A day after proving its majority in a trust vote in the Karnataka assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party government under B.S. Yediyurappa has made its first significant move by banning celebrations of Tipu Jayanti — the birth anniversary of 18th century Mysuru king Tipu Sultan.
The Karnataka chief minister’s official Twitter handle shared the decision through his official handle, along with the order, written in Kannada.
— CM of Karnataka (@CMofKarnataka) July 30, 2019
Although the chief minster’s tweet had no explanation, BJP Karnataka has tweeted the same order with a single line: “Our Govt has cancelled observing controversial & communal Tippu Jayanti.”
According to the official order, Virajpet BJP MLA K.G. Bopaiah wrote to Yediyurappa, requesting him to cancel Tipu Jayanti celebrations by the state Kannada and culture department, highlighting opposition to such celebrations, particularly in Kodagu district, and the violence it had led to in the past.
“After discussion in the cabinet, it was decided that Tipu Jayanti should not be celebrated from here onwards and a government order has been issued to this effect,” Yediyurappa told reporters.
BJP’s sustained criticism
Tipu Jayanti celebrations were started by former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s Congress government in 2015 amid strong opposition from the BJP then. The day on which the annual celebrations would take place was November 10. The first official celebration in 2015 was marred by widespread protests and violence in Kodagu district, leaving a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) worker dead.
In the face of BJP, VHP and rightwing organisations’ sustained criticism of Tipu, a Muslim ruler, celebrations were continued by the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government led by H.D. Kumaraswamy under thick security cover. On July 23, the government collapsed after losing a vote of confidence in the assembly.
Siddaramaiah reacted to the cancellation of festivities by calling it a “big mistake.”
The decision to discontinue Tipu Jayanthi by @BJP4Karnataka is wrong & a big mistake. Tipu was not recognised just because he is from minority community but because of his contribution as a ruler. He fought bravely against British & initiated many development works.@INCKarnataka
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) July 30, 2019
PTI quoted Siddaramaiah as having said that Tipu had not only worked for the development of the then Mysuru state, but that he had also “laid the foundation to the KRS dam, worked for development of industries, agriculture and trade, all for the love of freedom.”
‘First freedom fighter’
Tipu is widely considered to be one of the first to resist the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort at Srirangapatna against British forces.
The Kodava people of Kodagu district, a martial race, however believe that Tipu led forced conversions to Islam and had imprisoned thousands of their people during his rule. This and other charges of Tipu’s intolerance towards Hindus has been disputed by historians who see him largely as having been a secular ruler with a modern outlook.
(With PTI inputs)