muslim countries like Persia, Afghanistan and Turkey, as well, in the name of Islam. The Sultan opposed the British because they were an impediment in his endeavour to carry out ‘jihad’ against ‘kafirs’ and establish an Islamic state in India.
The Left, however, would say it is all false propaganda, part of the British design to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims. Here are excerpts from some letters which Tipu had sent to his army commanders.
1. March 22, 1788, to Abdul Kadir: “Over 12,000 Hindus were ‘honoured’ with Islam. There were many Namboodiris (Brahmins) among them. The local Hindus should be brought before you and then converted to Islam.”
2. December 14, 1788, to his army chief in Calicut: “I am sending two of my followers with Mir Hussain Ali. You should capture and kill all Hindus. These are my orders.”
3. December 21, 1788, to Sheik Kutub: “... 242 Nairs are being sent as prisoners. Categorise them according to their social and family status. After honouring them with Islam ... dress materials may be given to the men and their women.”
4. January 18, 1790, to Syed Abdul Dulai: “With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin state. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as jihad.”
5. January 19, 1790, to Badroos Saman Khan: “Don’t you know that I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam.”
Lewis Rice, a historian, who wrote a much acclaimed book on Mysore after going through various official records, said as follows: “In the vast empire of Tipu Sultan on the eve of his death, there were only two Hindu temples having daily pujas within the Sreerangapatanam fortress. It is only for the satisfaction of the Brahmin astrologers who used to study his horoscope that Tipu Sultan had spared those two temples.”
The Sultan could not even tolerate the Hindu names of certain regions. Therefore, Mangalapuri (Mangalore) was changed to Jalalabad, Cannanore (Kanwapuram) to Kusanabad, Mysore to Nazarabad, Dharwar to Quarshed-Sawad, Gooty to Faiz-Hissar, Ratnagiri to Mustafabad, Dindigul to Khaliqabad, and Calicut (Kozhikode) to Islamabad. Tipu is a hero to some, because he fought against the British. So did Hitler. Why different yardsticks for the two?
Former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues