Why should there be violence in Tipu's name?

Coastal Karnataka 2015 - 226 communal incidents Tipu Jayanti aftermath tops the listFile photo of Bajilakeri in Mangalore, which also witnessed some tension after Tipu Jayanti
news Communal Tension Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 13:23

There was one major difference between 2015 and 2014 for people in coastal Karnataka. In addition to the usual frequency of assaults, “moral policing” and one-upmanship, there was a wave of violence spread over four days after Tipu Jayanti which claimed one life and the aftershocks are still being felt.

In 2015, between November 12 and 16, as many as 27 incidents including murder and three instances of stabbing were reported from Dakshina Kannada alone. This violence – which also included skirmishes, arson and deliberate attempts to provoke tension by vandalising places of worship – was reported from multiple locations across the district, according to a PUCL report compiled by Suresh Bhat Bakrabail.

Titled “Chronicle of communal incidents in the coastal districts of Karnataka” the report is a compilation of incidents – including but not limited to violence – of a communal nature in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.

The total number of incidents rose slightly from 173 in 2014 to 226 this year, even if the 27 incidents that followed the Tipu Jayanti celebrations on November 10, are subtracted from this figure.

Moral policing by suspected Hindu vigilantes 34
Moral policing by suspected Muslim vigilantes11
Moral policing by unknown organizations 2
Allegations of religious conversion7
Cattle vigilantism22
Alleged hate speech7
Other communal incidents143

Source: PUCL, Karnataka 

The government’s move to declare November 10 as Tipu Jayanti and ask district authorities to organize celebrations locally was widely criticised in the wake of unsurprising protests, tension and violence reported from across the state. Much of this was reported from districts and regions in the state which have a strong presence of Hindutva groups. The bulk of it of course, occurred in the two coastal districts and adjacent Kodagu district which has in recent years seen the growth of both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist groups.

Political observers including writers and activists had then told The News Minute that the government’s move was ill-conceived and fraught with danger on account of the manner in which Tipu was called a “freedom fighter” but reduced to a “Muslim” icon by the ruling congress government.

Read: How Congress called Tipu a freedom fighter, but reduced him to a Muslim

However, asked about the violence, Manipal-based writer K Phaniraj said that looking for a cause and effect relationship between Tipu Jayanti and the violence that followed in its wake was a simplistic view of things.

“There isn’t a single portrait that you can paint about Tipu. It depends on where you re and whom you ask. He was a ruler. He supported those who supported him, and opposed those who were opposed to him and sided with the British. Tipu had supported the Barkur and Kollur temples. Even today, there is a puja in Kollur as a salaam for Tipu,” Phaniraj said.

Although the degree and numbers are still contested by historians, Phaniraj said that it was a known fact that Catholics in Mangaluru and the Kodavas in Kodagu district had opposed Tipu and sided with the British. This is why protests over Tipu Jayanti had been localised to the coastal districts and Kodagu.

In contrast, the event went unopposed in large parts of Karnataka, he said, because of folk song songs such as Lavanis and kaifiyats which praise Tipu because he had brought in a “revolution of development”, Phaniraj said.

“Why was there violence only in the coastal districts? Because the Sangh Parivar could oppose him because Tipu happened to be a Muslim. The violence occurred because communal forces could use Tipu to fan communal hatred and use it against the state,” Phaniraj said.

He said that states declare jayantis because of a need to glorify the past. “States need to glorify the past. So they take the positives of Basava, Kanaka or Valmiki and declare a jayanti to celebrate those values. Tomorrow, if the BJP declares a jayanti for Veer Savarkar, who was known to be communal, should violence be unleashed in his name?”

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