"Should a serial on Tipu be telecast?" - this question deserves the attention of every Hindu.

The points made out by a progressive Muslim, Asghar Ali Engineer, in support of the telecast of the serial, 'The Sword of Tipu Sultan", are really very interesting. He bluntly states, "The Sword of Tipu Sultan may be a historical novel, and the story may be somewhat different from actual history. After all, the author is at liberty to portray the characters as he wishes and tell his story in any fashion - to depict the central figure (Tipu) in a positive or romantic or negative light. And in this case, if the writer, Bhagwan Gidwani, has chosen to ignore or underplay some of the more unpleasant aspects of the ruler and the regime, he is well within his rights as a writer of fiction to do so. He cannot be condemned even if he has restricted his research to buttress his view of Tipu."

We would request Shri Engineer that, in this paragraph, he may substitute Satanic Verses for The Sword of Tipu Sultan, "Prophet Muhammad" for "Tipu" and "Salman Rushdie", for "Bhagwan Gidwani", and tell us how does it appeal to his secular mind. History has to be based on facts, howsoever unpalatable they may be. It cannot be converted into fiction because it is then nothing but distortion.

Shri Engineer declares, "No, Tipu was not a religious fanatic. He was a ruler, first and last." Agreed. Similarly, Salman Rushdie is not a religious fanatic. He is a writer, first and last. Then, why was there a ban on Satanic Verses, a fictional novel of Salman Rushdie, in this country?

The other point which Shri Asghar Ali Engineer has made out about Tipu Sultan deserves the attention of all Indians in general and the Government of India in particular. He states, "No, Tipu was not a religious fanatic. He was a ruler, first and last. And whatever he did, he did to consolidate his rule. If he did humiliate and carry out some atrocities against the Nairs in Kerala, he did it to crush the Nair rebellion that had gained strength as the community was bitterly opposed to Tipu establishing his rule in its territory. He did forcibly convert hundreds of Nairs and other Hindus in Kerala to Islam. But he did this to punish them for rebelling against his supremacy - and changing their religion was the most severe punishment he could inflict on the rebels."

Let this historical finding of this Muslim intellectual be accepted and applied in Kashmir where there is a rebellion now. As a severe punishment to the rebel Muslims, they should be converted to Hinduism and those who refuse to embrace Hinduism should be dealt with as Tipu Sultan dealt with the Hindu rebels. Why should India not be equally ruthless in dealing with these people who are challenging the authority of the Government? After all, such an action of the present Government to convert these Muslims to Hinduism, as per Shri Engineer's logic, will not be out of any bigotry or for the simplistic reason that they are Muslims but because they are challenging the territorial integrity of the country and want to overthrow a Government duly established by law. The "same practical politics" which Tipu Sultan applied against the Hindus in the South should now be applied in Kashmir. Shri Engineer should be glad to accept his appointment as General of such a Conversion Brigade for action in Kashmir.

Shri Engineer should know that mere fighting against the British cannot make a person nationalist. Neither can appointment of a few Hindus to some senior posts make a religious bigot a secular and benign ruler. After all, in all times, the rulers always make use of the services of those people who are willing to serve their cause. Such people get no regard, nor can they make the usurpers, invaders and tyrants secular, or benign, or nationalist. Were there no Hindus and Muslims and people of other communities who were serving the cause of British Imperialism in this country? Will it make the British rulers nationalists in this country?

If the present Government wants to establish its secular credentials by allowing the telecast of Tipu Sultan by getting its clearance through the pliable and obliging Marxist Hindu or Muslim historians (of JNU/Aligarh/Islamia variety) for the purpose of record, then it should first of all lift the ban on The Satanic Verses, a fictional novel of Salman Rushdie, and telecast a serial based on this novel. If the Government cannot swallow it, then it should not only ban the serial "The Sword of Tipu Sultan", but also bum the book on which it is based. The Government should also seriously consider applying in Kashmir the methods of "practical politics" of Tipu Sultan as commanded by Mr. Engineer, in order to deal with the rebellion there.

The secularist tribe in this country must realise that no useful purpose will be served by putting secular garbs on these barbaric rulers who were only usurpers. Such actions only revive the centuries-old wounds and embitter the relations between Hindus and Muslims. The whole exercise, it should be realised, runs against the process of National Integration envisaged by the Government and the people of this country. Ghaznavis, Ghuris, Baburs, Aurangzebs, Hyder Alis and Tipu Sultans can only carry the coffin of secularism and nothing more. Let the souls of these tyrants lie in their graves and be raised only on the day of 'Qiamat' (Doomsday) when Allah will put them on trial for their crimes against humanity.

Organiser, March 4, 1990

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