On the eve of Tipu Sultan's birth anniversary on Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka has once again taken to the streets to oppose the JD(S)-Congress coalition government's decision to go ahead with the celebration, which was introduced by the previous Congress government led by Siddaramaiah in 2015.
Speculations are rife that the coalition partners are not on the same page when it comes to celebrating Tipu Jayanti.
Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy taking a three-day break from work is being read as his reluctance to attend the controversial celebration. The official invitation has excluded the chief minister's name from the event which will be held at Vidhana Soudha. Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwar, who is to grace the event, is also most likely to skip the celebrations as he is away in Delhi.
On Friday, the BJP launched a statewide protest daring the state government to arrest them, even as the police clamped a 48-hour prohibitory order in three sensitive districts of Kodagu, Chitradurga and Mandya.
It may be recalled that Kodagu, for the first time, stood witness to a communal clash in 2016. Devapanda Kuttappa(62), a VHP leader from Iggodlu village in Madapura, was killed during the clash and Shahul Hameed (22), a Muslim youth from Guyya village in Siddapura, died after a bullet pierced his head when he was taking part in a pro-Tipu procession.
The Tipu Jayanti celebration has irked several communities who were allegedly victimised by the 18th century ruler. While the debate over whether Tipu was a freedom fighter or a religious bigot remains to be resolved, every year, the Jayanti does cause a turbulence in the state.
The Kodavas contend that the government is mocking their sentiment by propping Tipu as a hero, though he has “massacred” thousands of Kodavas. A section of the Canara Catholics (Konkani) community alleges that Tipu carried out mass (forced) conversions and committed atrocities against their men, women and children suspecting that they supported the British. The Nayaka clan of Chitradurga believes that Tipu's father Hyder Ali, who seized the Chitradurga fort in 1779 (after three failed attempts) and imprisoned Madakari Nayaka, the feudal king, captured and moved out the members of the warrior clan—the Nayakas (Bedar caste)—to Srirangapatna and inducted them into his army. The anger against Siddaramaiah government for patronising Tipu's legacy is said to have prompted the ST (Nayaka) community to lean towards the BJP during the last assembly elections.
While the BJP alleges that the Congress party is playing appeasement politics to consolidate the Muslim votes, the Congress party dubs the saffron party's protest against Tipu Jayanti celebration by the state government as a bid to consolidate Hindu votes.
Meanwhile, the BJP has dared Kumaraswamy to attend the event stating he too would meet the same fate as Sanjay Khan (who filmed Sword of Tipu Sultan), Vijay Mallya (who bought Tipu's sword in an auction) and former chief minister Siddaramaiah (who introduced Tipu Jayanti) for glorifying Tipu Sultan.
BJP leader and former home minister R. Ashok said his party was not against the minorities but opposed the Congress party's “vote bank politics” and bid to project Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter and a secular icon. "Atal Behari Vajpayee made Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam the president. Siddaramaiah created a false icon like Tipu and faced humiliating defeat in Mysore—the land that was ruled by Tipu Sultan," said Ashok.
BJP spokesperson C.T. Ravi tweeted asking the government to choose icons like Mirza Ismail or Shishunala Sharief and not a "bigot" like Tipu.