December 27, 1998
Akhilesh Mithal

Take Tippou off the Cross


Hit Counter

The learning of English and having all other subjects taught in it gave a new meaner, and harsher, calvinist frame of reference.



Under European tutelage, from the early 19th century the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of India developed mutually antagonistic identities.

1999. Another year. The last of the Gregorian 20th century. Alas! not and nowhere like the last one of world domination by an exclusive group claiming white European ‘Caucasian’ extraction. This narrow circle does not include women and Turks.

Turkey used to be called ‘The Sick Man of Europe’ in the 19th century. Today, hardly anyone thinks of them as ‘European’! The blacks, the coloured and the ‘abos’ of course have no hope of ever being counted. The role model is the US President Bill Clinton.

Large, insatiable lusts, minuscule square hearts, the Oval for cigars and missiles for Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq and sanctions for India and Pakistan. Perhaps if we in India (and Bangladesh and Pakistan) can set our own house in order there may be a chance for offering humanity an alternative model based on our long since forgotten heritage. Older readers will remember the ritual of cooking food in the traditional Hindu household.

The first chappaattee was small, almost token. It was for Agni, the Fire God. The kitchen fire was wood or coal and not gas or electricity and the tiny morsel of token food could be offered to the flame without a problem.The second chappaattee was for the cow. It was a substantial one and much larger than the first one.

The third was of normal size. It was for the crow and the dog. Life at the periphery of the household. The fourth too was of normal size. It was for the beggar or mendicant — male, female, child or cripple. The qualifying canon or condition was hunger.

The number of chappaattees or the size of the vessel in which the rice for giving away was cooked varied according to the capacity of the householder to give. Everyone, rich, middling or poor, felt it their bounden duty to give. Even to share by denying the self. One had to participate in the ritual of giving, not to ameliorate misery or suffering of another but to discharge one’s own debt to life.

Slavery to a less developed culture meant Anglicisation and Westernisation, Europeanisation and modernisation. The learning of English and having all other subjects taught in it gave a new, and of necessity, a meaner, harsher, calvinist (earn before you can eat!) frame of reference. Myth and legend, epics and the Puraanaas were abandoned. The teachers were Christian missionaries with their obsession — Sex is Sin.

You heathen and pagan Indians need to feel ashamed and have self-contempt for your barbarian ways.The teacher is more powerful and intolerant than the parent. A multiple culture fracture ensued and the ground prepared by defeat in battles, with a total loss of self confidence resulted.

The tragedy is that the manifest Christian virtues of ‘service’ as for example in nursing the sick and caring for the underprivileged was not learned by the non-Christian acolytes of missionary teachers. Having lost, often consciously, the earlier Indian identity what image did the culture fractured Indians cultivate?The composite culture developed for centuries and millennia had taken inputs from far and near.

A first century Sanskrit text reads: ‘Although the Yavanas (Ionians) are mlechcha or barbarians, one has to acknowledge their mastery of astronomy!’The European teachers came from communities which had suffered very great traumas on account of religion.

The Counter Reformation had seen large numbers burnt at the stake in the name of God, the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ and the Christian religion. The idea of syncretic beliefs such as those practiced in India was alien to Europeans. As is non-alignment today.

Under European tutelage, from the early 19th century the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of India developed mutually antagonistic identities. Each with a jagged, serrated edge guaranteed to hurt and wound the other.One Partition (1947) and the disintegration of the State founded on the new false identity given to the Muslims by the Brits (1971) have happened. The lesson of these being false identities has not been learnt.

Let us take an example from the rulers of India today, the RSS. Their attitude to the last ruler who died fighting the British shows how anti-national communalism can be.The name of this hero was Tippou Sultan. He was killed fighting to preserve his freedom and that of Mysore on May 4, 1799. On May 4, 1999 it will be a landmark 200th anniversary of a great martyrdom.

If the RSS are still in power on that date can you dear reader, see the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee accompanied by his Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani and the Human Resources Minister Murli Manohar Joshi go to the Gumbad at Shrirangapattanam and offer homage at the tomb of the Sultan called the Shaheed? Perhaps, the Rajmata who combines the heritage of the Scindias with that of the Rana Jung Bahadur of Nepal will restrain them.

Or those RSS persons who, in 1990 got the political front, the BJP, to seek a court injunction to prevent India, the screening of a television serial entitled The Sword of Tipu Sultan?The complainants argued that the series presented the central character of Tippou Sultan of Mysore sympathetically, as a ‘secular’ character rather than the fanatical Muslim persecutor of Hindus he is known to be.

The complainants had their views coloured by Tipu Sultan X-rayed a book written by an Indo-Canadian, I H Muthanna. It was published with a foreword by P N Oak and under the aegis of the Institute for Rewritten Indian History (Founder-director Purushottam Nagesh Oak). The point at issue is not the error of the ways of Oak and Co.

It is that the game they are playing was taught by the British who wanted to ‘divide and rule’. They went on playing it to the bitter end which was ‘Divide and Quit’ (1947).Readers who wish to explore the origins of the communal school of Indian history should go back to Elliot and Dowson.

We quote: “The fact that even Hindu chroniclers wrote to flatter the vanity of an imperious Muslim” was, Elliot thought “lamentable”. There is not one of this slavish crew who treats the history of his native country subjectively, or presents us with the thoughts, emotions, or raptures which a long oppressed race may be supposed to give vent to.

The RSS and the Akali versions of history fulfilled the need felt by Elliot and the then government gave full support to this new viewpoint. Elliot went on to remedy the situation as he thought best by publishing extracts from Indian chronicles which he entitled ‘The history of India as told by its own historians’. His objective is stated quite clearly and without ambiguity:

“They (the carefully selected extracts published as “The history of India as told by its own historians”) will make our native subjects more sensitive of the immense advantages accruing to them under the mildness and equity of our rule.

"We shall no longer hear bombastic babus, enjoying under our government the highest degree of personal liberty and many more personal advantages and privileges than were ever conceded to a conquered nation rant about patriotism and the degradation of their present position.“

If they would dive into any of the volumes mentioned herein; it would take these Brutuses and Phocius a very short time to learn that in the days of the dark period to which they yearn to return, even the base utterance of their ridiculous fantasies would have been attended not with silence and contempt but with the discipline of molten lead and impalement.”Skewed history is not a problem peculiar to the RSS.

The Congress is equally affected. Will Sonia Gandhi or Madhav Rao Scindia, HKL Bhagat or any of these worthies make Shrirangapattanam a place of pilgrimage in May 1999? Let the ICHR call a seminar to assess the role of Tippou in the first quarter 1999 so that an appropriate stand can be taken on May 4, 1999. By the whole nation.

See Also: 

Tipu Sultan


Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1999. All rights reserved.
Back to the Itihaas Home Page