Why display Tipu's Sword?
Should culture be a denial of history? And what history ought to be remembered?
When Karnataka decided to celebrate Tipu Sultan in their Republic Day tableau, the opposition did not really think about this. For them it was ‘murderer of Hindus, temple destroyer”, and the Congress government was chided for fake secularism. Some even called Tipu, “the Tiger of Mysore”, a Mughal king. This is par for the course for the Hindutva agenda. To be noted is that we never seem to have an issue with the British. Has there been any move to demolish the Gateway of India?
Having said this, the opponents of the opponents are using Tipu’s bravery against the Raj colonial rule, and his death in battle as an example. All very well, but the Indian National Congress cannot take credit for that.
I do indeed have an issue with Tipu Sultan in the January 26 float for the simple reason that India was already an independent nation when it chose to become a republic. We do not need to commemorate kings. And what is this obsession with his sword? Can we forget that it was brought back to India by business tycoon Vijay Mallya in 2003 by paying from his "personal funds" of Rs. 1.5 crore? (The second sword was auctioned in London in 2013.)
At the time it was seen as a political move, and like many political moves it was explained as "rightful legacy" by "a proud Kannadiga". If anything, this is parochialism. Which is also what the tableaux are about.
For us culture seems to be a mish-mash of song and dance from various regions. This is static. It does not convey the growth of a nation. It is as much of an anomaly as display of weapons. Who are these shown off to? What does it convey? That we are prepared to deal with any enemy attack.
It is not too different from Tipu's sword that Karnataka owes to a corporate house, which represents in some ways how we view the enemy of dislocated people today. What about other enemies within? Is it not the duty of the Republic to address these issues?
And if we want an exhibition of culture, then this is one area where we could do with fusion. Why not bring two or three regions to create something together?
History is killed by crude and ostentatious statues of dead heroes used opportunistically. Tipu Sultan is now included in the pantheon. There will be dissonant voices. Why play into them? Why not celebrate what can be instead of what was?
© Farzana Versey
Image: India Today