Govt not wrong in holding Tipu Jayanti

Govt not wrong in holding Tipu Jayanti

The tension, violence and deaths that accompanied the recently-held Tipu Sultan Jayanti could have been avoided had the Karnataka government anticipated the extent of opposition to it by a section of people, largely owing affiliation to the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Sangh Parivar constituents. While there was nothing inherently wrong in the Siddaramaiah government’s move to celebrate the birth anniversary of the erstwhile ruler of Mysore Tipu Sultan, the inability to contain protests effectively in various parts of the state including in Madikeri showed up the state’s failure to tackle crisis situations. It was regrettable that at least three people fell victim to the violence resulting from the Tipu Jayanti.

Though sporadic, the violent protest against celebrating Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary is unfortunate as it comes in the way of attempting to assess the erstwhile ruler of Mysore in a holistic manner. The Jayanti, some 265 years since his birth, could have been utilised to debate Tipu Sultan’s contribution as a visionary ruler who took on the British in a manner that would have done any anti-colonialist proud. At the same time, if there were mistakes he had committed as in the charge that he indulged in forcible conversions and hanged his opponents that could have been debated too. After all,  India continues to be a democratic society with sufficient space for dissent. A ruler like Tipu Sultan has the ability to provoke myriad sentiments among various sections of the populace. The strength of the country’s democratic institutions and the space for heated debate, in fact, can be assessed when contentious issues emerge. Instead what one saw was violence and protests around Tipu’s Jayanti, a sad reflection of a deterioration in  the standards of democracy and right to free expression. Worse, it confirms the fears of many that intolerance is growing in Indian society where it has become difficult to act even within legal and constitutional limits. 

Whatever reservations one might have over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s move to celebrate Tipu Jayanti, or even impute narrow political motives to it, one cannot but agree that his government was well within its rights to mark Tipu Sultan’s birthday. If
the opposition BJP had problems with the Jayanti, it could have organised a counter to the celebrations and invited speakers of its choice to air their views. This way, it could have ensued a healthy debate on Tipu Sultan. Political parties across the board should sit across the table and come to an agreement of sorts enabling one another to conduct activities of their choice without having to end up fire-fighting all the time.
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