Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Citizen Tipu

This is in response to a recent comment in Ravikiran's blog

If you take note of Indian moral values pre and post British times, the evidence leads you to believe that Victorian morality and centralization (both govt + moral policing) came after the British rule began in earnest in 1857. Yes, thankfully we were not ruled by the Portugese, Spaniards or the French. Yes, the Mughal rulers were tyrants. The Brits were worse.

In fact, the ideas of democracy and free speech was not necessarily brought by the British. [I am very tempted to use the old cliche of "it happened centuries ago", but I do not have a couple of books on Sanskrit drama and poetry and the associated discussion on free speech etc with me right now. Read it many moons ago]

If you read up on the history of 17th and 18th century Indian rulers, you will notice that they were very aware of the works of old Greek philosophers as well as the new European (and American ones). Tipu Sultan, for instance, was a founder-member of the Jacobin club. He was greatly inspired by Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man'

This biographical sketch shows an important facet of that man:

A French paper was found in Tipu's Palace in 1799, entitled 'Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatam by the French Soldiers in the Corps commanded by M.Dompart. ' A Scotsman, Capt W Macleod, attested to its authenticity. The Paper listed by name 59 Frenchmen in the pay of 'Citizen Tippoo'; it described the gathering of a Primary Assembly on 5th May 1797, to elect a President, Francois Ripaud, and other officers. The 'Rights of Man' were proclaimed, and Ripaud presented a lecture on Republican principles. Further deliberations and formalities followed before, on 14th May, the National flag was ceremonially raised and a small delegation were formally received by Tipu. The 'Citizen Prince' ordered a salute of 2,300 cannon, all the musketry and 500 rockets, with a further 500 cannon firing from the Fort. A Tree of Liberty was planted, and crowned with a Cap of Equality, before Ripaud challenged his co-patriots: 'Do you swear hatred to all Kings, except Tippoo Sultaun, the Victorious, the Ally of the French Republic - War against all Tyrants, and love towards your Country and that of Citizen Tippoo.' 'Yes! We swear to live free or die,' they replied.


Anonymous Bhanu Prasad said...

That's a good find.But i seriously doubt regarding other rulers.Hyderabadi Nizam was,literally ,a religious bigot.Region of Telangana, ,which was under his rule, is way backward when compared to british ruled Coastal Andhra.
An interestin thing to note is that almost all the people belonging to Congress ELite(of those days) had their education in Britian or had a good english education here.My contention is that the english education would definitely have had a good effect on them.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Sunil said...

I think with Indian rulers, like with any other, there have been good and bad. It just so happened that the more productive rulers were around a while before the Brits really came to India (Ashoka was 2 millenia ago, the guptas later, some early mughals, Vijayanagar, the Cholas, pallavas, Chalukyas all had good able technologically progressive rulers). During the Raj, unfortunatley, it just so happened that there were only a few progressive rulers. That is the standard cycle of history, and really has nothing to do with the place itself.

Wonderful posts.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Suhail said...

Good post Quizman. I had read quite some stuff about Tipu and this resource is really a good one. Infact, nowadays with Wikipedia, history and resources are literally at the touch of our fingerprints, ain't it ? If only we had that much time on our hands to read em. Thanks for that pointer.

5:37 PM  
Blogger ashvin said...

Did you see William Dalrymple's piece
"An Essay In Imperial Villian Making"
? It has a similar take on Tipu. Here's an excerpt :

By the end of the 90s, the hardliners calling for regime change in the east found that they had a powerful ally in government. This new president was not prepared to wait to be attacked: he was a new sort of conservative, aggressive in foreign policy, bitterly anti-French, and intent on turning his country into the unrivalled global power. It was best, he believed, simply to remove any hostile Muslim regime that presumed to resist the west.

There was no doubt who would be the first to be targeted: a Muslim dictator whose family had usurped power in a military coup. According to British sources, this chief of state was an "intolerant bigot", a "furious fanatic" with a "rooted and inveterate hatred of Europeans", who had "perpetually on his tongue the projects of jihad". He was also deemed to be "oppressive and unjust ... [a] sanguinary tyrant, [and a] perfidious negotiator".

It was, in short, time to take out Tipu Sultan of Mysore...

1:27 PM  
Blogger Quizman said...

Thanks for your comments, folks.

Bhanu, I think Sunil explained the situation. For every Nizam, there was also a Dalhousie or a Dyer. The English were neither benevolent nor were they responsible for creating an environment for liberal thinking.

Ashvin - I had not read that article before. Thanks for the link. Although, I don't agree with the comparison between Saddam and Tipu, I liked the part about the propaganda. It has been so effective that people have swallowed it hook, line and sinker, two centuries later. Sadly, Macaulay left many bastard children. :-(

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Prakash Narain said...

Experience with majoritarian democracy of any country with a sizable minority shows that it is a source of constant fear and worry to the minority.

My question is when will humanity wake up to this awareness and a boiling desire for a democracy that ensures freedom from fear of a minority?

India had that great democracy of freedom from fear for the entire millennia of the Vedic age.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

The Portuguese were the first to set up colonies in India. The British and other countries came later...

7:19 PM  
Blogger interactive investor account said...

Hi Guys
It is interesting to read every single article on this blog. Let us all first clearly understand the human psychology.

Every movement made by a human is an endeavor in pursuit of profit, some material, some propaganda. It is more important to realize what the population of migrants contribute to the development of the place that they moved in to. Just as much all of the Indian expatriates repatriate their earnings to whereever/whoever they want to, British also had the same motive. In doing so, British left some legacies in the 1940's, which Indians struggled to develop until the 1990's.

To name a few:

Infrastructure (I originally come from Madras. The Mount Road was built by the British and it still can hold a good traffic, rest of the roads built by the indian/Dravidian administration, is a big joke! The British built the Madras and Bombay suburban train services in the early 1900's. I dont think the Indian administration has managed to add doors to these trains yet!

Finally, we cannot undo history, it has happened. But, India must create a history now. When and if that happens, I can assure the British will be very proud of it. Humans have always preyed on other humans, it is the preservation of the dignity that counts! Do you still see temples in Kashmir? All the temples built in the 13th century are still there. So, we all understand the quality of people who made profit out of India and they what they gave in return.

12:40 PM  

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