By Maj. Gen. Retd. C K Karumbaya, SM (in picture)
The Karnataka government headed by chief minister Siddaramaiah should not squander tax payers’ money to celebrate Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary, completely ignoring the sentiments of communities who had suffered untold miseries under his despotic rule.
Over the years the politicians and pseudo- historians combined have been brain-washing people, to make us believe that Tipu was the first freedom fighter, an outstanding military commander, a great statesman, an excellent administrator, a secularist to the core and so on. However, the negative aspects of his character have been completely ignored while making such tall claims.
Tipu’s ambition was to become the Emperor (Badshah) of the Deccan and Islamize the whole of India inhabited by infidels and heretics (meaning non- Muslims) even at the point of sword. This is evident from the numerous secret letters of his, in Persian and their replies thereto which were captured in original at Srirangapatna in May 1799 by the British and safely preserved at India Library in U.K. In these letters sent through his emissaries with costly gifts, Tipu had invited King Zaman Shah of Afaghanistan, Fateh Ali Khan of Persia, Caliph of Turkey and ruler of Iran to join forces and invade North India for which he had promised full cooperation. His reasoning to invite foreigners to invade North India was that Mughals had gone weak and infidels (meaning Hindus and Christians) were getting stronger. These letters which are easily accessible to serious historians and are clinching evidence that Tipu was neither a nationalist nor a secularist as made out to be, are deliberately being hidden to distort history.
Tipu had inherited a vast kingdom from his father, Hyder Ali . Hyder Ali at the time of his death in 1782 had expressed a doubt whether Tipu would be able to retain it. Within 10 years Tipu who had earned the wrath of fellow Indians including Muslims, had lost half of his Kingdom and had to agree for a humiliating treaty with the British. By next 7 years, he lost all, including his life. He died friendless, frustrated and a sorry figure abandoned by his own subordinates – all of his own making.
In order to achieve his selfish ambition, he had not only treacherously invited foreign Islamic countries to invade India; but invited France an European power to come to his aid much against the advice of Caliph of Turkey. The aim was not only to fight the British: but to subjugate all other Indian Kingdoms in the Deccan who came in the way of his self serving ambition. To say that he fought only the British is wrong. The Maharattas under the Peshawas , the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Nawab of Arcot, Rajas of Travancore, Tanjore, Wynad, Honnawar, Mangalore, Cannanore, Coimbatore, Cochin, Chirakal and Kodagu felt so threatened by Tipu’s ambitious designs that they were forced to seek the help of British to protect themselves. Due to Tipu’s domineering attitude and extreme cruelty, they preferred British rule rather than be under him. Tipu did realize rather late that he was being isolated by other Indian States in the Deccan who had ganged up against him. With his usual guile, he after apologizing for his earlier harsh behavior tried to wean away these Indian states from seeking help of the British; but having seen through his game they spurned him and joined the British to finally eliminate him. The British even though a foreign power were better fighters, more humane and did not discriminate people based on their religious faith like Tipu did . Soldiers in Bombay and Madras armies of the British were basically native Indians who with better leadership and training proved to be far superior to Tipu’s forces. During two approach marches of allied armies to Srirangapatna in 1792 and 1799, the local people voluntarily gave them full cooperation in way of logistics and information indicating Tipu was not at all that popular ruler as made out to be. So, where did Tipu display his statesmanship and whose freedom was he fighting for?
A discriminating historian can make out that, Tipu unwittingly hastened the colonization of India by the British due to his despotic nature. In a way British rule did unite India, restored a benevolent monarchy in Mysore which made it one of the most progressive states in the country and fostered secular concepts which is a hallmark of modern India.
A military history student would know that the so called Tiger Tipu, in spite of his own bragging and flattery indulged by his paid court historians, did not fight a single battle of significance. His, so called bravery was only against unarmed civilians or poorly equipped irregulars. Even poorly organized and armed Kodava Army under the inspiring leadership of Vira Raja, drove him and his forces out of Kodagu on their own. Their anger against Tipu was so great that they spurned his belated offer of friendship and went all out to seek the help of the British to eliminate him once and for all. In fact the British did not allow Kodavas to enter Srirangapatna lest they would indulge in reprisals.
The first break on Tipu’s aggressive moves was applied by the British in 1784 in the way of Treaty of Mangalore. Violation of this Treaty and his continued aggression against his neighbors coupled with his declaring himself as Badshah, led to the British capturing Bangalore forts without much opposition in 1791. The excellent leadership given by Sir Richard Wellesly, the future Duke of Wellington as opposed to Tipu’s lack of resolve in this crucial battle has been commented upon adversely by Tipu’s own Court historian, Mir Husein Kirmani. This led Tipu’s trusted commander Kamaruddin to leave his services out of professional differences. In the Third Mysore War which followed in 1792, Tipu capitulated without a fight and was forced to conclude a humiliating treaty, losing half his Kingdom and giving away two of his sons as hostages to the British. After that, he never dared to venture out; but desperately sought French help which the British came to know. On the fateful day of 4 May 1799, when in the morning, the Allied Army under the British, breached the Fort wall in the Southern side and commenced the assault, Tipu instead of leading the defensive battle was busy engaged in prayers hoping a divine intervention would save him. He ventured out only after lunch in the afternoon when it was too late after his brave commander, Sayyed Ghafur was killed and many of his trusted subordinates had deserted His body was found among the dead in the Northern portion of the Fort. His final moments were more like an act of desperation of a failed man than that of a brave commander who could inspire his followers.
Tipu, during his short reign had humiliated followers of other religions, destroyed their places of worship and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus, Catholics and Kodavas into his faith. It is a well known fact that a mosque in Srirangapatna was built over the ancient Anjaneya temple there. As an incentive, he gave better promotional prospects at the cost of merit and exempted fellow Muslims from paying certain taxes. Muslims were given free land grants and captured women belonging to other faiths were given in marriage to Muslim men. He very cleverly, probably to please his mother and his Hindu Diwan Purnayya, left some temples near Mysore undisturbed; but had no qualms in confiscating the gold offerings in them to pay off fines imposed by the British. It is quixotic that he returned some of them with the inscription ‘Gifted by Tipu’! He was also, kind to some educated Brahmins who were useful to him in running the administration. However, desertion of some of them, like Purnayya Diwan at a crucial moment, proves that they too had seen through his game.
Even though Kannada was the local language, he made Persian as the official language of the State. He wanted accounts also to be maintained in Persian much to the consternation of his Hindu officials. In his quest to Islamize the Country he recklessly changed old Hindu names of places and official designations into Islamic ones. Thus Mysore, Bangalore, Dharwad, Hassan, Ootacamund, Madikeri, Bhagamandala and many other historical places were renamed as Nazarabad, Jummalabad, Quarshed-Sawad, Khaemabad, Faiz Hissar,Jaffarabad,Jacobabad and so on. His revenue officials were called Asofdaries ( a total of 65 in all ) and Amildaaries (1797 in all ) – they were all without exception after 1792 were Muslims. Tipu did away with middlemen involved in trade and Zamindari system, with a view to increase the State’s earning. Their tasks were taken over by his own officials who over a period became more corrupt. He gave land to landless and increased the taxes manifold but his earnings started decreasing due to widespread corruption and inefficiency. He could not afford to pay his troops well leading to low morale; but he would not stop costly ventures like self aggrandizement and sending emissaries with lavish gifts to foreign countries all of which proved to be futile exercises. His short reign was a period of maladministration, tension and turmoil. Tipu’s treatment of his prisoners including unarmed civilians, women and children were inhuman. In contrast the treatment he and his followers got from the British were more civilized. In Tipu’s rule, justice system as we know today was non-existent. Tipu’s character had much to do with his grooming. Hyder who was too busy fighting and being an illiterate left his son’s training to Persian Islamic scholars who taught him to love Islam and hate other religions, just as is happening in some Madrasas in Pakistan. His French instructors taught him to hate British, who was their bitter enemy; but the French had no love for Tipu either. Tipu was pampered from childhood by self -seekers who egged him on to commit one blunder after another, finally abandoning him. Tipu was a tragic figure who is best forgotten and not glorified by the modern and resurgent India with secular ideals.
To be a great country of the future, let all of us Indians, learn to be more truthful and honest in whatever we do – including writing history.