Articles

Tipu beyond the ‘Enigma’ and the ‘Bigot’ narrative

 

Sadif Ashraf & Rohith Vemula

Throughout history, Muslims' narratives were excluded and consciously forgotten by colonial representatives and the Hindu nationalistic historians (enlightened neo-colonial elites). Recently they 'included' Muslims in history as anti-national. This year, when Karnataka government decided to celebrate Tipu day on November 11, the day Tipu Sultan was born, the natural reaction from RSS came out and it labelled Tipu as anti-Hindu and thus anti-national.

Tipu-Sultan

MANUU (Moulana Azad National Urdu University) students organized a talk on Tipu Sultan's legacy to examine the facts. Professor Mahboob Basha, (Department of History, MANUU) addressed the gathering and emphasised on how this distortion of history helped British to divide and rule and how this trend was later continued by nationalist historians, especially with respect to medieval and modern Muslims rulers. The discussion even emphasised on how the pre-independence historians (mostly English) portrayed Muslims rulers as foreigners. Hindu Temple destruction has been the major point in the Islamophobic campaign since then.

Interestingly, Tipu Sultan stands as a counter to their vicious campaign. The historic evidences which point out Tipu Sultan's annual fund allocations, and gifts of gold aarti plates, to temples have not been given proper attention, deliberately, by historians. The polemical discourse which portrayed him as anti-Hindu and anti-national, as Prof. Mahboob Basha pointed out, further exposed the wilful 'othering' of Muslims.

"Tipu was very much Indian and died on this soil for this soil" Prof Basha added. Tipu Sultan's efforts to restore the dignity of Avarna women in Kerala by bringing in the law granting them the right to cover their breasts, despite huge criticism from upper caste Hindus, have been erased. Tipu Sultan rejected the British rule and waged a war against them. He even lost his life in the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war, fighting with the imperial British. When upper caste, elite sections that oppose imperialism are termed as patriots, Tipu Sultan must also be recognized as one.

The talk ended with a question for the Hindu chauvinists: If you are taking revenge for difficulties faced by your forefathers from Muslims rulers with political agendas, by labelling all Muslims as anti-national, what about your forefathers who discriminated and excluded our Muslim, Dalit fathers for centuries - aren't you anti-national as well?? Is the term anti-national reserved only for those who question Hinduism??

The discussion that followed the talk shed some light on the current academic degradation, genocide of knowledge produced by Muslims and other minorities which is more destructive than the explicit brutal killing of individuals because of the sort of permanent literature it generates. The organizing of this talk has political importance in the context when groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) openly threaten the Karnataka government for organizing Tipu day.

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Sadif Ashraf is a Research Scholar at MANUU & Rohith Vemula is a PhD student at University of Hyderabad. Both are active members of Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA).