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Explained! Why Tipu is a controversial figure in Karnataka

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The row over Girish Karnad's comment over renaming the Kempe Gowda airport as Tipu Sultan airport has drawn enough flak.

While many know the reason why, there are others who wonder why a mountain is being made out of a molehill. And rubbing salt to the wound is the Karnataka government's declaration of declaring Nov 10 as the Tipu Jayanti. Both the instances have deeply offended the sentiments of the Coorgis and many living in Kerala.

Tipu Sultan

A dark history

While many of us know Tipu Sultan for his revolution against the Britishers and his cultural streak, there are documentations archived narrating the tyranny that he carried out across the state. The Coorgis are the worst affected.

[Read: Tipu Sultan Row: Girish Karnad receives death threat]

With his occupation of the region, Tipu is said to have rampaged temples, killing 'infidels' and conducting mass conversions. In fact, the famosus Omkareshwara temple in Mercara is a case in point. To protect it, residents of the town knocked down the towers and replaced them with domes, which are still visible. In all, it is said that Tipu had destroyed over 8,000 temples in South India.

[Read: Tipu clash: VHP, Dal to stage Raasta Roko on Nov 13 in Karnataka]

Belliappa, a Coorgi writer and author, revealed how Tipu had lured the Coorgis into a trap telling them that he is willing to cease hostilities. He suggested that they came close to Bagamandala, the birth place of river Cauvery, to discuss the issues.

But when they arrived, all of them were ambushed and rounded up and taken to Srirangapatnam. They were circumscised there and allowed to eat beef.

Tipu's courtier and his biographer Mir Hussein Kirmani revealed minute details of the Sultan's rampages in his 'History of Tipu Sultan'. He said,"The conquering Sultan dispatched his Amirs and Khans with large bodies of troops to punish those idolaters and reduce the whole country (Coorg) to subjection. They attacked and destroyed many towns. Eight thousand men, women, and children were taken as prisoners. They were collected in an immense crowd like a flock of sheep or herd of bullocks."

In fact, Tipu himself wrote a letter to the Nawab of Kurnool bragging of his achievements in Coorg where he captured 40,000 Coorgs as prisoners and forced them to convert to Islam. They were then incorporated into the Ahmadi corps.

[Read: Why Kodavas won't bow to Tipu Sultan]

Placating Hindus for a purpose

It has also been documented that he has been generous enough to be the beneficiery of the Sringeri temple. BUt that was because he did not want the Hindu majority in his empire to hold arms against him. The insecurity set in when he got a drubbing during the Third Anglo-Mysore war of 1791. MOreover, he had to safeguard himself from the Maratha power that was increasing gradually.

Tipu may have fought the Britishers, but he was counted among the French loyalists who were no degree lesser than the Britishers-ambitious and ruthless. He plundered Malabar too. An account by Father Bartholomew, a Portugese missionary, reveals this:

"Women and children were hanged in Calicut, first mothers were hanged and their children tied to necks of mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants to move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces."

[Read: Tipu Trouble: Cases pile up against Karnad as cops seeks legal advise]

After the pillage of Calicut, Tipu wrote to his generals: "Almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only on the borders of Cochin State a few are still not converted. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jihad to achieve that object."

Tipu not only rampaged temples, but also changed th eoficial language to farsi, changed measurements into an Arabic system. Even the calender got 364 days on his insistence. He refurbished his courtiers replacing all Hindus, except for one. He also reversed his father's instruction of not levying taxes on temples. He called the Hindus kaffirs.

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