NEW DELHI: The Hindutva subversion of history to beef up its religious nationalism has not ended with the targeting of Mughal emperors Babur and Aurangzeb. Its theatre of the absurd pitched its tent in southern India on Tuesday where Hindutva mobs are opposing official praise for the anti-colonial Muslim hero, Tipu Sultan.

Reports said that a tense situation prevailed in Madikeri town in Karnataka’s Kodagu district after a Vishwa Hindu Parishad office-bearer died in a clash between two groups of protesters ranged over the state government’s decision to celebrate Tipu Sultan Jayanti on Tuesday.

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Kutappa (60), who was the organising secretary of the VHP, suffered head injuries in stone pelting when members of the two groups clashed. Tipu who fought against British troops valiantly was laid low by the betrayal of two Indian neighbours, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas, who joined the governor general’s forces to silence him.

The fortress town of Srirangapatnam, where Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore, had built Hindu temples and Muslim shrines, is revered for its secular symbolism. He was killed there after a series of setbacks for British troops. Recently, India’s missile man, the late former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had acknowledged how Tipu Sultan had built an impressive arsenal of missiles ahead of the existing technology.

Reports said senior police officers, including Kodagu SP, admitted that there was stone-pelting and Kutappa tried to jump over a compound wall to escape from the melee but fell into a trench and injured himself. He succumbed to his injuries while being shifted to the hospital.

“Kutappa did not die due to stone pelting but due to the injury sustained while jumping over the compound wall,” police said.

Section 144 has been clamped in Madikeri and security has been beefed up in the town. There were minor sporadic incidents of violence at Virajpet and Napoklu.

Earlier, two groups were embroiled in a clash during which there was stone-pelting and police fired a few rounds in air besides lobbing tear gas shells to quell the mob.

The BJP and other Hindutva outfits had opposed Tipu Sultan Jayanti and called for a strike on Tuesday but the district administration had made elaborate arrangements and beefed up security to conduct the event.

Congress MLA K.G. Bopaiah called for immediate arrest of those responsible for Kutappa’s death.

MP Pratap Simha, who spoke to The Hindu, criticised the district administration and the police for their failure to handle the situation. He alleged that people from other districts had arrived in large numbers ostensibly in support of the Jayanti celebrations and the police failed to crack down on armed protesters.

“Such events should be held to commemorate icons, who have rendered yeoman service to society. Let the government hold a jayanti celebration in honour of late president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam but not Tipu Sultan,” said Mr Simha.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2015

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