A year after the Karnataka government announced that November 10 would be observed as Tipu Jayanti, the RSS and other organizations have sought to add a caste colour to its objections against the erstwhile Mysore king.
On Wednesday, the RSS organised a protest in Chitradurga district, claiming that the celebration was an insult to Onake Obavva, a Dalit woman who died fighting Tipu Sultan’s father Hyder Ali, who attempted to invade the Chitradurga Fort.
Last year, the Karnataka government headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced that it would observe Tipu Jayanti on November 10. Even then, the BJP and RSS had opposed the move, claiming that Tipu was “anti-Hindu” and that he was a bigot who persecuted Kodavas, and the Catholics of Mangaluru. Some Kodava and Catholic groups too had opposed the move. The protests organised by the VHP in Madikeri, Kodagu district, took a violent turn. At the end of the day, two people were killed in separate incidents but the exact sequence of events that led up to the two deaths is not known.
This year, they have stepped up their protests, giving it a caste colour. The RSS announced their November 2 protest several days in advance, claiming that the government’s decision to observe Tipu Jayanti demeans the last tribal king of Chitradurga, Madakari Nayaka and a Dalit woman fighter Onake Obbava.
Who is Onake Obbava?
Onakke Obbava was a Dalit woman and wife of a man serving in Madakari Nayaka’s army. She killed the soldiers of Hyder Ali, who were trying to capture the Chitradurga Fort in 1779. She is said to have killed several soliders with a pestle (onake) and hence, was called Onake Obavva. She is said to have been killed by Hyder Ali’s soldiers later.
Vadiraj, a member of the RSS and Convenor of the Karnataka Samarasya Vedike, claimed that over 1,500 people participated in the protest. These included the members of the BJP, Bajrang Dal, RSS, the Nayaka community and Kannada organisations etc., Madakari Nayaka Samrakshana Vedike. Many of the women came with pestles.
Police security was deployed in Chitradurga town before the event could commence. Many routes were blocked and vehicles were not let inside the town.
Vadiraj said that observing Tipu Jayanthi was “an insult” to the SC/STs as Tipu and his father Hyder Ali had invaded and killed Madakari Nayaka, who was also the last ruler of Chitradurga. “Their army also killed Obbava, who single-handedly defended the Chitradurga fort by killing enemies,” he said.
However, Mavalli Shankar, state convenor of Dalit Sangharsha Samiti said, “We are for the celebration of Tipu Sultan Jayanti. Onake Obbava did kill many of Hyder Ali’s soldiers and we are not denying that. But practically everyone, including Hindu kings, have invaded and looted Karnataka. So we are not supporting the protest,” he said.
In her column for Bangalore Mirror, activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh says that Haider Ali’s father was a military commander in army of the Wodeyars, and that he was given the Kolar region as a jagir. Tipu himself was born in Devanahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru, where the international airport is now located.
Gauri says that after the fall of Vijayanagar Empire, many warlords attempted to establish their fiefdoms and Chitradurga passed through many hands during that time. It is in this back drop in 1779, that Haider Ali tried to capture the Chitradurga fort for the Wodeyars.
Gauri said that the conquests of the past did not fit neat categories of caste or religion. “If Haider was the commander of the Wodeyar army, there were thousands of Muslim soldiers in Madakari Nayaka’s army. Devaraya II of Vijayanagara had recruited Muslim cavalrymen to teach the art of archery to his Hindu soldiers. Most of Tipu Sultan’s ministers and soldiers were Hindus,” Gauri writes.
Asked about the Vijayanagar rulers (Bunts) imprisoning Kempe Gowda (a Vokkaliga), widely considered to be Bengaluru’s founder, Vadiraj said he was not aware of it, and did not want to comment further.
He did acknowledge that Tipu provided the funds to restore the Sringeri Mutt after it was sacked by the Marathas and donated an elephant to the famed Nanjangud temple. However, he claimed that historian KM Paniker had translated letters in which Tipu claimed that he had destroyed 800 temples and 25 churches.
Opposition to Tipu Jayanti
The Sangh Parivar are not the only ones opposed to the state government’s move to declare Tipu Jayanti on November 10 and order the district administrations to organize events on the day.
Many of the state’s intellectuals and writers have said that the government had no business celebrating any Jayanti when the government was a republic.