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Anti-Tipu remarks rile writers

Another controversy is brewing in Karnataka ? involving a politics of cerebral kind.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2006 05:52 IST

Another controversy is brewing in Karnataka — involving a politics of cerebral kind. A war of opinions on the relevance of Tipu Sultan has provoked litterateurs, led by Jnanpeeth playwright Girish Karnad, to clamour for the ouster of higher education minister DH Shankaramurthy (BJP) on Thursday. The playwright, along with Shankaramurthy's colleague in the JD(S)-BJP coalition, Iqbal Ahmed Ansari (JD-S), has dared the minister to a public debate on the attributes of the 18th century ruler of Mysore.

Karnad and other literary personalities criticised Shankaramurthy for branding Tipu as "anti-Kannada" and for suggesting deletion of references to the Muslim ruler in school texts. "The minister's statement is irresponsible. There is no basis to term Tipu as anti-Kannada... It suggests a larger agenda, a political agenda. There are so many orders and directives issued in English by the Wadiyars (the last royal family of Mysore). Can we dub them anti-Kannada?" Karnad said at a news conference here on Thursday.

Minister for labour and minorities welfare Iqbal Ahmed Ansari has also objected. "History should not be raked up to create controversy. There are many, who have sacrificed for the freedom of our land and it should not be forgotten that Tipu was one of them. We (the JD-S) will take up the issue in the next meeting of our coordination committee," he told newsmen.

Shankaramurthy criticised Tipu Sultan at an event in a college early this week. He told an audience that Tipu should not be referred to as a “hero” because he converted thousands of Hindus to Islam by force, demolished temples and made Persian the official language of the state of Mysore, replacing Kannada, during his rule in the 18th century. Tipu, he alleged, minted coins in Persian. A Persian inscription on one of Tipu's swords spoke of his intentions to "kill those who did not respect his religion", the minister said.

A day later, the minister not only defended his stand, but said “our children should be taught only good things in history which will help them grow as individuals and contribute to the society. Why should we teach them about anti-Kannada people like Tipu Sultan?” he said at a press conference.