By Dr Sowmya Dechamma 

As responsible elders in Kodava Society, I feel all of you can make a difference, although I don’t exactly know how.

dechammaFor me, Tipu Sultan has become more of an emotional issue rather than one that is historical or socially relevant. All kinds of political parties have been using this issue just to raise quick emotional points towards their own political ends. Unfortunately, it is the people of Kodagu — Kodavas, Kodava Mapales and others who are caught in this emotional politics. 

I think we need to be clear where we stand. I hope I will be able to make myself clear as to why we need to be careful in talking about Tipu.

All kings, all over the world have been tyrannical. That is the nature of monarchy.  Hindu kings have looted other Hindu kings, Muslim kings have destroyed other Muslim kings, Hindu kings have completely destroyed Buddhists and Jain kings and so on…So to flag Tipu as Hindu-hater is not exactly accurate. Kingdoms largely worked on economic and political bargains and religion was a side-issue.

If only we remember how Lingayat kings from far away Haleri without any connection in Coorg, ruled coorg for 200 years and was so brutal to all Nayakas who rebelled against them. These Nayakas were killed. Every family had to send a soldier to the Lingayat King as ‘hitti-bitti’ chakri. 

This slavery and brutality is not only forgotten but we flaunt their fort/Gaddiges as part of ‘our’ history.

I totally agree forcible conversion/any violence is wrong at any period in history. But then, it was not the fault of the people. I have always wondered — when these ‘converted’ Kodavas were sent to Kodagu, why didn’t Kodavas accept them back as their own people? Accept them as Kodavas again? If they were accepted back to the community, history would have been different.

People knew ‘converted’ Kodavas had gone through so much violence. Why then even today, we do not accept them? 

Just because someone’s ancestors were forcibly converted, I don’t understand how and why their present generation who believe in Islam should be hated, should be talked about as if they were outsiders. They are as insiders as anyone else in Kodagu. 

In fact, if I am right, Kodagu had no history of communal riots until 1980s, a period that saw the rise of BJP’s divisive politics. From 1790s when Tipu converted people until 1980s,  Kodagu was largely peaceful. This should say a lot.

My worry is this — how our hatred for Tipu extends to our hatred of our own people (Kodava Mapales). Especially because we are relatively more dominant community in the region, the way we understand the minority, negotiate with them must be very sensitive and nuanced. 

I strongly believe there can never be a history that can be unquestioned. I apologise again for this outpouring. If you think it is worth, please use these arguments in whatever platform. 

NOTE: The editor of this portal does not subscribe to the views expressed by the author.

About the author:

Dr. Sowmya Dechamma, of the Centre for Comparative Literature, School of Humanities, has done research in Indian Literature, Minority Identities and Discourse, Translation Studies, Kodava Language and Cultural Discourse.

Dr Sowmya Dechamma, the daughter of Chotteyandamada Chengappa and Shanthi (Kambeyanda), is a faculty member, Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad.




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4 Responses

  1. Geeta says:

    I fully endorse your views, we should not be swayed by emotion alone. There are dangerous messages doing the rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp, let us not subscribe to this brand of emotionally charged propaganda, we are much above all this and need to to put our minds to more constructive use on so many issues plaguing our land and people.

  2. Sundar Muthanna says:

    BJP’s supposedly divisive politics saved the Kodavas from certain ethnic cleansing out of Coorg, which was being backed by well known sickular forces. Of course, BJP need to do a lot more to protect the original inhabitants of this land from the sickular brand of vote bank politics. BJP’S vote bank politics is a reaction to the sickular one. They didn’t start it.

  3. Rakesh says:

    Dr. Sowmya has missed out on a few pertinent things; that’s the reason she misses out on the reason as to why this celebration of tipu should be condemned. She talks about the haleri kings. But who are celebrating their jayanthis. She points out that most of the kings were tyrannical. Exactly! that’s the reason I don’t see anybody celebrating jayanthis of past kings. Moreover in a democracy you can’t glorify and celebrate a person with a history of having committed violence and cruelty on a particular section of society, no matter how much ever he’s loved by the other section. Of course, that particular section is free to celebrate him as their hero within their own limits but the government cannot celebrate it as a state festival. There is a reason why jayanthis of people like Gandhi and Ambedkar are celebrated. That’s because these people had great virtues and they stood up and fought against the tyranny with certain principles. Again we have to remember their fights were against the prevailing systems without violence. The essence of celebrating them is to make the populace understand their great ideas and possibly inculcate them in their lives.Finally, she points that there is a sense of hatred building towards maplas. She isn’t getting the real picture that the protest of the people is against the government’s senseless decision and not against any community.

  4. Mookonda Kushalappa says:

    I feel Soumya Dechamma’s piece of writing was a bit too hurried, probably because it is an emotional issue. I want to clarify certain things to the best of my knowledge. It would not be right on my part to keep them to myself.

    The Lingayat Rajas of Kodagu came from Shimoga and settled down in Haleri (Paleri) which is in North Kodagu. Not all the Kodagu Nayakas were killed by these Rajas. Armeri Utta Nayaka was a Raja’s brother-in-law. His ‘treason’ (in rebelling against the Raja) was tolerated. Achu Nayaka was imprisoned. We need not always become exclusive in ‘our’ history. The history of the Rajas might sometimes be the history of the Kodavas as well. For example, King Linga Rajendra married Palanganda Devaki. His daughter Princess Devammaji married Mukkatira Ipanna. The Rajas not only married Kodavas but they married Lingayats, Brahmins, Gowdas and others as well.

    Probably because the Muslim converts had been circumcised and had been fed beef, they were believed to have ‘lost their caste’, hence not accepted back. Kodavas who converted into Lingayats (a very minuscule number though) were also not accepted back into the community. But people from other castes naturalised in Kodagu, speaking Kodava and following Kodava culture had become Kodavas by caste. This is because our ancients bothered more about the following of the Kodava habits rather than about racial purity.

    Also on the other hand, I wonder if the Kodavas who were converted into Muslims would in fact object if they were called back into the Kodava community. It is patronising to accept that the Kodava Muslims would like to become Kodavas. They might actually be very content being Muslims. Just as how we love to remain as Kodavas.

    Tipu definitely hated certain communities. I suppose the media is responsible for projecting anybody who doesn’t like Tipu as being right-wing and fanatical. Everybody is entitled to be individualistic. I am sure there might be BJP people who love Tipu just as there might be Congress and other party people who hate Tipu. Most Kodavas hate Tipu because of all the cruel stories we heard about him from our elders. There must have been some amount of truth in those tales. Even then, if colonial claims were to be discounted, we can’t disclaim all his religious conversions native historians of that age wrote about.

    Hitti-Bitti Chakri (compulsory military and other service in exchange for sustenance) was a feudal cruelty which the Rajas imposed on the Kodavas and similar castes of Kodagu. Also our Kodava ancestors had a system where lower castes were looked down upon to a certain extent. This was the kind of feudal system prevalent all over the world in the ancient times. The higher classes oppressed the lower classes. Those were bad times.

    Kodava Mappillas are a minority. Many of them have married into the Malayali and Beary Muslims communities and follow their customs. Most Muslims of Kodagu are not of Kodava origin. They are Malayalam and Urdu in origin. I have personally seen Kodagu Muslims (who are not of Kodava origin) speak the Kodava language with Kodavas and be on friendly terms with Kodavas. They even vote for members of the other community during the village elections. We even meet Kodagu Muslims in stores in Bangalore and talk to them in Kodava. So this mutual hatred between Kodavas and Mappillas is a lie. At least until last year.

    I would take Tipu with a pinch of salt. But it is the modern-day politicians and others we need to worry about. Naturally the power-hungry and fact-distorting ones among them will admire tyrants and ape them in any way possible.

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