BJP’s opposition to Tipu an affront to Netaji and three Presidents

Netaji acknowledged being inspired by Tipu Sultan. President Kovind, APJ Abdul Kalam and President KR Narayanan paid tributes to him. But the BJP cannot overcome its opposition to Tipu Jayanti!

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

SN Sahu

Opposition by BJP to Tipu Sultan's Jayanti being celebrated in Karnataka is an affront to the legacy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and freedom fighters who fought against British rule, laid down their lives and liberated India from colonial subjugation and exploitation.

It was Netaji who was appointed as the Prime Minister of the Azad Hind Provisional Government in 1943 and none other than the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi celebrated the 75th anniversary of that event in the Lal Quila by unfurling the tricolour and unfairly blaming Nehru who in fact defended INA heroes as a lawyer when they were put to trial by the British rulers in the Lal Quila itself.

The BJP's opposition against Tipu Jayanti is a negation of Netaji's legacy because it negates the Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind issued on 21st October 1943 by Netaji himself.

The Proclamation noted with pride that the Indian people fought an uninterrupted series of hard and bitter battles over a stretch of one hundred years and the history of that period teemed with examples of unparalleled heroism and self-sacrifice, among others, of Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan and Velu Tampi of South India and their names are forever engraved in letters of gold.

It is paradoxical that while BJP and Prime Minister Modi celebrate Netaji’s legacy and try hard to appropriate it by blaming Nehru, it opposes jayanti celebrations associated with Tipu Sultan who was revered by Netaji Subhash Bose and specifically mentioned in the Proclamation of the Government of Azad Hind as a great ruler who fought against Britishers and attained martyrdom.

Such dichotomies clearly prove the point highlighted by Shri Shashi Tharoor in his book "Paradoxical Prime Minister". Netaji who the Hindutva forces tries to claim as their own considered Tipu Sultan as a great hero. In opposing Tipu Jayanti, Modi and BJP supporters are denigrating Netaji and his valiant struggle for freedom of India.

BJP’s opposition to Tipu Jayanti is also an affront to the legacy of our composite culture which has been splendidly depicted in the sketch prepared under the guidance of the painter Nandalal Bose and that sketch containing images, among others, of Lord Ram, Akbar, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Tipu Sultan is integral to the original Constitution of India. It is unfair that in opposing Tipu Jayanti, BJP is showing its hostility to the composite culture which is the defining feature of the Idea of India.

Prime Minister Modi who during his campaign in the last Karnataka elections mocked Congress for celebrating the Jayanti of "Sultans" is unmindful of the exalted place Tipu occupied in the estimation of Netaji and other great freedom fighters including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who is his Discovery of India wrote, "Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan... inflicted a severe defeat on the British and came near to breaking the power of the East India Company."

Such bravery and heroism of Tipu Sultan commanded admiration and attention of freedom fighters in successive phases of freedom struggle. Those formations which constitute the origin of BJP and which did not participate in freedom struggle have no faculty to appreciate the glorious legacy of Tipu Sultan.

The opposition to the Jayanti is an opposition to the sagacity and wisdom of three Presidents of our Republic- Shri K R Narayanan, Dr. Abdul Kalam and Shri Kovind- who invoked the name of Tipu Sultan in a variety of contexts to celebrate the idea of India.

President KR Narayanan during his State visit to France in April 2000 referred to the strategic dialogue started by Vajpayee Government with the Jacques Chirac Government of France and contextualized it by saying that both Napolean and Tipu Sultan had a plan to form a grand alliance to throw British rulers out of Indian soil.

Mr Narayanan quoted from a letter of Napolean addressed to Tipu Sultan wherein he informed the Sultan that he had arrived on the borders of the Red Sea, with an invincible Army, full of the desire of delivering India from the iron yoke of England. The letter could not reach Tipu Sultan as Britishers intercepted the letter.

However President Narayanan said in that banquet speech that “...Napoleon’s demarche perhaps underlined the strategic affinity that links India and France and the responsibility we hold in creating a more equal and democratic international order in the multipolar world.”

It is instructive that the President of India was underlining the vision of a multipolar world by invoking the strategic affinity forged between Napoleon and Tipu Sultan in the 17th century and linking it to the strategic dialogue commenced by both the countries at the beginning of the Twenty first century.

President APJ Abdul Kalam in many of his writings gave an account of the rockets used by Tipu Sultan against Britishers and paid rich tributes to him for being the first warrior in history to have used rockets which completely confounded the Britishers and put them at their wit's end. He also stated that the Royal Artillery Museum, London till today has got the rockets used by Tipu Sultan and it has been written in that museum that the rockets used by Tipu Sultan were the first ever rockets used in any warfare in history.

When Presidnet Ram Nath Kovind while addressing the Karnataka Legislative Assembly appreciated Tipu Sultan, among others, for having used rockets for the first time in the history of warfare to throw Britishers out of Indian soil, BJP insulted him by saying that President's speech was prepared by the Karnataka Government headed by the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Tipu Sultan was so fascinated by the French Revolution that he planted a tree in Srirangapattanam to commemorate it and became a member of the Jacobin club which was a moving force behind the historic revolution.

With such a glorious legacy, Tipu Sultan has a special place in our history and has been inspiring generations of Indians. It is both unfortunate and unfair that Tipu Jayanti is being opposed on the ground that he was a Muslim while ignoring his many splendoured contributions.

The example set by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in acknowledging inspiration from Tipu Sultan and the glowing invocation of Tipu in the writings of Jawaharlal Nehru, President K.R. Narayanan, President Abdul Kalam and President Kovind bring out his enduring relevance.

It is unfortunate that such a legacy is being opposed on narrow and convoluted grounds.

The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri KR Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister's Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

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