A revered Hindu monk who had staunchly opposed the state government’s celebration of Tipu Jayanti has now come out in support of teaching schoolchildren about the 18th-century ruler of Mysore.
The only condition that Sri Vishwa Theertha Swami of the Pejawar Mutt in Udupi has laid down is that “both sides” of Tipu should be taught.
His comments come at a time the BJP government is gearing to purge school textbooks of any references to Tipu, whom it sees as an anti-Hindu tyrant.
“Tipu Sultan was a controversial figure and was hated by the people of Kodagu, including Christians, for the massacre he had carried out. But he was a good administrator and always helped the poor,” the pontiff told reporters at his ashram on Thursday.
“Tipu’s sword had an inscription saying it was meant to kill ‘kafirs’ (non-believers). But there are many kings who did both good and bad. There is no need to glorify kings; instead, history should tell the truth.”
The monk, however, did not indicate any change in his stand on the official celebrations of Tipu Jayanti, the king’s birth anniversary, which the previous two state administrations had organised every November 10 between 2015 and 2018.
He had then urged the government to drop the programme, citing the opposition of a large number of people. The B.S. Yediyurappa government recently declared it would not be holding or sponsoring Tipu Jayanti celebrations.
Recently, BJP lawmaker Appachu Ranjan had sought the removal of Tipu from school textbooks, following which the state government has asked the Karnataka Textbook Society, an official body, to see how this can be done.
Repeated calls to Ranjan’s phone number, to seek his reaction to the monk’s latest comments, evoked no response.
The swami, who has a global following and helms the famed Udupi Sri Krishna Temple and all establishments linked to it, has been known to support the BJP’s line on many issues. He had, however, surprised all by hosting an iftar breakfast for Muslims at his monastery in 2017.
He had himself served the vegetarian fare to some 150 guests at the “souharda upahara koota” (harmony breakfast meeting).
Sardar Qureshi, president of the Tipu United Front, which has for years commemorated Tipu’s birth and death anniversaries, welcomed the pontiff’s remarks.
“We don’t agree with the Swamiji on many of his stands, which are pro-BJP. But he’s absolutely correct on this matter,” Qureshi told The Telegraph on Friday.
“The Swamiji has said what we have been saying for years. Tipu was a king like many others. Kings do not tolerate opposition to them, especially those who supported the British.”
Told about the monk’s stand, a state BJP functionary, who declined to be named, said his party was not going to change its position on Tipu.
“We have always seen him as a tyrant who killed Hindus and destroyed our temples,” he said.
Sri Vishwa Theertha Swami has urged people to maintain calm after the Supreme Court pronounces the Ayodhya verdict, expectedly within a week. He has threatened an indefinite fast if there is any breach of peace, whichever way the judgment goes.