One dead as mob caned to avert clash over Tipu

Madikeri (Karnataka): A VHP member fell to death on Tuesday as police caned and fired tear gas on a mob to avert a clash over 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan’s 265th birth anniversary celebrations here, police said.

“The victim (D.S. Kuttappa, 60) succumbed to injuries he sustained when he fell from a retaining wall after he ran away from a trouble spot where a huge mob was caned to disperse and avoid a clash on the Tipu event,” Kodagu district Superintendent of Police Vartika Katiyar told IANS.

Nestled in the southern Western Ghats region, this hilly town of Madikeri is about 270 km from Bengaluru and a popular tourist destination for most of the year for its salubrious climate.

Denying initial reports that Kuttappa died in a clash or stone-throwing between protestors and supporters, Katiyar said as almost everybody ran helter-skelter to avoid being caned, Kuttappa too fled from the spot and ran towards a compound wall of a hospital and jumped off without noticing it was on a hilltop.

“He (Kuttappa) did not die in stone pelting or clash as we dispersed the mob to avoid such an incident and prevent the situation going out of control,” Katiyar clarified.

Though Kuttappa was rushed to a state-run hospital, he died from head injuries that he sustained in the fall.

“The situation is under control as we have imposed a ban on assembly of more than five people in the town under Section 144 of the CrPC,” Katiyar added.

Kuttappa was the organising secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Kodagu district.

The VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have opposed the state government celebrating Tipu’s birth anniversary, as the Muslim ruler was not a freedom fighter but a “religious bigot” who forcibly converted thousands of Hindus to Muslims during his reign.

Eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali, Tipu (1750-1799) was also known as the Tiger of Mysore, as he fought against the British East India Company and Hindu kingdoms in the Deccan region to protect and enlarge his kingdom.

Tipu was killed in a battle with the British army in 1799 while defending his fort at Srirangapatna near Mysore, about 120 km from Bengaluru.

Condoling Kuttappa’s death, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaraimaiah said there was a deliberate attempt by “communal forces” to prevent the state government and the people from celebrating Tipu’s birth anniversary and disturb the harmony among the people.

“Protests against the celebrations are a sign of intolerance. The recent Bihar assembly election results showed there is no place for intolerance in the country,” Siddaramaiah said, referring to the humiliating defeat of the BJP in Bihar by Janata Dal-United-led alliance on November 8.

Though the ruling Congress has been in power in Karnataka since 2013, it is first time its government commemorated Tipu’s birth anniversary, with a special function at the state secretariat (Vidhana Soudha) in the city centre amid tight security.

Meanwhile, the BJP sought a probe into Kuttappa’s death and boycotted Tipu jayanthi celebrations across the state.

Protests were also observed at Chikkamagaluru, Kalaburgi, Mangaluru, Mysuru, Puttur and Tumakuru across the state against Tipu’s birthday celebrations.

“Tipu was a traitor and cannot be termed a freedom fighter, as the First War of Independence began in May 1857 with the Sepoy Mutiny and ended after 90 years of struggle in August 1947,” BJP legislator and former home minister R. Ashoka told reporters here.