Madikeri, a tourist destination in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, wore a deserted look Wednesday. The day before, it witnessed clashes over Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary celebrations, leading to a VHP activist’s death.
BJP and other rightwing groups had called a bandh Wednesday to protest against the death of VHP organising secretary D S Kutappa (67). The town shut down completely, with only vehicles using it as a transit point on way to coastal Karnataka and Kerala plying on roads.
Over 20 platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police have been deployed. Police said there was tension in the area owing to rumours linking other deaths to this issue.
Kutappa was laid to rest in his village at Igodlu in Somwarpet taluk, about 25 km from Madikeri. Top BJP leaders, including Union Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, local leaders Shobha Karandlaje, Prathap Simha and Appachu Ranjan were present there.
“My father would have been alive if the government had not decided to celebrate Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary. Let them celebrate the birthday of Abdul Kalam rather than Tipu,” said Kutappa’s son D K Dolly.
It was initially suspected that Kutappa died of injuries sustained in stone pelting between VHP supporters and a Muslim group which took out a procession to mark Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary.
On Wednesday, however, Kodagu SP Varthika Katiyar said Kutappa fell off a 20-feet wall and suffered head injuries leading to his death.
“The local media is giving a communal colour to deaths due to accidents or other reasons. We appeal to them to not spread rumours,’’ Katiyar said.
On Tuesday, a Muslim group took out a procession to mark Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary from the neighboring town of Kushalnagar. The group entered the heart of Madikeri where VHP activists had gathered to protest against state government’s Tipu Jayanti celebrations, leading to a clash.
“The violence was not caused by locals. Locals are peace-loving. In the pro-Tipu Sultan procession, there were jeeps carrying people from Kerala. They started throwing stones at the group who objected to the procession,’’ said K Somanna, a shopowner in Madikeri and an eyewitness. Several other locals held “outsiders” responsible for the clash.
The Kodagu SP, however, insisted that no outsiders entered Madikeri Tuesday.
Locals have said the Siddaramaiah government’s failure to anticipate negative feelings for Tipu Sultan in Kodagu was responsible for the clash.
“This incident is a continuation of history when outsiders have attempted to subjugate people of Kodagu. Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali murdered hundreds of people from Kodagu,” said A C Cariappa, a former Kodagu liberation activist.
According to Kodagu folklore, Tipu allegedly tricked Kodavas into believing that he would surrender to them and later captured the soldiers who went unarmed to a meeting.
However, the 18th century ruler is held in high esteem by local Muslims. The Karnataka government, too, has insisted he was a secular ruler and one of the first freedom fighters to take on the British. The BJP, however, has said the Mysore ruler was a “religious bigot”.