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Kodavas Want Spotlight on Genocide Inflicted Upon Them By Tipu Sultan

Author: M Raghuram
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date: February 17, 2018
URL:   https://swarajyamag.com/amp/story/politics%2Fkodavas-want-spotlight-on-genocide-inflicted-upon-them-by-tipu-sultan?__twitter_impression=true

The Kodavas faced a genocide – some historians call it a holocaust – at the hands of Tipu Sultan. But unfortunately, that has remained hidden in the pages of history.

Now, the Codava National Council wants the massacre of its people at Devati Paramb to be recognised globally and is making a special demand.

Kodagu district, a hilly one known for its coffee, orange, homestays, martial history and hockey, is seeing a rising of a different kind. Led by the Codava National Council (CNC), people in the district are now contemplating asking the Centre to declare the district an independent ‘C’ category region. A ‘C’ region is an autonomous one or a hill council along the lines of some in the north-eastern region.

The CNC, which has been making this demand for the last 28 years, has intensified its efforts, giving an international push by raking up an issue that has remained hidden in the pages of history.

The CNC is raising the issue of massacre of Kodavas by Tipu in 1785, saying it is as significant a persecution as that of the Jews and other genocides witnessed across the world in the past. “This is no ordinary event. On that fateful day of 12 December 1785, Tipu’s army massacred 60,000 Kodavas at Devati Paramb, reducing the original Kodava population to a few thousand. It was nothing short of a holocaust,” says a historian.

At the meeting organised by Tipu on Devati Paramb grounds, over 1.1 lakh people gathered to witness a truce between his army and the Kodavas. Tipu raided Kodagu 11 times, and each time he was defeated by the valiant Kodava army. He wanted to gain access to the Mangaluru port for strategic purposes, but he couldn’t. When his commanders lost all hopes of access to Mangaluru, Tipu organised a truce with the help of French legionnaires who wanted both parties to assemble at Devati Paramb, unarmed. On 13 December 1785, Kodavas trusted them and assembled there, but Tipu colluded with the French and hid his fully armed army in the adjoining forests. Even as the Kodavas partook the “friendship meal”, Tipu’s army unleashed the massacre that Indian history has never seen.

“It is larger than the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre by the British”, say Kodava historians Addanda Karyappa, in his book Tipu Matthu Kodavaru written in Kannada, and I M Muthanna in his book Tipu Xrayed.

Valiant commanders of Kodava Naal Nadu army, including Ponnaratt Manacha, Bolida Muthanna and Appandana Mandanna were killed in the battle between the highly treacherous and armed soldiers of Tipu and the unarmed, valiant and highly skilled men of Naal Nadu of Kodagu.

“It could be equated with the Jewish holocaust”, the historians write.

Nearly 90,000 Kodavas were taken prisoners. Of them, 30,000 perished in the open jails at Srirangapatnam near Mysore; young women were taken among Tipu’s soldiers for procreation while young men were forcibly circumcised and incorporated as Muslim soldiers in the Ahmedy army of Tipu.

“This was the worst case of treachery, breach of trust and the worst war crime. Tipu was the first global terrorist and the international comity of nations in the modern era should name him as one,” says N U Nachappa, CNC president.

Captured Kodavas were subjected to forced conversion to Islam, death, and torture. The scale of the massacre was so huge that the water in the Cauvery river turned red due to blood from the dead bodies and continued to flow red in colour for 12 consecutive days. Many of those captured and converted to Islam were sent back to Kodagu and they called themselves Kodava Mapilas. There are about 60 Kodava Mapilas families residing in Kodagu. They share the same family names as that of Kodavas in Devanageri village. Puliyanda Kodava Mapilas, who are Kodavas converted to Islam, reside in the areas surrounding Virajpet; there are Muslim family names like Kuvalera, Italtanda, Mitaltanda, Kuppodanda, and Kappanjeera. Similarly, in Madikeri taluk, there are Kalera, Chekkera, Charmakaranda, Maniyanda, Balasojikaranda, and Mandeyanda in the Hoddur village.

Kodava Mapilas use Kodava ornaments; Mandamada Kodava Mapilas still use tookbolcha, a kind of traditional cookware in their homes and at temples in Bshettigeri and Hudikeri. Karthura and Mandamada Kodava Mapilas are priests who still do their work in their clan-level meetings. At Yemmemadu dargah festival, even to this date, Kodava Mapilas start the proceedings by offering prayers and flinging rice which is typical of Kodava rituals.

The existence of these Kodava Mapilas is another evidence of the barbarism of Tipu on Kodavas. Tipu believed in destroying temples in Kodagu; during the course of his raids, he destroyed a Bhagavathy temple near Kotakeri and burnt Biddatanda Ainmane where 48 innocent people were captured, and took them to Srirangapatna, then called Seringapatam. Among these people, Appanna managed to escape and returned to his village in Kodagu. However, Appanna was declared an outcast as the villagers thought he had converted to Islam. Appanna lived alone till he died near a pond which is called Appannajjanda Kere. The pond can be found even today.

The remains of the Biddatanda Ainmane, which were burnt with people inside shouting for help, tells the horrific mindset of Tipu and his brigade, say historians.

Tipu, after capturing Madikeri fort, set his eyes on removing Kalasa from the Omkareshwara temple, and replaced it with the tomb which is another architectural evidence for the destruction Tipu carried out during his reign. Tipu also wanted to abolish Kannada and so he introduced Persian language in his administration. Persian words like “Dhapan, Barcas and Jammabandi” are still used in local land documents in Kodagu. This shows that Tipu at any cost wanted to eliminate Kannada from Karnataka.

But Karnataka’s so-called fighters for Kannada treat Tipu as a hero, which surprises Kodavas, says Nachappa.

He added that there were 1,500 clans of original Kodava families at the time of the holocaust. Over 1.25 lakh Kodavas lived in the Kodagu’s two taluks as we know in the modern times – Madikeri and Virajpet. Now, only 842 clans, with a population of 1.5 lakh, are left and they are now settled in Bengaluru, Mangaluru, and Mysuru, mainly apart from the two taluks. Their birth rate has not still picked up.

Nachappa said neo-liberals, propelled by the Congress and the leftist parties, have disagreed on the number of people killed at Devati Paramb and dispute the fact that there were not that many Kodavas at the time of Tipu. Parties, and some so-called intellectuals and liberals, saying such things is politically undermining the scale of genocide of the Kodava people.

The first opposition against Tipu Jayanti (Tipu’s birth anniversary) by the Siddaramaiah government was from Kodagu. It was also Kodagu that raised objections for naming the Central University after Tipu. In 2015, when the Siddaramaiah government organised Tipu Jayanti, communal clashes erupted in which two people were killed.

A Kodava leader and and a well-known advocate, S P Chengappa has studied the socio-economic condition of the Kodava people. He said: “It true that Kodavas have been put through a lot of difficulties; the present political system does not have the vision nor the inclination of even trying to alleviate it. Kodavas cannot be treated at a par with the other minority communities as they need special administrative, political and economic condition to sustain their social milieu, without that Karnataka’s demographic spectrum may not be full.”

“It’s an irony that government wants to celebrate Tipu’s birthday across Karnataka. The evidence not only indicates that he was not a conqueror but a religious fanatic and a dictator who believed in the ethical cleansing of Kodavas and other community in South India,” says Chengappa.

The evidence for the bloodiest history of Kodagu and the Kodavas exists even today and is documented.

When Subramanian Swamy visited Kodagu in 2017, he pledged his support to expose Tipu’s legacy to the world and the war crime he perpetrated on the Kodava people. On 27 January, when the world was observing the legitimacy of Jewish holocaust remembrance, Kodavas asked the world community to recognise the holocaust that Tipu caused on the Kodava people at least 175 years before the Jewish one.

The CNC sent a memorandum to the United States (US) President Donald Trump congratulating him for his declaration on Jerusalem. The Kodavas have also appealed to the Indian President, Prime Minister and Home Minister. More importantly, the Kodavas have for the first time moved to the international forum that includes the United Nations, the US President, and Israeli Prime Minister asking them to treat Devati Paramb genocide of Kodavas in line with that of the Jewish holocaust. The council has opposed the Siddaramaiah government’s move to glorify Tipu to reap political benefits. From next year, the Devati Paramb incident should be included in the event to remember the Jewish holocaust, it says.
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