‘Can’t Pick & Choose History’: Scholars on Tipu Sultan Controversy

From being India’s first freedom fighter to rocket man to being called a tyrant, Tipu is a controversial figure.

3 min read

A special committee formed to deliberate on whether lessons on 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan should be removed from textbooks, reportedly submitted a report to the Karnataka Textbook Society on Monday, 9 December, saying that the lessons should not be removed.

From being called India’s first freedom fighter to India’s rocket man to his reputation now being that of a bigot and a tyrant, Tipu has become a controversial figure in Karnataka.

CM Yediyurappa recently stated that Tipu’s very mention should be removed from textbooks, sparking a debate in the state. Following a letter written by BJP MLA Madikeri Appachu Ranjan, demanding lessons with Tipu’s reference be dropped, Karnataka Textbook Society, on 16 November, had reportedly sought one month’s time to submit its report after analysing documents submitted to them.


The special committee, comprising experts and scholars reportedly stated that the references to Tipu are ‘introductory’ in nature. The state textbook society will submit a formal report to the government soon.

The Quint spoke to scholars and scientists in Bengaluru to understand the significance of Tipu Sultan at present and the impact of removing him from textbooks.

Tipu Sultan’s Significance in Karnataka

S Manjunatha, Assistant Professor of Physics at Cambridge Institute of Technology said, “If you remove Tipu Sultan from the textbooks, in a way, we are cheating the students in teaching the real history. Tipu Sultan has made significant contributions even in the construction of Mysore state. Tipu Sultan’s contributions are very immense, farmers were very happy and peaceful and even the taxes were very less. Tipu Sultan has to be taught in the textbooks, as any other historical personality.”

Dr Rajini, who is a member of the faculty at National Institute of Advanced Studies ND has conducted extensive research on Tipu’s rockets, said, “The controversy is very strange. If we set out to do research on Tipu’s history, we won’t be going to school textbooks to look at. At the same time, school textbooks are important because they give children a history and especially in this land where Tipu is so local. And so what there were people who did good things and there were people who did bad things, both are part of history why should it be removed from history?”


Can Tipu Be Called a Freedom Fighter?

Arun Panchapakesan, a PhD scholar said, “I think I’m going to have to agree with CM Yediyurappa on that question that simply fighting the British does not give you that status of a freedom fighter, and I say that simply because he wasn’t fighting for this idea of India, he had more selfish motives he was fighting for his own kingdom.”

Manjunatha said, “When it comes to Tipu Sultan, some organisations and some political parties, they wake up and create all such controversy. On the other side, we had rulers like Kitoorrani Chennamma, Belavadi Malamma, so many rulers, that they fought against the British like Sangoli Rayanna. The same scale or the same measurement has to be adopted when it comes to whether he has to be called a freedom fighter or not.”

Vaibhav, a PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research said, “So labelling some leaders or some kings as freedom fighters but some as not, because of some kind of conversion or because they belong to some other religion is not, it doesn’t do justice. And we first need to decide, when do we call, or whom do we call as a freedom fighter.”


‘Any King Would Crush a Rebellion...’

“We all know that erstwhile Congress government only got it in, celebrations started only to appease a certain section of the community. But having said that, it is also true that any king would crush a rebellion, I’m sure Tipu did not have anything personal against the Kodavas, or even the Nairs of Mysore. They rebelled against his rule he crushed them, that’s not reason enough for him to be called a tyrant. If you consider that to be tyranny, I think that almost every single king in India, or anywhere in the world for that matter would be classified as a tyrant.
Arun Panchapakesan, PhD Scholar

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