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Girish Karnad & Tipu Sultan Controversy

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 

Girish Karnad seems to be an opportunistic provocateur who longs for the occasion to arrive and to prove his self-styled secularism.  He puts the hosts, the guests and the organisers in a precarious position by creating controversy during the festive-function over one or the other issue.  Only recently Girish had come to lime light for wrong reasons by criticising the Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul – calling him ‘tone deaf’ – for not recognising the Muslim contribution to Karnataka (Indian) Music; what matters if they have destroyed ‘Vijayanagara Empire’?


Defeated people don’t write their history.  They are incapable of interpreting the historical events to find out correct answers.  They can equate Chhatrapati Shivaji to Tipu Sultan, Gandhi to Jinnah and Modi to Lalu without any sense of historical proportion, cultural background and contemporary politics.  Girish karnad must remember that secularism does not mean to forget history and its proportionate impact on the society.  Instead of suggesting to change the name of BIAP, it would have been better had he proposed any new scheme like a bullet train to be constructed and run between Mysuru and Bangaluru in the memory of Tipu Sultan.`


The controversy does not seem to cease.  The CM of Karnataka Siddaramaiah did not appreciate Girish Karnad’s suggestion for the change of name of Bangaluru International airport from Kempegowda to Tipu Sultan.  He was shocked but did not utter a word regarding it to avoid face to face confrontation.  But Karnad was bent upon creating mischief.  His comments generated communal disharmony and law and order problem wherein three lives had been sacrificed.  A public speaker must restrain himself from speaking on controversial topics.  Girish Karnad is a cold blooded provocateur.  He should not have been invited for the simple reason that he always mars the celebration and brings disrepute to the organisers.  He speaks out of context without any purpose or necessity.  How birthday celebration of Tipu Sultan is related to the Airport?


There were three fundamental mistakes done by Girish Karnad.  First, he did not balance properly the dark and bright side of Tipu Sultan.  History narrated that Tipu Sultan was a tyrant who committed atrocities and forced conversions in Kodagu and Dakshina kannad districts.  But Girish Karnad did not want this point to be raised because it was history and did affect Kerala but not Karnataka of which Tipu was a ‘good’ king.  Even The British had done such atrocities.  Why we mixed up past and present together?  Karnad seemed to be totally weak in his argument in defending Tipu Sultan.  He had to read both sides of the coin in making comments.  Second, Girish Karnad wrongfully compared Tipu Sultan to Chhatrapati Shivaji the great icon not only of Maharashtra but of whole India and went to the extent of bringing him to the level of Gandhi and a great freedom fighter.  The non-violent freedom movement of Gandhi as we understood was totally different from what Tipu raged wars against Britishers to save his kingdom. Neither Tipu Sultan nor his successors ever tried to organise a movement to drive the British out of India. Those were the days of defending and extending one’s own territory and Tipu did the same to save his kingdom.  Tipu was equally against Marathas as he was against Britishers.  We should not compare historical figures for contemporary political gains.  Third, Girish Karnad hurt the sentiments of Vokkaliga community and majority of the people living in the state of Karnataka and disrupting the social harmony.  By his unsolicited suggestion and comments Madekeri had become the hot bed of agitation.  Creating bad blood and apologizing cannot go together.  Girish  Karnad should be brought to book as per our law of the land.  Freedom of speech does not mean disrupting peace and harmony.  Karnad is a habitual offender of creating controversy and bringing social disharmony and thus generating lawlessness.


Girish Karnad created historical fallacy.  His ignorance of history makes him insensitive to historical consciousness of India as a Nation State.  During Tipu’s time, India was a colonial regime with different kingdoms fighting for their own empires to consolidate.  Two different stocks of people, both foreign to the land of India, who captured the country, were fighting with each other.  Both were invaders, except the Marathas, the Deccan Dravidians and the Hindus who were native to this land and owe their origin to pre-historic age.  There was historical flaw in celebrating Tipu Sultan’s birthday, when we discard Aurangzeb’s or for that reason Akbar’s birthday. Why we rejoice over the birthday celebration of Tipu Sultan?  They all belong to the stock of ruthless invaders.  The concept of Nation State developed during Gandhi’s freedom movement.  But again they played a trick: they divided India.  Invaders don’t form a nation.  They destroy it.  And we can’t erase so easily our historical consciousness that reminds us of invasions, colonialism and the partition.

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