10 Highlight of Agitation Against the Tipu Sultan Serial
Three years back, one news item which appeared on the pages of many dailies attracted my attention. The news item was about a big studio-fire in Bangalore, where shooting of Shri Sanjay Khan’s tele-serial, “The Sword of Tipu Sultan” was in progress. Scores of young artistes died and many others were injured in the studio-fire. While going through the press report, I was amazed to read that “in this TV serial Tipu Sultan is being depicted as a great warrior and secular benevolent ruler”. Tipu Sultan who forcibly converted thousands of Hindus and Christians to Islam, hanged to death hundreds of innocent women and children, and destroyed and looted scores of temples and churches in Malabar, Cochin, Coorg, Dindigal, Mangalore and Coimbatore, a secular, fair-minded ruler! Hypocrisy also must have some limit.
It was this that prompted me to write an article about the historical character of Tipu in a Marathi weekly, Vivek. Soon another article on the subject written by a reputed journalist and scholar, Shri Arvind Kulkarni, appeared in a popular Marathi weekly, Shree. A number of similar angry criticisms were published in Malayalam and Kannada papers and weeklies.
A silent storm soon started gathering momentum in the South. A well-known historian, Dr. Ravindra Ramdas, came to me to discuss about the effective way of stopping the telecast of blatant lies and distorted history of Tipu Sultan on the national network. Thereafter, both of us met and discussed with a leading jurist and advocate, Shri Madhavrao Pathak, which resulted in filing a Writ Petition in the Bombay High Court by Dr. Ramdas and three others of Bombay Malayalee Samajam. The press woke up only when the Court case was filed. Many articles praising Tipu’s secular credentials, administrative genius, and benevolent and charitable disposition started appearing in the English dailies. Most of them were based on heresay and secular prejudices of JNU and Aligarh historians, and were devoid of any authenticity. Interestingly, The Times of India was the only English paper which consistently published only pro-Tipu articles and biased news items, and refused to publish in its columns the views and articles sent by nationalist Hindus. But most of the regional language papers carried articles that had more balance than those in the English press. Of course, they do not know that the English press has already ceased to be the opinion-makers in the country. That credit has already gone to the regional language papers.
Many of my colleagues expressed doubts about getting justice from the Writ Petition filed in the Bombay High Court. Therefore, Hindu Ekjoot, an organisation dedicated to the protection of Hindu national identity and ideology, decided to take the issue of misusing the national network to the people’s court. Dr. Harish Shetty, President of Hindu Ekjoot, along with many youthful members of Hindu Ekjoot and Bombay Malayalee Samajam organised a series of street corner meetings, demonstrations and poster campaigns in Bombay with the active participation and support of local units of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Mahasabha, and other nationalist organisations. A big Dharna was organised in front of Churchgate Station. Also a massive Morcha was taken out to Bombay Doordarshan Kendra under the joint auspices of Hindu Ekjoot and a number of similar nationalist organisations. The Morcha was led by Shri Vidyadhar Gokhale, Shiv Sena M.P., Advocate Madhavrao Pathak, Advocate P.R. Mukhedkar, Dr. Ravindra Ramdas, Dr. Harish Shetty, and many others.
In the meantime, Bombay Malayalee Samajam and Ekjoot submitted a memorandum signed by over 500 citizens to the Hon. Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shri P. Upendra. When the agitation spread and the pressure increased, the Hon. Minister stated that he would refer the controversial tele-serial on Tipu Sultan to a committee of historians for scrutiny and clearance before releasing it for the telecast. Hindu Ekjoot then called for a boycott of the products of companies sponsoring the anti-national tele-serial. While many reputed companies like Tata and Reliance shied away from the beginning itself, Parle Products Limited, who were misled by false propaganda, later wrote to Hindu Ekjoot: “Please note that we have stopped sponsoring the serial.”
Thereafter, the Convenor of Bombay Malayalee Samajam, Shri Nandagopal Menon, and Advocate P.R. Mukhedkar, who was assisting Advocate Madhavrao Pathak in fighting the case in the Court, took the agitation to Delhi where they met Shri L.K. Advani and Ram Naik, both M.Ps, Shri B.L. Sharma, President of Indraprastha Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hon. Minister Shri P. Upendra and also Shri K.R. Malkani who had cleared the controversial Tipu Serial. Later, they addressed a Press Conference to highlight the distorted history and objectionable portions in the novel by Bhagwan Gidwani on which the tele-serial was based. All the Delhi papers carried the news and also gave wide coverage to the agitation spreading against the Tipu Serial. Some of them even expressed their surprise when they learnt about the clean chit given by Shri K.R. Malkani to Sanjay Khan’s tele-serial of blatant lies and distorted versions of history. A Marathi journalist, Shri Dilip Karambekar of Vivek, published and distributed a forceful rebuttal to the arguments of Shri Malkani.
I completely fail to understand as to how a person like Shri Malkani could approve the serial with minor modifications. His argument seems to be that Muslim community needs a hero to be proud of and only Tipu could be dressed up or white-washed to fit the bill! He did not even care to read through a variety of authentic references and documents from Karnataka and Kerala Gazetteers about Tipu’s Islamic prejudices and atrocities and forcible mass conversions in Kerala, sent to him by Bombay Malayalee Samajam. He only asked Doordarshan to delete the offensive word “Sword” from the title, “The Sword of Tipu Sultan”. The inscription on the sword of Tipu Sultan was: “This my victorious sword is for the destruction of Hindus. Victory to Allah. He is the only Saviour. O Allah! help us against Hindus who refuse to embrace Islam.” Even the Bombay High Court found the inscription on the sword aggressive and offensive and hence suggested the deletion of the word “Sword” from the title of the Serial. Neither the Government of India nor the Doordarshan agreed to comply with the judicial direction. That is the respect shown to the judiciary by the secularist Government and its official agencies!
The Indraprastha Vishwa Hindu Parishad thereupon held a massive Dharna in front of Mandi House under the leadership of its President, Shri B.L. Sharma (Premji), to protest against the Government’s inaction on the matter. Later on, a one-day fast was undertaken to protest against the telecast of the manipulated and distorted version of Tipu Sultan on the national network. A number of leading public figures participated in the fast, prominent among them being Mahant Avaidyanath of Hindu Mahasabha, Uma Bharati of BJP and Shri B.L. Sharma (Premji).
The Bombay Malayalee Samajam sent a mass petition to the Supreme Court requesting it to take up the matter under Public Interest Litigation. But the Supreme Court did not entertain the request. The Bombay High Court finally dismissed the Writ Petition after several months because many of its earlier judicial decisions had been subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court on appeal. Even the Supreme Court, from which justice based on historical facts was sought and expected, did not hand down a written verdict, nor gave judicial reasons for rejecting the appeal.
Though the appeal was not entertained by the Supreme Court, I am glad on one score. The Petitioners had put up a relentless fight up to the last temple of justice - the Supreme Court. Posterity will surely be proud to recall that Hindu nationalists opposed the anti - national Serial and went up to the Supreme Court seeking justice based on historical documents and national pride. It is another matter that they did not get justice even from the Supreme Court.
The agitation and Court case brought to focus many things:
Relief and justice may not be forthcoming even from the highest and final legal body - the Supreme Court.
justice is very often delayed, thus denying justice to the aggrieved party who ultimately loses confidence and respect for the judiciary.
Nature of the Court verdict itself need not be very palatable nor justifiable as in this case.
Expenses involved in fighting a case in the Supreme Court are beyond the capacity of anyone who is not very rich. Thus it is beyond the reach of an ordinary citizen.
The positive side of the agitation was the growing assertion by Hindu nationalists against the tendency of the secularist Government to distort and suppress historical records and hurt Hindu sentiments to suit narrow political needs. Such tendencies were forcefully and effectively exposed in various meetings addressed by Shri. Durganand Nadkarni. I would like to mention specially the late Dr. P.C.C. Raja of the Zamorin family who exposed Shri Bhagwan Gidwani for making obscene remarks in his novel about the person of a respected Zamorin Raja. He even wrote to the Government of India not only for banning such a dubious and vulgar novel but also for prosecuting the fake novelist. Dr. Muthanna is another eminent scholar who exposed the dubious novelist through a well-documented book, Tipu Sultan X-rayed. There were so many public figures who contributed to the cause of the agitation against the distortion of documented history for political purpose. I also congratulate many journals and weeklies, especially Vikram of Bangalore, Vivek and Tarun Bharat of Bombay, and Kesari and Mathrubhoomi of Calicut. Except a few leftists and anti - Hindu historians from the JNU and the AMU, all other media-men were generally supportive of the main cause.
I am certain that the Government and the judiciary will open their eyes and issue specific guidelines governing the clearance of tele-serials on the national network similar to provisions of the Cinematography Act. At present, Doordarshan is a law unto itself. Such guidelines will avoid many embarrassments, angry agitations, and legal battles in future.
The agitation against this serial has amply made it clear to the Government and the judiciary that whenever and wherever history is deliberately distorted or suppressed and Hindu sentiments are hurt to suit narrow political needs, the vast majority of Hindu nationalist forces would rise in protest, maybe more forcefully and decisively in future.