Stop drama or die: Threats to Tipu Sultan play in Mysuru

Death threats were received by the director, of a play based on Tipu Sultan, C Cariappa, being staged in Mysuru; the threat letters from Shivamogga

Tipu Director
Director Cariappa

  • The director of a play on Tipu Sultan received death threats in Mysuru, Karnataka

  • The play is being staged in Mysuru, the threatening letters came from Shivamogga

  • The play director has filed a complaint with the police on the issue, a probe has been ordered

The director of a play based on Tipu Sultan in Karnataka, C Cariappa, received a death threat letter which demanded that he stop the play immediately or he would be killed. The director has filed a complaint with the police and further investigations are underway.

Addanda C Cariappa is the author-director of the Kannada play and book titled “Tipu Nijakanasugalu” who has received a death threat letter from Shivamogga for his play based on Tipu Sultan.

The letter demands that the director to stop the play immediately or he will be killed. The director has filed a complaint with the Jayalakshmipuram police station regarding the issue.

Tipu Nijakansugalu, a play about Tipu Sultan, is being held in Mysuru and has received a good response from the public, with shows being sold out daily. Says the director, “The show was last staged in 2018 before this. This time, I got a threatening letter stating I had to stop the play, otherwise I would be killed. The play isn’t pro-Tipu or anti-Tipu. It is the real Tipu and it has been going on well.

Director Cariappa further said, “Yesterday there were 1,200 people in the audience. It was a full house. It was the 7th show and all of them were sold out. It is happening in Mysuru’s Kala Mandir. I filed a complaint with Jayalakshmi puram police after getting the letter.”

While the campaign against Tipu Sultan, singled out by the saffron brigade because he was a Muslim ruler and also progressive has racheted up since the majoritarian BJP-led NDA government came to power at the Centre in 2014. From 2018 onwards and especially this year, protests by the VHP, BJP and RSS against any commemoration or celebration of his have been persistent.

In 2018, both the Chief Minister and his deputy skipped the event to observe the Tip Jayanti celebrations.While Kumaraswamy cited medical reasons, Parameshwara who was to replace him too skipped it. The BJP had appealed to the government to drop the celebrations after the JDS-Congress coalition government announced that Tipu Jayanti would be observed on November 10 in continuation of the previous Congress government’s policy. While Tipu Sultan is considered a freedom fighter by the state government, he has been singled out for a vilification campaign as “religious bigot” by the BJP and its affiliates. The Tipu Jayanti celebrations, which began in 2014 under the Congress government on November 10 each year, have been marked by protests and court cases every year.

Thereafter, in 2019, then Karnataka CM, Yeddiyurappa banned Tipu Jayanti. The CM, who was accused of capturing power through mdishonourable means, is convinced that Tipu Sultan was a blood-thirsty tyrant who persecuted Hindus.

Background: Campaign against Tipu

1999: The saffron brigade’s claim that he was an ‘anti–Hindu fanatic’, had, for the first time resulted in the ‘postponement’ of the celebration of the 200th death anniversary of ‘martyr’ Tipu Sultan by the Karnataka government way back 23 years ago when the NDA-I government under prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power at the centre.

October 1999 saw a curious turn in Karnataka state politics. The 1999 state assembly elections to 224 constituencies took place in October and the Indian National Congress (INC) secured a huge majority winning 132 seats. A distant second was the NDA comprising of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (United) Faction under Ramakrishna Hegde. The former prime minister Deve Gowda and his associates including the deputy chief minister, Siddaramaiah made up the Janata dal (secular) faction.

Truth about Tipu Sultan?

While the sultan’s campaigns in the southern state of modern day Kerala have been marked by reports of atrocities on locals, there is little to suggest, that this was religiously and not politically motivated.

In fact, independent historical accounts recognise Tipu for his challenge to British rule and also his progressive policies related to affirmative action for the marginalised sections.

It is well recognised that British imperialists had entered the Indian sub–continent through the innocuous channels of trade and commerce during the early part of the 17th century. Once they had set their feet firmly on the Indian soil under the protection and patronage of the later day Mughal emperors. However, it was not long before political ambitions became manifest, especially in the circumstances of the decline and disintegration of the Mogul power after the reign of Aurangzeb.

The British were adept at exploiting the age–old communal and religious differences of different sections of the Indian people. Agrarian and Adivasi revolts though intrepid were scattered. These took place in the 19th century before the so–called ‘sepoy mutiny’ or the Indian rebellion (also described at times as India’s first war of Independence) against the British in 1857. 

Among the early challenges that were posed by Nawab Sirajuddaula of Bengal, who was eliminated without much difficulty by Clive in the battle of Plassey fought in 1757. Clive had, of course, succeeded through the intrigues and high treason of Mir Jaffar. 

The second challenge, which was much more formidable than the first one, had come to the British from Tipu Sultan and his father Nawab Hyder Ali Khan of Mysore, whose kingdom at one time stretched over a vast area in Deccan, comprising not only the whole territory of the present day state of Karnataka, but also included sizeable portions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra states. 

Apart from fighting numerous battles with their other enemies, that included “Hindu chieftains” Tipu and his father fought four major wars against the British and their allies. So significant were the military exploits and victories of Tipu and Hyder, and so crushing and humiliating were the defeats suffered by the British in the first two Mysore wars, that the British considered this Deccan Sultanate as a “deadly enemy” and poisonous thorn in their side and spared no effort through treachery, intrigues and subversion to bring about the downfall of this Sultanate — an objective which they had failed to achieve on the battle fields otherwise. 

To the misfortune of India, the British succeeded in their efforts to kindle selfish ambitions and envy in the hearts of the Maratha rulers and the Nizam of Hyderabad; in fact these forces had joined with the British in forming in a common alliance against the Sultan. 

The courage and chivalry of Tipu Sultan on the battlefields earned from his friends and foes the title of the Tiger of Mysore’ for the Sultan. It is said that the British feared Tipu so much — not only in India but also in England — that mothers used to frighten their children just by using the name of Sultan. 

There are multiple versions about the role of Tipu Sultan in fighting the British in India. In some books of history pertaining to Tipu Sultan, written either by the British authors or other writers influenced by the British, the Sultan has been depicted as a Muslim religious fanatic, who was intolerant of other religions and persecuted their followers. In these versions, it is alleged that hundreds and thousands of Hindus and Christians were either massacred or forcibly converted to Islam on the orders of the Sultan. Tipu is also alleged to have destroyed in his religious frenzy, scores of temples and churches. 

Tipu and his father Hyder Ali have also been shown in some books as usurpers, who in their greed for power had deprived the legitimate Hindu Raja of Mysore of his throne and his kingdom. It is pointed out that with the fall of Srirangapatnam, the capital of the Sultanate, and the death of Tipu on the battle–field in the fourth war of Mysore in 1799, when the British bestowed the throne of Mysore to the Hindu Raja, the British acted most justly; in fact, they undid an act of grave “injustice” and “tyranny” perpetrated on the Raja and his Hindu subjects by Tipu Sultan and his father. 

More modern historical research of the period has also shown the various allegations to be “historical myths” and fiction invented by the British and their henchmen to malign the Sultan with an avowed objective of sowing seeds of discord and hatred between Hindus and Muslims in order to strengthen and perpetuate the British Raj in India. 

Tipu was certainly a very pious and God fearing Muslim. But Tipu Sultan’s religious nature and piety, as stated, did not prevent him from being compassionate and just to his non–Muslim subjects. In fact, he was liberal and generous to them as illustrated by the following events. 

Even to this day, there are numerous Hindu temples in the Deccan which are enjoying the benefits of jagirs granted by the Sultan. It is noteworthy that once, in a war with the Marathas, the Maratha army had laid siege to the Sultan’s capital city of Srirangapatnam. Angered by their defeat, the Maratha troops, before their retreat, ransacked not only the populated suburbs of the capital, but also looted the famous temple of Sri Ranga in the vicinity of the city on the banks of river Cauvery. When this sad story of plunder of the temple reached the Sultan, he not only got the damage repaired, but also restored to the temple the equivalent of the wealth carried away by the invaders. His Hindu subjects gratefully acknowledged this act of generosity and liberalism on the part of Tipu. The holy temple itself is a standing monument to this day to Sultan’s religious liberalism and benevolence. 

Tipu Sultan’s great respect and regard for the Shankaracharya of the famous Sringeri Mutt and his several munificent grants for this Mutt situated in his kingdom are well known. 

Dr S. Radhakrishnan in his book, Present Crisis of Faiths, wrote:

“Tipu on many occasions requested the Sringeri Shankaracharya to offer prayers to God. Once, he expressed great pleasure at the Sahasra Chandi Japa performed under the guidance of the Shankaracharya for the welfare of his kingdom”. 

It is nothing but slander to attribute to Tipu Sultan, a man of such broad–minded religious liberalism and catholic out–look, narrow–minded religious fanaticism. Similarly, stories of mass conversions and massacres of non–Muslims are also without any foundation whatsoever. 

As happened with other rulers of various religious denominations, the various battles fought by the Sultan were of political rather than religious nature. He fought not only against the Marathas and British but also against the Nizam of Hyderabad and Nawab of Arcot. Of course, the Sultan had to suppress with an iron hand, rebellions by sections of people, who included not only Hindus and Christiansbut also Muslims. All this was done in the business of ruling the kingdom and was not done as persecution of non–Muslims.

The figure of Tipu Sultan does not deserve to be demonised. A proud patriot, he contributed to developing indigenous industry and might and also had put in place policies of just governance. But in an India in 2022, where politics is dominated by medieval notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and violence and revenge sought to be exacted on denominational populations, campaigns of the kind that Karnataka is seeing only succeed in keeping “demons” alive in our midst.


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