We recently witnessed one of the worst cases of Horse trading, which led to the fall of Congress-JDU Government and coming of BJP Government in Karnataka. BJP after coming to power, in one of it first moves has not already decided to stop the state celebration of the Tipu Sultan, the Medieval king, it has also decided to hold anti-Tipu Rallies as Black day on November 10, the birth anniversary of Tipu. It seems the way medieval history has been constructed in diverse ways; the same person can be presented as hero for some communities and villain for the others. In case of Tipu the picture is much more complex. Earlier Tipu was looked up as a Hero even by Hindu nationalists, as presented in the series Bharat Bharti by RSS in 1970s. Same BJP leaders donned the Tipu attire and held the sword at a rally in 2010.

Our President Ramnath Kovind, coming again from RSS stock just a couple of years ago had gone on to praise Tipus’s bravery and his contribution in development of Missiles at his time. At the same time as communalism has taken roots in Karnataka, he is being presented as an anti Hindu tyrant. Lately while Congress through and projected Tipu to woo the Muslim votes, BJP did the parallel game of demonizing him for wooing the Hindu votes and the game continues. As such more we delve deeper into the narratives of this king and see the various aspects in an objective light, it becomes clear as to how communal interpretation of history has been used to ‘divide and rule’ by the British. Also the selective presentation of the events shows how the present communal forces have employed certain events to glorify or demonize the kings of this period due to their religion. As matters stand, these kings were primarily guided by the interests of maintain or expanding their empires for which they indulged in various things like temple destructions or patronizing of the same.

The additional factor in Tipu’s history is his attitude towards expanding East India Company. With the declining Mughal Empire the path for expansion of the company was becoming smoother. Tipu realized this and appealed to the Marathas, Raghunath Rao Patwadhan and Nizam not to collaborate with British. He did foresee the dangers of a foreign power deepening their rule in this land. As such the Marathas and Tipu, Tipu and Nizam had a rivalry in matters of controlling the areas they were ruling. One such step in this direction was the attack by Marathas on Tipu’s area. Patwardhan’s armies attacked Mysore in 1791 and plundered the Shringeri monastry. Interestingly it was Tipu who resorted this monastery to its glory by sending valuable gifts apart from other things. As a ruler he was the Chief trustee of the same monastery and used to address the Swamy of this monastery as Jagadguru (World Teacher). Tipu was also seeking his blessings for most of his military expeditions.

At the same time he was also instrumental in attacking attacking Varaha Temple. The reason was simple. The temple had Boar as the symbol of, which was icon of Mysore dynasty, which was defeated by him to come to power. So we see here Tipu patronizing Shringeri monastery and at the same time attacking Varaha Temple. In selective historiography one example will be used to paint him as anti Hindu, while these policies were totally guided by the interests of power. Same with Marathas desecrating the Shringeri monastery the target was not Hindu religion; target was the rival king Tipu.

There are other accounts about Tipu preferring Persian as his Court language and thereby ignoring Kannada. The fact is at that time Persian was the Court language of most of the kings of Sub continent. We recall Maharashtra’s Shivaji having Maulana Hiader Ali as his confidential secretary as the correspondence with other kings had to be in Persian. It is alleged that Tipu murdered hundreds of Brahmins who refused to be converted to Islam! This is totally false as one should recalls that it was Purnnaiya, a Brahmin, who was his Chief Advisor. These are deliberate lies spread by the British, who had been more vicious against Tipu, as Tipu was the one who stood rock solid against their expansion in India.

Similarly he is accused of targeting some Christian and Hindu communities. This is partly true. Some of these communities were targeted as they were helping the British, against the interests of Mysore state. On parallel ground he also targeted the Muslim Mahdavis, who were joining the East India Company forces as horsemen in British army. The consideration is again the arithmetic of power and not religion in any sense.

Communal forces have been using history as a powerful tool for their divisive politics, becomes clear once again. An interesting fact was brought forward by one of the researchers from Maharashtra Sarfarz Shaikh. In his book Sultan-E-Khudad he reproduces manifesto of Tipu Sultan. In this manifesto Tipu pledges that he will not discriminate his subjects on the grounds of religion, and he will protect his kingdom till his last breath. And that is precisely what he did, rather than compromising with the British he laid down his life fighting them as he was killed in the Fourth Anglo Mysore war in 1799.

Late Girish Karnad, the doyen of theater world, pointed out that had Tipu been a Hindu, he would have got the same honor and prestige, which Shivaji enjoys in Maharashtra. The folk songs on Tipu still reverberate in the villages of Mysore, praising him for his bravery.

We do need to overcome the ionization of heroes on the basis of religion. As such at one level I do feel most of our icons need to be drawn from our freedom movement, from those who contributed to ‘India as a nation in the making’. We do need to overcome the fascination of icons created by communal historiography.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

A FIR was registered against 10 Assamese poets (July 10, 2019). These poets mostly Muslims; have been pioneers and are leading lights of what has come to be known as Miyah Poetry. One sample, by the initiator of this trend; Hafiz Ahmed goes like this

Write, Write Down,

I am a Miya, My serial number in the NRC is 200543, I have two children
Another is coming Next summer. Will you hate him, As you hate me?

Many of these poems are reflecting the anguish of the Muslims who are labeled as Bangla Deshis and face the ignominy of being called foreigner. These poems are in different local dialects, some in Assamese, and some in English. The FIR states, “By these lines the accused persons are creating an image of our state as a barbarian state in the eyes of the world which is a threat to the security of the Nation in general and Assam in particular…”

Some critics said that this poetry, since it uses local dialects is an insult to Assamese language. In the face of this criticism Ahmed apologized. He also stated that he has been a part of Assamese language promotion movement, so there is no question of his being against Assamese language. The issue which the whole episode raises is multiple. To begin with all this is taking place in the backdrop of citizenship in Assam. Assam had a significant Muslim population at the time of partition, to the extent that Mr. Jinnah wanted Assam to be part of Pakistan. On the top of that Assam saw multiple migrations of Hindu and Muslims both at the time of India’s partition in 1947 and later with the formation of Bangla Desh. There has been a continuous flux of population, and the immigrants were both Hindus and Muslims.

With the NRC process going on in Assam, the tragedy has hit nearly 40 lakh people as they do not possess the relevant documents, and their names are missing in the first list. As agenda of Hindu nationalism is unfolding itself at rapid pace; the Citizenship Amendment Bill talks of granting citizenship to Sikhs, Jain and Hindus but not to Muslims. As the final list of NRC is going to be out on August 31, the tension all round is that from those excluded in the register, the Hindus will fit in to the amended bill and gain citizenship while Muslims will have to suffer exclusion. The recent case of Md. Sanaullah, a retired army officer, being sent to the detention camp shows the possibility of very legitimate citizens being expelled and deprived of their fundamental rights. Mr. Amit Shah's intent of extending the NRC exercise to the whole country is fraught with possibility where the citizenship is likely to be linked to religion.

What does this Miya Poetry, the poetry of protest reflect? To begin with it is very clear that it is not against Assames or against Assam. Mostly it is an expression of anguish and pain of Muslims. The local citizens have been continuously facing the charge of being ‘foreigners’. This includes mostly Muslim. First the whole exercise of ‘Doubtful voter’ D Voter, then the Foreigners tribunal pushing people into detention camps, and this exercise of National Register of Citizens. The citizenship of people has been on a continuous Test. While Hindus, Bangla speaking, are also targeted, there is a respite for them in the Amended Citizenship bill which regards Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains as refugees and Muslims as infiltrators. As such the Muslim community has been undergoing a constant labeling. The process of singling out Muslims as foreigners, ‘Go to Pakistan’, being the constant threat to some Muslims leaders and prominent citizens, who express their opinion or criticize the ruling dispensation.

During last couple of decades the global Islamophobia, in the aftermath of 9/11 2001 and associating Islam with terror, the politics of control of oil being given a garb of religion, has gone on at global level. At national level, with the massive violence of 1992-93, Gujarat 2002 and Muzzarfarnagar 2013, the popular perceptions about Muslim community have taken a nose dive. Indian Muslim community, which shares with other religious communities, the syncretic traditions of the land and has been the part of the social life here, has been propagated to be the threat to the majority community. The responses of the targeted community come in various forms. My first surprise was around 2005-2006 when major section of Indian Muslims, writers, social workers, scientist came together to discuss the theme ’What it means to be a Muslim in India today?’ The growing ghettoization is the major response of current times. The rising hold of conservative elements within the community is directly the outcome of the insecurity being perceived by this community.

The Miyah poetry, in a way expresses the turmoil through which Muslim community is passing in Assam in particular. Many of this turmoil are applicable in other parts of the country as well. The citizenship recognition is basic to the life of individuals. In Assam, Miyah, which are normally honorific title; has come to mean Bangladeshi Muslim; an infiltrator; a foreigner. It is used as a derogatory term in popular parlance. Those who value democratic ethos need also to look into the inner turmoil’s of the community, which is being targeted, is looked down upon.

The expressions of anguish are multi-layered. We saw the protest of dalits in the powerful poetry of the likes of Namdeo Dhasal, J V Pawar among others. The women’s movement has thrown up the rich literature in India, reflecting the travails of the ‘Half the sky’. All this needs to be received as the pain of fellow citizens as we aspire to build a society with equality. The touching poems need to be honored and respected. Attempts should be made to work towards an India where the values of freedom movement, which united us into a single fraternity are promoted and upheld.       

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED