To position Tipu Sultan against Bhagat Singh; By Mohammed Akmal Pasha


The first week of May marks two great historical events; the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan dated May 04, 1799 against the British and the birth anniversary of one of the greatest philosophers of history; Karl Marx dated May 05, 1818. Nothing but ridiculous it would be to correlationally juxtapose these two historical events that only chronologically fall in the first week of May; yet if we were to admix Bhagat Singh (September 28, 1907 – March 23, 1931) as one of the great freedom fighters of India; it would be a bizarre, a farce. However, the triplet would not be hollow of interest if we look at it through a different, unbiased lens. Nonetheless Marx lamented the British labor laws which had rendered the working conditions for the proletariat class deplorably exploitative in England at that time. Now, Bhagat Singh being perennially a Marxist, an anti-Gandhism-revolutionist erecting tall and looking into the eyes of British rulers till he was hanged; dimensionally peered Tipu Sultan, a statesman of Mysore who sacrificed his life in the battlefield against the same British. Bhagat and Tipu both had common enemies, the cruel British, the invaders, the intruders; though they differed in terms of timings, manner and scale. Bhagat Singh being Marxist and anti-British rule, and Tipu and Bhagat having British as their common enemy; the triplet would have begun to gather some sense by now. To this end, thrillingly enough some of the over-critical and shortsighted south Asians demonstrate their cynicism against Tipu. They argue thereby that Tipu’s mention is not found in the annals of Indian history of freedom fighting during the era covering 19th century and first one third of the 20th century. They speculate that Tipu’s heroism was merely aggrandized since the Indian Muslims lacked a ‘Muslim’ freedom fighter in order to position him against Bhagat Singh (a Sikh), especially in the wake of the latter’s India-wide popularity. Ironically, this would be akin to saying, ‘God’s existence is so necessary that if He did not exist, we had to create Him.’ (Voltaire)
To start with, during 1920s as a teenager, Bhagat Singh was relentless and rebellious; he shaved his beard and cut his hair which was ritually unbecoming of a Sikh. Rather, he was almost an atheist believing that people created God falsely out of their own impotency against the vicissitudes of life. He quoted Marx that men see God in their own image, estimation, portraying. To Bhagat, men are fatalist; they need some supernatural entity for beseeching, and if failed in objectives then locate the Same God to blame, through His instrument called luck. Well, as a teenager, he fled his native home so as to deter his marriage proclaiming that he would not like to entertain his wife in the slave-India; the first ever to express such a nationalist premise. In fact, Bhagat had insurgence in his very genes, his father and grandfather both had been active contributors to the Indian freedom-fight against the British. Heart-burnt Bhagat’s craving got excessively exacerbated when he went through the revolutionary writings of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Further, as a routine matter, he was fiercely perturbed by the everyday atrocities of the illegitimate British rule which was tinkering with the Indian affairs. Laden with this passion, he joined Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). In the meanwhile, in 1928 Lala Rajpat Rai a popular Hindu socialist leader was killed by the British. Bhagat Singh along with his ally Sukhdev planned to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai; and this was his first venture against British, a culmination. Thus he strategized to kill the Superintendent of Police James Scott in Lahore, but Bhagat misaimed and mistakenly killed the Assistant Superintendent of Police, John Saunders, instead of James Scott. However, though not recognized as a culprit, even then Bhagat Singh managed to escape from Lahore to Calcutta.
Heartened by that escape, one year later in 1929 he and his accomplice Batukeshwar Dutt succeeded to throw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall in Delhi. They screamed ‘Inqilaab Zindabaad’ (Long-live Revolution). However, at this occasion he could not resist his arrest. Now, during the course of interrogation, the British police realized Bhagat’s involvement in the death of John Saunders. After some litigation, Bhagat Singh was awarded with a death penalty. Nevertheless, he was offered to submit his apology, but he preferred to embrace death. Gandhi condemned Bhagat Singh’s demeanor, Nehru morally supported him and visited him in jail, but the Indian masses had gone crazy. Bhagat Singh’s posters were found at every wall and songs and slogans in his favor echoed everywhere. In jail Bhagat Singh detested discrimination against Indian prisoners against the foreigner ones and hence went on hunger strike that prolonged for more than hundred days. Ultimately, he was hanged on 23rd March, 1931 at 7:30 pm, though out of dismay no Indian official was prepared to supervise his execution. His last wish when asked was to let him finish the book he was reading on life of Lenin. Only twenty three years of age, Bhagat Singh marched to the gallows with a smile on his face, he took his last sigh with a scream ‘down with British imperialism.’
Now let’s turn to Tipu Sultan (November 20, 1749 - May 04, 1799). Tipu was the eldest son of an army official Haider Ali. Tipu had to take over the reign of Maysore (an Indian state) when his father suddenly died of cancer in 1782, Haider Ali was on voyage to war against British at that time. The British in an attempt to rule whole of India, started invading Maysore as well; but Tipu never succumbed. He deployed his army many times against the British so as to keep intact the independence of Mysore, faced treachery from his Indian mates like Marhatta and Nizam, sought help from France (Napoleon), Ottoman Turkey and Afghanistan, and finally got martyred in the battlefield, safeguarding his motherland.
Tipu had to fight four wars to protect Mysore. In 1766, at the age 15, Tipu accompanied his father against the British in the First Anglo-Mysore War. The Second Anglo-Mysore War took place in 1779, the British succeeded in capturing the French-controlled port of Mahé, yet the war came to an end with the ‘1784 Treaty of Mangalore.’ It was the last occasion when any Indian king could dictate terms to the British. In 1789 the Third Anglo-Mysore War took place, this time Tipu was forced into a humiliating treaty, losing a number of previously conquered territories, including Malabar and Mangalore. The fourth and final Anglo-Mysore War was fought in 1799. This time three armies joined together for British, one from Bombay, and two their own; they marched into Mysore and besieged the capital Srirangapatna. For the British, there were over 60,000 soldiers, including 26,000 their own, then a column was supplied by the Nizam of Hyderabad consisting of ten battalions and over 16,000 cavalry, and yet many soldiers were sent by the Marathas. On the other hand, Tipu Sultan had only about 30,000 soldiers. Before the war, the French Military advisers (and even the fortune tellers) advised Tipu Sultan to escape from secret passages and save his life for next battles, but Tipu refused and gave his life. Only and only at his decline, General Arthur Wellesley who was leading the British army enchanted ‘today India belongs to us’ though Bahadur Shah Zafar was till the king of India .
Arthur Wellesley saluted Tipu’s dead-body and confessed that British defeated Tipu through the frontier of hypocrisy and mean artifice; otherwise it was impossible in the battlefield. After several years, the same Arthur Wellesley led the armies of the Seventh Coalition and defeated the Imperial French army led by the world-famous army general Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
About Tipu’s governance and military advancement, according to Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, Tipu Sultan was the innovator of the world's first war rocket. Further he started a new coinage, calendar, and a new system of weights and measures mainly based on the methods introduced by French technicians. Among his innovations, in 1786 Tipu Sultan, built a navy consisting of 20 battleships of 72 cannons and 20 frigates of 62 cannons. Personally, he was well-versed in six languages like Kannada, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English and French. He was very pious and humane, such that as a teenager, Tipu aspired to become a Sufi (saint), but his father Hyder Ali insisted him to become a capable soldier and leader.
This is a brief account of Tipu Sultan. His colossal stance, stature and superiority over Bhagat Singh need no advocacy. The latter in his individual capacity as a freedom fighter can neither be ignored. Now let us address the cynicism of some of the over-critical south Asians who smelling fragrance of roses doubt funeral somewhere around them (Oscar Wild). As far the question as to why Tipu was not quoted as a freedom fighter during 1800-1930s and was dug out and showcased after Bhagat Singh’s hanging, the answer is very simple. In fact, that was an era replete with British cruelties. The era witnessed a preamble of 1857 war of independence waged by the Indians against the British, and then the termination of the same. The termination however, brought atrocities of bestial nature. Several Muslims were hanged at their door-steps at a slightest inkling of having to do something with the war of independence. During this period, commemorating Tipu Sultan’s dignity would only have been degenerative and self-defeating for the Muslims. Thus his heroism was not fabricated; it already existed in the Indian history of freedom fighting. Lo, he did not sacrifice his life for commemorations; he shed his blood on the barren land of Mysore lest its mirth could be endured. ‘And beware, never call them dead who are martyred in the path of Allah, they are rather alive however you cannot understand.’ (Al-Quran, Chapter 02, Al-Baqra, verse 154)

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