Was Tipu a secular freedom fighter? Well, ask the Kodava
President of India, Ram Nath Kovind triggered off a war of words after he said in his speech that Tipu Sultan was a man of valour and died fighting the British. He also went on to say that Tipu was a pioneer in missiles to which BJP MP, Prathap Simha shot back and said, if that was the case, then why didn't he fire them.
The debate rages on whether Tipu was a tyrant or freedom fighter? Around 240 kilometres away from Bengaluru, there is the Kodagu district. A hill station with a small population. There is no debating Tipu there. Ask any Kodava or Coorgi and he will say Tipu was a fraud who cheated them as he stared at defeat.
Almost everyone in Kodagu consider him to be a tyrant who tricked them into surrendering when he realized he was losing the battle against them.
Senior citizens of Kodagu say that the Tipu Jayanthi celebrations at least in Kodagu is not in conformity with the sentiments that the people have towards the ruler from Srirangapatana.
History records that the Kodavas and Tipu Sultan have had a bitter rivalry always. Tipu wanted to capture Kodagu as he felt he could use it as a gateway to Mangalore which has a port.
No just Tipu, but his father Hyder Ali too made several attempts to capture Kodagu. Various attempts by father and son were a failure as they found it hard to battle in Kodagu which has vast tracts of land and mountains which was very familiar to the locals.
The Kodavas who pride themselves for contributing immensely to the Indian army thanks to Field Marshal K C Kariappa and General K S Thimmaiah were good at guerrilla warfare which gave them an advantage of Tipu's army.
A Wikipedia entry suggests that the Kodavas despite being outnumbered 1:3 always managed to defeat the Tipu army. There were a couple of times that Tipu and his army managed to reach Madikeri, the capital of Kodagu, but he was beaten. The Kodavas has sworn never to bow to the Sultan.
However, Tipu once managed to capture Kodagu on one ocassion and is said to have uttered the words, "if you ambush my men, I will honour you all with Islam."
The Kodavas did not take this lying down and beat Tipu and drove him back to Mysore.
Tipu by now realized that his war was going nowhere and beating the Kodavas was not easy.
He decided to offer his hand of friendship. The Kodavas made a grave error in trusting Tipu. The Kodavas were in fact happy to offer their hand of friendship as the battle against him was being won, but at a huge cost and the warriors were tired.
The Kodavas are said to have welcomed Tipu. However, they were caught completely off guard when Tipu's men launched an attack against the Kodavas who were unarmed. He took many as prisoners.
Tipu had even sought the help of the Nawab of Kurnool to launch the attack.
Several thousand Kodavas were captured and taken to Srirangapatana where it is believed they were forcibly converted.
Stories of conversion and torture have been narrated by the Kodavas who were in captivity of Tipu.
Various historians have given different figures about the number of Kodavas who were converted. Figures range between 60,000 to 85,000. Well, if you think Tipu was a brave freedom fighter, then ask the Kodava.