Now that the Karnataka government’s Tipu Jayanti blunder is (at least until next year) behind us, I feel safe in recommending this sensible article, which exhorts us to look at historical people as persons of their times and not try to force-fit them into our current political classifications. Unfortunately our public debates tend to push people into more hardened, extremist stances, rather than developing a shared, nuanced understanding of history, which will not serve a convenient precursor to whatever opinions, grudges and ideologies we want to hold today. As the article points out about Tipu Sultan and all the labels that different groups apply to him:
What we would get is a richly ambiguous historical figure who is not easily amenable to a “nationalist”, “secular”, “tyrannical”, “pro Islamic” readings.
It ends with a sensible suggestion:
We must find the resources to develop a new historical temper that acknowledges and accepts the inconvenient contradictions of our past.
While you are on the subject, you can also read Tipu Sultan: Noble or Savage? by William Dalrymple. This article may have gone some extra distance to prove that the “Islamic tyrant” image of Tipu was a British propaganda and is almost ready to label him a nationalist. But you can form your own opinion after looking at the facts presented.
Read India must end history wars over… at Daily O and Tipu Sultan: Noble or Savage at Open.