New Age Islam
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Islamic Personalities ( 16 May 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Tipu Sultan: A Forgotten Hero

By Dr A Q Khan

May 16, 2011

This month is the 212th anniversary of Tipu Sultan’s martyrdom. Fateh Ali Khan Tipu Sultan was martyred on May 4, 1799, at Sringapattan by the combined armies of the British East India Company and the Nizam of Hyderabad in the Fourth Mysore War.

Slowly, we are forgetting (or are being made to forget) our national heroes, our history and our culture. I wonder what percentage of our young generation knows about Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali.

A dear friend, Syed Mahmood Khaver from Karachi, has been engaged in a decades-long crusade to remind us every year of that great warrior and martyr, Tipu Sultan. Mr Khaver is the general secretary of the Tipu Sultan Memorial (Welfare) Society. He organises symposia and invites well-known personalities to throw light on the life of Tipu Sultan.

Hyder Ali was an officer in the Mysore army who later became the state’s ruler. Together father and son took part in all the wars against the Marathas and also won important victories against the British in the Second Mysore War. Both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan used French army officers to train their troops and, one year after the death of his father, Tipu negotiated the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore from a position of strength.

Contrary to Hyder Ali, who always had either the Marathas or the Nizam as his allies when he fought his adversaries, Tipu made some strategic mistakes. Despite advice from senior officers who had served under his father, he took on his united enemies without fully realising the dangers. In 1789 he attacked Travaneore. The Raja of Travaneore, Dharmaraje, had earlier entered into a treaty with the British East India Company. Thus it was impossible for Tipu to succeed against the forces of the current ruler, Diwan Raja Kesavadas, as Tipu also had to fight against the British, who pushed him back. The combined forces of the Marathas, the British and the Nizam of Hyderabad (who had joined hands with the British as Tipu had been threatening him for some time) attacked and wrested Malabar and Mangalore. Thus, in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War of 1799, Tipu was defeated. He was shot and killed by a British soldier outside his Sringapattan Fort. As is well known, Mir Sadiq of Tipu’s army played a decisive role in this defeat by betraying Tipu, joining hands with the enemies and closing the gates of the fort when Tipu wanted to retreat for safety there. It was a repetition of Mir Jaffer’s treachery against Sirajuddola of Bengal.

Mir Sadiq’s teachery was no different from that of other rulers and individuals who can be found throughout Islamic history. The same still continues, from one end of the Islamic world to the other and we are heads above the others in this dirty game.

While Tipu Sultan’s Mysore Kingdom was being decimated and destroyed by the cunning British with collaboration from the Marathas and the Nizam of Deccan, Muslim armies under Mohammad Ali Pasha of Egypt were inflicting defeats on the French, the Turks were defeating the British and Abdul Qadir of Algeria was defeating the French at Macta. Napoleon also failed to conquer Egypt and was defeated by Mohammad Ali Pasha. That proved to be the beginning of the end of Napoleon. He was soundly defeated by British troops under the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in Belgium in 1815, taken prisoner and banished to the island of St. Helena, where he died as a prisoner in 1821.

Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish poet and historical novelist, commented on the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 in these words: “Although I never supposed that Napoleon possessed, allowing for some difference of education, the liberality of conduct and political views which were sometimes exhibited by old Hyder Ali, yet I think he might have shown the same resolve and dogged spirit of resolution which induced Tipu Sahib to die manfully upon the breach of his capital city, with his sabre clenched in his hand.” What a great tribute paid to Tipu Sultan for his bravery!

It is reported, though this has not been authenticated, that the day after Tipu’s death, his body was put on a gun carriage and taken to his place of burial with full military honours. Soldiers are said to have stood on both sides of the road to present a guard of honour. The purpose of this farce by the British was to win the sympathy of Tipu’s followers and admirers.

Tipu Sultan was a good administrator as well as a good warrior. He had inflicted serious damages and casualties on the British in the First and Second Mysore Wars and had shattered the myth of their invincibility. He laid the foundation of a dam across the river Cauvery, where the Indians later built the Krishna Raja Sagora Dam. He also had the beautiful Lal Bagh built, together with roads, public buildings and ports along the shores of Kerala. Traders from Mysore were dealing with countries as far away as Iran and Turkey. Tipu and his father are credited with the innovation of war rockets, which were later copied and improved upon by the British. He had also started minting coins in a sort of banking system, devised a new calendar and a system of weights and measures.

Some British and Indian historians have distorted history to suit their own purposes. They portrayed Tipu Sultan as a fanatical Muslim who prosecuted Hindus and Christians. Nothing is further from the truth. Tipu Sultan was a moderate and tolerant ruler. He was credited with building the first church in Mysore at the request of the French. In 1791 some Maratha horsemen under Ragunath Rao raided the temple of Siringeri, killing and wounding many and robbing the temple of all its valuables. The high priest of the temple sent a petition to Tipu Sultan. The Mysore Archives Department has 30 letters of this correspondence. Tipu Sultan was furious at the plunder of the temple and remarked: “People who have sinned against such a holy place are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds at no distant date... People do evil deeds smilingly but suffer the consequences crying.” Tipu Sultan immediately ordered a substantial amount and some valuable gifts to be given to the high priest and aid continued to the temple until the death of Tipu Sultan.

It is most unfortunate that we have not only forgotten this great hero but are also oblivious to the fact that our students taking foreign examinations are taught false, concocted and derogatory material about this hero. (See The History and Culture of Pakistan by Nigel Kelly, pages 20-23.) There is an urgent need to drastically revisit our curricula and to bring it into line with our glorious past. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the present to be proud of.

Source: The News, Pakistan