TIPU SULTAN, NAPOLEON AND HITLER

By Mookonda Kushalappa nitin

I happened to be reading an article in a national newspaper titled ‘Tipu Sultan: a secular internationalist, not a bigot’ (September 27, 2015). The first thing that came to my mind was the various efforts made elsewhere at Holocaust denials. The Germans had tried to destroy records and evidence about the Jewish genocide during World War II. Hitler, like Tipu, had wanted to create a new order by eliminating millions of a people (Jews, in the case of Hitler) he held responsible for a number of unrelated problems. Similarly Tipu had idealogical differences with the Kodavas, the Nairs, the Mangalorean Christians and others whom he persecuted. Also there was another uncanny similarity; Tipu, like Hitler, is claimed to be a teetotaller. (Linge, With Hitler to the End, 2009, Chapter 3)

 Tipu favoured one colonial power against another, in this case the French against the British. Tipu was in correspondence with Napoleon and sought his support but Napoleon was stopped at Egypt. If Napoleon had his way then the sub-continent would have been known as French India rather than British India. Napoleon was also a ‘tyrant’ who tried to suppress a revolution upon the island of Haiti and did his best to reinstate slavery in the French colonies. (Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon: A Life. 2014, p.303)

 Many of the claims made about Tipu have not been substantiated in any way anywhere. One such claim that was being made in the article was that Tipu confiscated the property and mutts of the upper castes and gave them to lower castes. This has not been stated in any source found till date. In fact while he retained some of Mysore’s Hindu officers, they were largely upper castes such as Purnaiya, Krishna Rao and Shamaiya. (Hasan, History of Tipu Sultan, p.357)

Rockets were not first introduced in warfare by Tipu. The Chinese had been using it in warfare long before him. Also, war rockets were used by Tipu’s grandfather Fateh Muhammad and Tipu’s father Hyder Ali, long before the Sultan was even born. Both his father and grandfather were mercenary soldiers. (Hasan, History of Tipu Sultan, p.2)

The oft-repeated claim that Tipu patronised Hindu temples is being made again. The letter written to Sringeri’s Shankaracharya was in Kannada and, like in the case many other rulers, could have easily been ghost written by one of the many clerks employed by the Sultan. Also the various temple grants given by the Sultan could have been given by one of his Hindu courtiers in his name.

To those who question Tipu’s bigotry they need to just read his various letters and inscriptions, published by a number of Muslim, Hindu, colonial and other sources. In a Persian letter to Runmust Khan, Tipu himself claimed:

“We proceeded with the utmost speed, and, at once, made prisoners of 40,000 occasion-seeking and sedition-exciting Coorgis, who alarmed at the approach of our victorious army, had slunk into woods, and concealed themselves in lofty mountains, inaccessible even to birds. Then carrying them away from their native country (the native place of sedition) we raised them to the honour of Islam, and incorporated them into our Ahmedy corps.” (Sen 1930, p.157; Selected Letters of Tipoo Sultan, 1811, p.228)

Even prominent Marxist authors such as Mohibbul Hasan, who claim that estimating the actual number of conversions of natives into Islam by Tipu is difficult, have not been able to deny these conversions. They also claim that these conversions were of a political nature. But so were most other mass conversions.

 Historians will say that the Kodava population was lesser than these estimates even many decades later. This is because (according to Tipu’s early biographers Punganuri, Kirmani and others) the people were held captive and converted outside Kodagu. Many more were killed during the wars. Some of the colonial sources claim that the corpses of those men who were put to death were circumcised in order to arrive at large numbers.

 In 1799, after the fall of Tipu, 5000 Coorg men escaped their prison in Srirangapatna along with their families, totally 12,000 people, and returned to Kodagu.(Moegling, Coorg Memoirs, 1855, p. 117). Many of the others deported to different places outside Kodagu had either never returned or were not accepted back into Kodagu.

Attempts to cover up these figures are an insult to the memory of those who were killed by the Sultan’s wars and suppressive policies. Any Hindu who questions Tipu’s methods is quickly labelled a bigot. Also, what about the number of Christians and others who were converted as well? It is not a question of secularism. The real question is this: Why is there an obsession to camouflage tyrants ?

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