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Protests in Karnataka on Tipu Sultan’s Birth Anniversary

Report 9 : A man died in Karnataka on Tuesday amid clashes over the celebration of the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, an 18th century ruler who is a much-debated figure in history.

The police say that the man, reportedly an activist of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, died of a fall from a 15-foot boundary wall during a stone-throwing protest in Kodagu, 250 km from Bengaluru. He was trying to run away from the police baton-charge on protesters, says senior officer Om Prakash.

Despite the protests, the Congress government has refused to withdraw its decision to mark the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the king of Mysore, from this year.

The BJP is boycotting the celebration today, and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS has said it will support all protests against the event.

“Some communal forces are opposing this celebration. Most people are supporting it,” Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah told.

On the BJP’s protests, he said: “It was expected that the BJP would boycott it. What else could we expect from BJP and RSS people?”

Tipu Sultan, said the Chief Minister, was a “progressive and secular” king.

Tipu, who ruled Mysore from 1782 to 1799, is described by critics as a tyrant who forcefully converted Hindus and persecuted Christians. But others see him as a hero who fought the British.

“Most of the people have supported the protests,” said V Nagaraj, a senior RSS volunteer, calling Tipu the most intolerant king recorded by history.

“You can go through recorded history, his own statements, and what was written on his sword. On his sword it was clearly mentioned it was meant to kill the kaffirs,” Mr Nagaraj added.

The ruling Congress says Tipu was one person who promoted communal harmony and helped restore temples that were destroyed.

Historian NV Narasimhaiah said, “Tipu Sultan was known for his self-respect and patriotism. He said ‘I can’t be a servant of the Britishers, I can’t surrender to you’.”

One BJP lawmaker, Abdul Azeem, differs from the party line. “Tipu Sultan was very secular and gave equal treatment to Hindus and Muslims. Not only mosques but also temples were looked after,” he says.

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