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Dec 07, 2015

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Do we need to arrive at a “social report card” of Tipu Sultan before we celebrate the legacy of the 18th Century Mysore king?

This question was raised on the second day of the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday, adding to the ongoing debate in the State following the government celebrating Tipu Jayanti.

The debate saw representatives of the Congress, and the BJP that has been opposing the celebrations, bickering through the session.

The panel also had folklorist Krishnamurthy Hanur and historian Vikram Sampath, calling on the politicians to leave Tipu for the academicians to interpret and debate on.

Mr. Sampath took strong objection to the State government celebrating Tipu Jayanti, calling it a politicisation of his legacy.

“There is an attempt to whitewash his ‘social report card’ which is not what it is being made out to be,” he said, citing instances of atrocities believed to have been unleashed by the Mysore ruler, who fought the colonial British and was eventually killed in a battle with them.

Dinesh Gundu Rao, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, defended the government’s decision to celebrate Tipu Jayanti, saying Tipu was one of the valiant visionary kings of the State.

“His contributions are varied from land reforms to sericulture, sustaining agrarian economy even today. Every historical figure has shades of grey. He may have committed atrocities during wars. But it was not the age of Geneva Convention,” he reasoned, adding that if Tipu Sultan was not a Muslim, he would have been celebrated as a bigger hero in the current .

Tejaswi Surya, of the BJP youth wing, termed Tipu a “religious bigot” with a policy of religious persecution.

He went on to even argue that it was “important to understand Tipu to understand the genesis of Islamic fundamentalist terror”.

Professor Hanur went on to add, “The question is what is wise for us to embark on today in times of communal polarisation.” Mr. Sampath also said that all history was only an interim assessment.

“Let these personalities be for the historians to debate these complex legacies. Once political parties get into the fray, these figures turn icons, whitewashing all the atrocities and other issues. It turns difficult for historians to work on them further without fear and objectivity,” he said.