BJP’s Attempt to Deconstruct Tipu Sultan –With Hindutva Zeal

The primacy of class not religion assertion stands being deconstructed akin to the ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ (and ‘British’) narrative in Mill’s book post-Tipu Sultan the Tiger of Mysore.

DESPARDES — Karnataka’s Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa said on Wednesday that his government would remove history lessons glorifying 18th century ruler of erstwhile Mysore Kingdom Tipu Sultan from school textbooks.

“Such topics must not find a place in textbooks. Hundred and one per cent, we are not going to allow such things to happen,” the chief minister said.

Soon after his statement, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tweeted, saying textbooks must be rewritten to portray the “real Tipu Sultan”.

Soon after coming to power, the BJP government in the state in July scrapped the birth anniversary celebrations of Tipu Sultan, an annual event the party had been opposing since 2015 when it was launched during the secular Congress rule in the state.

Since then the BJP and right wing organizations have been strongly opposing Tipu Sultan, calling him a “religious bigot”.

Analysis

The Tiger of Mysore was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company according to historians. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort against the British colonial forces.

The Sultan of Mysore was France’s only remaining ally in South Asia.

Several historians’ views dispute the BJP-led government’s narrative that Tipu Sultan was a “tyrant, a bigot and a foreigner”. They see him in fact as a secular and modern ruler who took on the might of the British.

The idea of foreigners is an invention, as Indian historian Harbans Mukhia points out in his 2004 book, The Mughals of India. It was a byproduct of the very idea of European colonization that understands only one kind of rule — that of a conqueror who exploits resources for the use of his own people in a far-off land. This is a substantially different system from the medieval mode of conquest followed by the Mughals that involved settling in the conquered land in perpetuity.

According to independent observers, BJP pursues it’s Hindutva agenda of rewriting the subcontinent’s history to erase Muslim footprint.

The Hindutva gang hates Tipu Sultan because Tipu valiantly fought against the British, and they were the collaborators of the British, some of them say.

History books tell us that the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ posed one of the strongest military challenges ever faced by the British in the sub-continent. During the Anglo-Mysore wars of the late 1700s, rockets were used by Tipu Sultan to great effect– British soldiers would go on to describe them as “flying plagues”.

Later, Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) would go on to use these rockets systematically against Napoleon Bonaparte and defeat him at Waterloo in June 1815.

In 2018, over a thousand rockets belonging to the warrior king were found by excavators in an abandoned well in Karnataka state.

And when did communalism start to seep into Indian intelligentsia? Related readings trace back to the periodization of history into ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘British’ in The History of British India, an 1817 book by British historian and political thinker James Mill.

Mill put forward the idea that religion was the main defining element in Indian society and that it was not until the British arrival that a modern outlook had been imparted to India.

The nationalist and communalist versions of Mughal followed history until they were interrupted by the publication of Goa-born Indian polymath Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi’s book, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History, which gave primacy to class instead of religion.

A somewhat similar observation ran parallel to Damodar’s in Jawaharlal Nehru’s book Discovery of India.

The primacy of class not religion assertion stands being deconstructed akin to the ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ (and ‘British’) narrative in Mill’s book post-Tipu Sultan the Tiger of Mysore.

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