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Explained: What is the controversy over Tipu Sultan in Mumbai?

Tipu Sultan is at the centre of controversy in Mumbai with the BJP claiming a Congress leader is planning to rename a playground in a Muslim dominated locality after the Mysore king. What is the stand of the MVA on the issue?

Mysore King Tipu Sultan (Express Illustration)

Mysore King Tipu Sultan is at the centre of a controversy in Mumbai with the BJP claiming that Congress leader and Mumbai Suburban Minister Aslam Shaikh is planning to name a playground in the Muslim dominated Malwani locality after the 17th century ruler.

What led to the BJP protest in Malwani?

The present controversy is over a playground located in the Muslim-dominated area of Malwani in the Western Suburb of Malad. The ground is popularly known as the Tipu Sultan Ground by locals, and in December last year, Shaikh, who represents Malwani constituency, decided to refurbish and add facilities to the ground through the area development fund granted to MLAs. Work on the project was completed and Shaikh had decided to hold a function on Wednesday stating that the complex was ready for use. The BJP, however, stated the programme was meant to rename the complex after Tipu Sultan and a large number of BJP and right-wing workers turned up in Malwani to oppose the alleged move.

“We will not allow the ground to be named after a man who is responsible for the deaths of a large number of Hindus,” Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said.

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A large number of BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal workers had gathered outside the facility to protest. The large gathering was dispersed by the Mumbai Police and a number of protestors were detained.

What is the stand of the MVA on the issue?

The MVA is ambiguous on the issue with neither Shaikh nor the Shiv Sena openly stating that they are in favour of naming the ground after Tipu Sultan.

Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aditya Thackeray said that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has not cleared any proposal to name the park after Tipu Sultan.

Shaikh said that the ground was known as Tipu Sultan Ground for a number of years and there was no official move to rename the ground.

“The ground is referred to as Tipu Sultan Ground for a large number of years. I have only come to inaugurate the new facilities whose work had been commissioned in the past and has been completed now,” Shaikh said, claiming that the BJP was trying to communalise the issue.

“Interestingly a number of BJP corporators in the past have written letters endorsing the naming of places after Tipu Sultan. How has he suddenly become an anathema to the BJP today. Will the BJP ask its leader who endorsed naming of places after Tipu Sultan to resign,” Shaikh said.

Aslam Shaikh

Shaikh also said that he was not aware as to how the park got associated with Tipu Sultan.

“The BMC has a policy whereby it does not change the names of places which are popularly named by local residents after noted Indian figures,” Shaikh said when questioned on whether the BMC which is responsible for naming and maintaining parks had approved the grounds name.

The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, distanced itself from the move stating that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has not approved any proposal to name the garden after Tipu Sultan.

“No renaming had taken place. The BMC has authority over these issues and no proposal of naming has been submitted before the BMC,” Aaditya Thackeray said.

Is this the first time that Tipu Sultan has acted as a catalyst to a political feud in Mumbai?

In January last year, Samajwadi Party corporator from Govandi Rukhsana Siddiqui wrote a letter to Market and Garden Committee suggesting that a newly developed garden spread over two acres be named after Tipu Tipu Sultan as he was a ‘freedom fighter’ and had fought against the British East India Company.

The move, however, drew criticism from right-wing organisation Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), and later the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who claimed that Sultan was an anti-Hindu leader and naming a garden after him would hurt religious sentiments of the community.

The Shiv Sena which governs the BMC has not taken any decision on the renaming yet.

Are there other places in Mumbai named after Tipu Sultan?

There is a road in Andheri that is named after Tipu Sultan. There is another road in Govandi that is named after the Mysore King. The streets were named when the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition was governing the BMC.

Why does Tipu Sultan find resonance in Mumbai?

Since 2015 after the emeregence of political parties like the AIMIM in Maharashtra, historical figures like Tipu Sultan are being used by Muslim youth as a symbol of political assertion. A large number of pictures lauding Tipu Sultan, the 17th century Muslim ruler of Mysore, have started coming up in areas across Maharashtra particularly Marathwada and locals claim that these posters are a way of the Muslim youth to show the contribution and history of Muslims in India.

The BJP has also for the past few months been stating that Hindus are being troubled in Malwani which has a large Muslim population and is also the place where the ground lies. The BJP leaders including city chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha have been concentrating on Malwani alleging that Hindus are being forced to leave the locality and the symbolism related to Tipu Sultan is being used to strike fear in the community. The MVA leaders, meanwhile, have claimed that the BJP is communalising the issue with a view on polarising the electorate in the run up to the BMC elections.

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