Porn in the times of Tipu Jayanti: Siddaramaiah's minister caught browsing during celebrations

Ramakrishna Upadhya @rkupadhya9 | Updated on: 11 November 2016, 12:49 IST
Porn in the times of Tipu Jayanti: Siddaramaiah's minister caught browsing during celebrations
Siddaramaiah's minister caught porn browsing during celebrations

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was beaming ear to ear when Om Prakash, hs director-general of police, came to brief him about the peaceful conclusion of the controversial Tipu Jayanti on Thursday evening.

ileTowards the end of the briefing, however, the smile turned cold rage when the DGP informed him about an embarrassment caused by a minister at one of the Tipu functions at Raichur. An embarrassment, which could cost the government dearly.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Tanveer Sait, the Raichur district in-charge minister, was caught on camera browsing pornographic clips on his mob phone while sitting on the dais and waiting for his turn to speak.

The local television channels went to town with some of these explicit visuals and the BJP leaders, who had strongly opposed the Tipu Jayanti celebrations, were quick to pounce on the incident and demand Sait's resignation.

'I didn't do it'

Sait, a four-time MLA coming from the same district as Siddaramaiah, made it to the cabinet just recently.

Claiming innocence, he said he was following how the celebrations had gone in Mysuru and Mandya districts and other messages on his phone. He also said that he "glanced through some other images unintentionally" and had done nothing wrong.

Politicians and ministers publicly watching porn is nothing new in Karnataka. In 2012, Lakshmana Savadi and CC Patil, two BJP ministers in the Yeddyurappa cabinet, had been forced to resign after they were caught on camera watching a porn video in the legislative Assembly.

Recalling the stern action taken by the BJP then, former BJP Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said, "What Siddaramaiah's education minister had done was shameful and he should either resign immediately or be sacked."

State JD(S) president and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy too demanded Tanveer Sait's resignation.

Not the best time to mess up

Despite facing a violent reaction last year, the Siddaramaiah government had gone ahead with the 'Tipu Jayanti' despite the BJP threatening to hold protest demonstrations across the state.

Having deployed heavy security, the police did not allow processions to be taken out, as that was one of the major provocations last year. The celebrations were a low-key affair, mostly conducted indoors.

Volatile times

As communal tensions over the government's move were running high in half the state, including in Madikeri, Mangaluru, Udupi, Mysuru, Chikmagaluru, Chitradurga and Hassan, Tipu Jayanti celebrations had to be conducted under heavy police deployment.

Even as the BJP had called upon its leaders and workers to observe a 'black day,' the district police had made thousands of preventive arrests over the last two days to prevent any untoward incidents.

The political rivalry intruded into the security aspect as well with the state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa and others calling on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and advising him against offering this level of Central forces' protection asked for by the state government.

As a result, against the state's request for 11 platoons of Rapid Action Force, the Centre offered only 3 units of RAF citing the demands of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and the heavy deployment in trouble-torn Jammu & Kashmir.

DGP Om Prakash said the state had mobilised nearly 15,000 personnel from the Karnataka State Reserve Police and the City Armed Reserve, besides 9,000 home guards and placed them in all sensitive districts.

The state heaved a sigh of relief when the celebrations passed off without any untoward incidents.

Divided opinions

Last November, the out-of-the-blue idea of celebrating the birth anniversary of the 18th-century ruler of Mysore, resulted in wide-spread protests and violence, in which two persons had been killed.

With the Assembly elections due in less than 18 months and the state BJP sharpening their attack on his government, Siddaramaiah didn't let go of an opportunity to grab an issue that had the potential to polarise the voters.

A PIL filed in the high court by a resident of Kodagu, which witnessed violent incidents last year, against the celebration of Tipu Jayanti, had led to the Chief Justice questioning the need for celebrations saying, "Tipu was not a freedom fighter, but a monarch who fought the British to safeguard his interests."

But the court declined the plea for a stay when the government insisted that observing the event was a "policy decision".

Scholars have been sharply divided over Tipu Sultan's legacy, who ruled between 1782 and 1799 and fought four wars against the British colonial rulers and died fighting them at Srirangapatna on 4 May 1799.

Tipu's supporters recall - his bravery, expansion of his kingdom against heavy odds, use of rockets for the first time in India, his skilful administration which benefited people, collaboration with the French to give nightmares to the British which earned him the title of 'Tiger'-- as reasons for treating him a hero and need to glorify his achievements.

But, other scholars point to his record of allegedly converting and killing thousands of Hindus and Christians in Coorg, Mangalore, Melkote and Malabar regions that brand him a tyrant who still revokes resentment in many parts of today's Karnataka and Kerala.

Historian Ramachandra Guha felt that it was unfair and unnecessary to assess Tipu's legacy by modern definitions and such celebrations were best left to individuals and organisations rather than the state.

But, Siddaramaiah neither heeded sane counsel nor bowed to the reservations expressed by some of his own colleagues and went ahead with Tipu Jayanti. Whether it will yield any political dividends to the Congress party remains to be seen.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 11 November 2016, 12:20 IST
 
Ramakrishna Upadhya @rkupadhya9

Ramkrishna Upadhya is a senior journalist based in Bangalore, currently working with TV9. Earlier, he was with Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and The Indian Express.

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