Why did the Congress Government celebrate Tipu Jayanti

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Mysore State was formed  in 1956 and renamed as Karnataka in 1973. For sixty-nine years no State  government declared Tipu Sultan Jayanti. Instead of questioning the Congress  government why it chose to declare a controversial jayanti or holding it  responsible for death of two, Aakar Patel chose to write, Why do we honor  Ashoka and not Tipu?

This article is a rejoinder to Mr Patel's  article and has responses to key points made.  

1. Ashoka butchered thousands, yet called Ashoka Great.

Asoka was a king much before the times  when Buddhism was considered a 'different' religion. What we call Buddhism  today was just another strain of Hindu thought. So it is wrong to state that  Ashoka the 'outsider' killed Hindus. The war of Kalinga was one King fighting  another. The Hindu rules of engagement worked here. Every time a King conquered  a country the people became his equal subjects not his slaves. Unlike Muslims  where as you were not an equal citizen but a person subject to Hindu tax. The fundamental reason why Ashoka fought in  Kalinga was not religious. He was a Indian King expanding his empire as all  Hindu kings did.

We celebrate Ashoka, not for  the number of people who died in Kalinga war, but for spreading the message of  Buddha all over Asia through love, not war.

On Ashoka being called 'The Great' author Sanjeev Sanyal wrote,  "As  one can see, Ashoka does not look like such a great king on closer inspection  but as a cruel and unpopular usurper who presided over the disintegration of a  large and well-functioning empire. This fits with the fact that he is not  remembered as a great monarch in the Indian tradition but in hagiographic  Buddhist texts written in countries that did not experience his reign. He was  “rediscovered” in the 19th century by colonial era orientalists like  James Princep. His elevation to being “Ashoka the Great” is an even more recent  and is the result of political developments of the first half of the twentieth  century."

Read Ashoka, The Not So Great

A man is known by the legacy he leaves  behind, remember Sardar Patel. "The decline of the Mauryan empire, almost  immediately after the death of Asoka, and it's tragic end within half of a  century of his rule' puts a question mark on Ashoka's greatness."

We use the title 'The Great' for  Alexander, Ashoka and Akbar and not for Vikramaditya after whom Vikram Samvat  is named or Shivaji Maharaj. Can this be construed to be a colonial construct  to show Hindus in poor light?
 
2. The  wheel in the middle of the Indian flag is called the 'Ashoka Chakra' because  that is also his symbol. Lion emblem is the official symbol of  the Republic of India.

According to http://knowindia.gov.in/myindia/myindia_frame.php?id=4,  "This Dharma Chakra depicted the "wheel of the law" in the  Sarnath Lion Capital made by Emperor Ashoka. The chakra intends to show that  there is life in movement and death in stagnation." Note the wheel of law is called Dharma  Chakra and has a deeper meaning taken from Indian thought. 

It would not be out of place to mention that  at the bottom of the lion emblem are "the words Satyameva Jayate from Mundaka Upanishad, meaning 'Truth Alone Triumphs'". 

According to Dhananjay Keer, author of 'Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission',  Ambedkar put in a word for the adoption of the Dharma Chakra in the national  flag so credit for its presence should go to him.  

It must be remembered that unlike  Islam, Baudh Dharam is one of the four forms of Dharma. Wars fought between  followers of Dharma were intended to capture territory, not convert, rape and  destroy temples. Has anyone heard of Rajput women burning themselves in the Holy Fire after their King lost war to  another Hindu king?

3. The  embarrassing collapse of the Marathas after the defeat at Panipat stands out in  contrast to the dogged resistance of Tipu. All of this happened within 40  years, between 1761 (when Ahmed Abdali won at Panipat) and 1799, when Tipu was  killed.

Yes Marathas lost Panipat but it would  be incorrect to undermine their achievements by only looking at a forty year  period.

Most are unaware that Marathas  dominated India in the 18th century. They reached Lahore, (Raghunath Rao attacked Delhi, then invaded  Punjab in 1758. Mayaji Paygude led the Marathas to Lahore in 1758 defeating  Abdali’s son Timur Shah), Nizam was overcome in 1728 in the battle of Palkhed amongst others. The  presence of a Maratha Palace in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu is evidence of Maratha  forays into the region.

Read Maratha Supremacy in the 18th century

It is worth  recalling that "In the 1700s, one man antagonized the European powers, and  insisted on the Maratha Empire’s rights to taxation and sovereignty over  Maharashtra’s coast. He was Kanhoji Angre, the head of the Maratha navy."

Read about India's first naval commander

On Tipu, Wilks says that, "the  decision of history will not be far removed from the observation almost  proverbial in Mysore that Haidar was born to create an empire, Tipu to lose  one. Haidar was an improving monarch and exhibited few innovations, Tipu was an  innovating monarch and made no improvements". The History and Culture of Indian People Volume 8, pg 466.

4. All  that is remembered is the idea that he killed or converted Hindus, whether this  is true or false.

Historian Vikram Sampat wrote, "When he was unable to capture the pradhans of Rani Lakshmi  Ammanni, who were carrying on negotiations on her behalf with the British, he  ordered the public hanging of around 700 members of the pradhan community, the Mandyam Iyengars—men, women and children—in broad daylight, and  that too on Diwali. So much so that to this day some Mandyam Iyengars observe  Diwali as a day of mourning.

After his Mangalore campaign, over 60,000 Syrian Christians were  taken captive, coerced to convert and brutalized. In his repeated attacks on  Malabar, Tipu devastated the warrior Nairs with his atrocities and religious  intolerance.

Tipu’s own letters demonstrate this zeal. For instance, he writes to  Burduz Zamaun Khan on 19 January 1790: “Don’t you know I have achieved a great  victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to  Islam?”, and to Syed Abdul Dulai on 18 January 1790: “With the grace of Prophet  Muhammad and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are now converted to Islam.

But these are facts of history that cannot be wished away, just as  some of Tipu’s progressive measures are praiseworthy."

Read full article

Thousand of Nair families fled further  South into the last kingdom of Travancore. Tipu recoiled from the forward  defence lines of the Travancore army in 1790. Had Travancore fallen, we would  have been debating the Victory Mosque that  Tipu would have built on the site of the great Sri Padmanabhaswamy Mandir.  There would be no treasure today, of course!

Read Tipu Sultan as known in Kerala

To the average Hindu, Muslims were  foreign invaders who captured India by the power of the sword. It does not  matter to them if Arthur Wellesley or Pervez Musharraf defeated Tipu or his valiant  resistance to another invader, the British.  

Also, there is a place in Nandi hills  outside Bangalore called Tipus Drop. It's a 500 to 600 feet cliff, where Tipu  would throw people off the cliff, hence the name.

5. The  problem is that very few books are written in India, unlike in the civilised  world.

India followed 'Shruti', an oral tradition as installed by Yogis for a simple reason, it's  interactive. It came from the mouth of a master, and in case you understood  wrongly, he would correct you. We have books now but the Guru parampara exists.

The most comprehensive books on Indian history  and culture are published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan and the Ramakrishna  Mission. The former consists of eleven volumes titled 'The History and Culture  of the Indian People and the latter are seven volumes titled 'The Cultural  Heritage of India'.

Another must read are five books by  noted Gandhian Dharampalji that provide an Indian viewpoint on Bharat before  the advent of British rule. These books break many a colonial myth for e.g. the  maximum number of scholars in schools of Madras Presidency around 1820 were  Sudras. Their names are Indian Science and Technology  in the 18th Century,  Civil Disobedience in the Indian Tradition, The  Beautiful Tree Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century, Panchayat  Raj and India's polity and Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom.
 
Readers  be forewarned that these books are not by Secular  Authors.

Our problems arise because we look at  Bharat through the eyes of the West. We evaluate leaders of yesterday based on  colonial terms like secularism that never existed then.   

6. We honour Ashoka but not Tipu because he is a Muslim.

Atrocities committed by numerous Muslim  rulers, Mahmud Ghazni, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan included, need no repetition. The  followers of Dharma might have forgotten past atrocities if Indian Muslims,  most of them converts, had handed over the sacred sites of Ayodhya, Mathura and  Kashi to Hindus and not opposed age-old traditions like Surya Namaskar. The  massacre of  Kashmiri Pandits, as recent  as 1990, is a grim reminder on what happens when Muslims are in majority.  

What adds to current animosity is being  disturbed by Azaan five times a day starting about 5.30 am. Has any Muslim  considered using technology to send an sms to the devout informing about  prayers instead of disturbing the neighbourhood?

Subsequent to  the brutality of the ISIS, Sikhsangat.org circulated a link titled 'Brutality of ISIS is the  copy of what Mughals did with Sikhs of Punjab'

The way followers of Dharma react now is  a combination of historic and current events. Hindu Muslim relations are too  complex to be seen as black and white.

Lastly, ‘Often the Marxist  Historians try to whitewash the brutalities inflicted by Tipu Sultan by using  the same line of defence : he reconstructed the Sringeri Math after it was  ransacked by the Marathas. But historian Uday Kulkarni author of ‘Solstice at  Panipat’ explains the truth behind this significant chapter of Indian history  with the help of reliable evidence.’ 

Read What Exactly Happened At Sringeri Math In  April 1791?

Secular writers rarely question Congress  governments for decisions dictated by vote bank politics. Instead they seek to  put followers of Dharma on the defensive by presenting one sided views of  history and calling them emotional, illiterate and uncivilised.

The author is an independent columnist