Tipu Sultan Jayanti: Tempers flare in Kodagu as Karnataka govt's intent puts Congress, BJP on collision course

Coovercolly Indresh | Nov 9, 2018 | 7 min read


Coovercolly Indresh


Madikeri: The tiny hill town of Madikeri, which serves as the Kodagu district headquarters in Karnataka, has been dealing with consistent turmoil every November since 2015 when former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah announced that the state would celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan. The then-Congress-led state government declared that Tipu Jayanti would be celebrated in all taluk and district headquarters of the state, including Kodagu—thereby angering native Kodavas who believe that the 18th-century ruler carried out a massacre against their ancestors in 1785. While many parts of state witnessed protests during the 2015 Tipu Jayanti, things took an ugly turn in Madikeri leading to two deaths. Though the subsequent years were not tainted with such casualties, the BJP and other right-wing elements obstruct the celebrations every year, calling for bandhs.

Many Kodava elders still claim that the Tiger of Mysore killed and captured hundreds of people from the Kodava clan between 1784 to 1799.  Speaking to FirstPost, former president of the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy, B A //BP?// Appanna, said that Tipu Sultan was a cruel king who destroyed 300 temples in the district. “He also forcibly converted thousands of Kodavas. Hundreds of Muslims in Napoklu //are these the kodava maaple; the 50,000 hindus of the malabar region who were forcibly converted?// follow Islam with Kodava traditions and culture—which is a proof of the brutalities inflicted upon them,” Appanna said while adding that Tipu and his father Hyder Ali tried to conquer the district over 30 times but failed. “Tipu Sultan was waiting for a chance and he got that during 1785 which resulted in the massacre of Kodavas,” he claimed.

The Codava National Council (CNC)—an organisation which fighting for an autonomous land for Kodavas since last two decades— has been raising the issue of the alleged brutalities inflicted by Tipu on the Kodavas. CNC president N U Nachappa said that the Kodavas never forget and will never forgive Tipu Sultan for the excesses committed on them. "On 1785, December 13, Tipu invited the Kodavas for compromise to Devatparamb near Bhagamandala and then massacred thousands of unarmed men, women and children, with help of the French army. According to Nachappa, Tipu even took the hostages to Srirangpatna jail," he says, claiming that over 1500 Kodava clans in the district were reduced to 800 after the massacre. He said that Kodavas were a micro-minority now owing to Tipu's atrocities. The Kodava history book ‘Pattole Palame’ mentions that the Gowda community from neighbouring Sullia were brought in by Tipu Sultan to settle them in the vacant Kodava houses., according to Nachappa.

K P Manjunath, a social activist who filed writ petitions in state High Court in 2017 seeking a ban on Tipu Jayanti, contended that Tipu Sultan was not a freedom fighter and the state government has only been glorifying him for vote bank politics. Manjunath added that he was opposed to the celebrations using the taxpayers’ money as Tipu was responsible for the alleged genocide of Kodavas, the forcible conversions, and the injustice towards the community. According to a circular issued by the state government through Kannada and culture department, the revelries would come at a cost of Rs 25,000 in all taluk centres of the state and in district headquarters the costs would go up to Rs. 50,000, he claimed. Despite the pending writ petition, the state government is ready to celebrate Tipu Jayanti which will cause social unrest and tension in the district, Manjunath said. The state government did not file its arguments for hearing even after the court given deadline expired. The court then imposed a fine of Rs. 1000 last week for neglecting the court hearings,” he said. The next hearing is scheduled for November 9.

Some Congress leaders in the district have shied away from the celebrations in the past. In 2015, the-then district Congress committee president late Biddatanda Pradeep avoided Tipu Jayanti celebrations as he said Tipu’s army had burnt alive 40 of his ancestors in their house in Napoklu. In fact, to this day, the massacre is remembered during those days in the year when the Kodavas remember their ancestors and offer prayers to their souls. This is probably why Tipu Jayanti has been politically costly for the Congress in Kodagu. In the assembly elections in May this year, BJP MLAs in both the constituencies in the district won by drastically increased margins. Virajpet MLA K G Bopaiah managed to win by over margin of 10,000 votes, twice his margin from 2013, while Madikeri MLA M P Appachu Ranjan won by a margin of 15000, his highest in the past four elections.


Nachappa also said that the state government should use the money to rehabilitate the recent flood victims instead of using it to celebrate a cruel leader’s birth anniversary. He blamed the Congress government for glorifying Tipu in order to secure their vote-bank. “Politicians favouring Tipu should at least go through history books on Tipu in which they will find proofs of his excesses. Tipu Sultan was an outsider like the Britishers and French,” he said. The Kodavas had also staged a protest in front of the French embassy in New Delhi demanding an apology from the French government for the 1785 Devatparamb massacre on November 1 //Please check date once//. The CNC has also asked the United Nations to include Devatparamb massacre into the UNO list of genocides, Nachappa said.


The district administration has beefed up security in the region to prevent untoward incidents. The officers are in a dilemma while distributing Tipu Jayanti invitations to BJP zilla parishad, taluk panchayat and gram panchayat members as per protocols. This is because BJP members disrupt the celebrations while lighting the lamp and last year, the celebrations ended within a few minutes in Somwarpet and Virajpet. BJP district unit president B B Bharatish said that the party would organise protests across Kodagu from November 8 to 10. “The state unit has issued instructions to hold protests during the celebration,” he said. Over 30 Kodava samajs, various Kodava organisations and sangh parivar members are opposing Tipu Jayanti this year along with several BJP leaders and the sangh parivar, who plan to observe black day on November 10. The Tipu Jayanti Virodhi Horata Samithi has also called for Kodagu bandh on November 10. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the samithi convener M B Abhimanyu Kumar said that Tipu was a cruel king who the Congress government was trying to glorify as a freedom fighter. The committee would organise protests in Somwarpet and Virajpet on Thursday and in Madikeri on Friday , he said, asking people to support bandh voluntarily.

District incharge minister S R Mahesh chaired a meeting in Madikeri on Wednesday to discuss Tipu Jayanti arrangements during which he appealed for people to co-operate with the adminsitration in celebrating the event peacefully. Southern range IGP Sharat Chandra has said that the police has tightened security and opened temporary check posts. He said 1,500 police personnel and RRT //?// would be pressed into service and warned that stringent action would be taken against anyone who tries to disrupt peace. In order to contain the chances of violence, the police summoned sangh parivar workers, who were involved in previous Tipu Jayanti clashes, and has taken indemnity bonds from them. The move was decried by several sangh leaders. 155 people were summoned in Madikeri while 88 and 105 people were called in Virajpet and in Somwarpet respectively. The district administration has issued orders to close liquor shops from 12 midnight on Thursday to till 6 am of 11 November.

More stories published under