“CHITI is the touchstone, on which each action, each attitude is tested, and determined to be acceptable or otherwise. ‘Chiti’ is the soul of the nation. On the strength of this 'Chiti', a nation arises, strong and virile. It is this 'Chiti' that is demonstrated in the actions of every great man of a nation.”
– Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya (Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya; a profile by Sudhakar Raje)
Like in the past two years, controversy regarding celebration of Tipu Sultan’s birth centenary has erupted yet again. The controversy regarding Shah Jahan and his magnanimity is yet to die down. The eminent historians who wasted their entire life in proving Akbar and Aurangzeb as the ‘great’ kings take pride in juxtaposing them to Maharana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji. It is beyond doubt that celebrating ‘Tipu’ as a great warrior is another ploy of the Congress Government to appease fundamentalist sections of Muslims, who consider themselves as the rightful heirs of the Mughal Sultanat and their agents like Tipu. The key question is what should be the criteria to judge a historical figure.
One thing is clear that it should not be a communal consideration. Someone is not ‘great’ just being a Hindu, nor someone can be demonised for following the Muslim faith. On this land of Bharat many faiths have blossomed and many other coming from outside got assimilated. It is the British trap of ‘Divide and Rule’ and the proponents of Islamic supremacy that has left the gulf of Hindu-Muslim enmity. The blatant communalism in the name of secularism further encouraged such mindset despite the bitter experience of Partition. Celebrating Tipu on religious lines is a continuation of that strategy. There is a clear cut distinction between aggressors and freedom fighters. Can Christians of Bharat identify themselves with Curzon, Dyer and Clive just because these British officers who were involved in mindless exploitation of common Bharatiya citizens were also followers of Christianity? Similarly, Khiljis and Mughals who made plundering of wealth as their main motto and came here as aggressors cannot be considered as heroes for Muslims.
Bharat historically has a unique way of judging people. For instance, why do we revere Prahlada and not his father Hiranakashyapu? Not because one was worshipper of Vishnu and the other was that of Shiva but because Pralhad is an embodiment of righteousness and truth while Hiranyakashyapu is a symbol of tyranny. Raja Mansingh was a great warrior and worshipper of Shiva but chose to be subservient to tyrannical rule of Aurangzeb, therefore not considered ‘great’ by Hindus. The same is true about many other slothful rulers who taxed common people for their luxuries.
Even the outsiders when assimilated in the cultural milieu can be considered as ‘great’ but only on the parameters of judging people on the test of civilisational values evolved in this ancient Rashtra. Impeccable character, respect for all ways of worships and righteous governance have been the main criteria that are enshrined in this. Once we understand and accept this, it is very easy to judge anybody including Tipu.
Where does Tipu fit into this? It is true that he fought the British for over 20 years. While doing so he took help of the French and invited Napoleon to invade Bharat. He tried to get in touch with many Afghan and Arab rulers to save his kingdom and not to save Bharat as nation. Not just British but even the French who initially helped him to fight the British have given horrified accounts of his crimes, mass murders, forced conversion and the methods he adopted to torture the people. In a letter written by Tipu Sultan himself is a testimony of his larger objective. In letters to Syed Abdul Dulai and his officer Budruz Zaman Khan respectively he gloats thus: “With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, 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.” In his march towards Northern Kerala, as per records he destroyed lakhs of temples and thousands of churches, killing and converting thousands of families. Can such a tyrant be considered a noble King?
As Pt Deendayalji has stated, the actions should be judged on the basis of ‘CHITI’, soul of the nation. Whatever may be the vote bank considerations of political parties but actions of Tipus and Aurangzebs do not reflect that CHITI of this nation and therefore, cannot be celebrated as ‘great’.