|Tipu Sultan from outlookindia.com|
We had, in the previous post, written about the invasion of Hyder and Tipu and the testimony of Vella Namboodiri. From the responses received we notice that many of our esteemed readers have accused Tipu for his various violent acts in Malabar. We realise that it was a mistake to club together Hyder and Tipu while discussing Vella's History as the latter dealt with only the author's encounter with Hyder.
We seek to remedy this by quoting another testament which has come to light only recently and sheds some new light on Tipu's acts in Calicut. Outlookindia.com has, in its issue dated 25 April, 2013, published an article by Francois Gautier ( the author of Rewriting Indian History) titled 'The Tyrant Diaries'.
According to the author, an old trunk kept in the attic of a flat in Paris contained the diary of Francois Fidele Ripaud de Montaudevert, who was part of Tipu's army which had invaded Calicut in 1797-99. The trunk belonged to a descendant of Ripaud and was discovered in December 1988 after her death.
Ripaud had faithfully recorded his experience as an adventurer and of the times he served Tipu's army. He had enrolled as a sailor at age 11 and, after many adventures, had reached Mauritius where he got married and settled down. When he heard of Tipu and his expeditions, he sailed from Mauritius to Mangalore and met the Mysore ruler to offer assistance. Tipu who had already been trained by French officers in the employ of his father, jumped at the idea and gave Ripaud credentials to recruit a French force to assist him.
Following the return of Ripaud to Mauritius with the credentials, Malartic, who was the Governor of Mauritius put up on 29 January 1798 a public proclamation asking for volunteers to join an expedition to travel to Mysore to assist Tipu in his resistance to British encroachment in South India. Approximately 100 men were recruited, and they left for India on the French frigate La Preneuseon 7 March 1798.
Although the French mercenaries were warmly welcomed by Tipu and were treated very well, disillusionment soon set in. As Ripaud wrote in his diary dated 14 January 1799, “I’m disturbed by Tipu Sultan’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu’s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see.”
Ripaud was particularly shocked by the treatment meted out to the people of Calicut during Tipu's invasion. This was what he recorded in his diary: “Most of the Hindu men and women were hanged...first mothers were hanged with their children tied to their necks. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammedans, and similarly, their men (after conversion to Islam) were forced to marry Mohammedan women. Christians who refused to be honoured with Islam were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately. "
Another entry of Ripaud relating to Calicut, reads: “To show his ardent devotion and steadfast faith in the Mohammedan religion, Tipu Sultan found Kozhikode to be the most suitable place. Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7,000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2,000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan’s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children.”
As noted by Gautier, these events had been corroborated by Father Bartholomew, the Portuguese traveller, in his Voyages to East Indies.( We concede that there is a serious problem with the dates of Gautier's narrative. Tipu had surrendered Malabar to the British after the treaty of 1792, and there was no way that he could persecute the Hindus of Calicut in 1798-99. However, we have left the dates as such, hoping that either Gautier will re-check the dates or someone may challenge the dates and maybe even the authenticity of the diary)
Disgusted by these barbaric acts, Ripaud left Srirangapatnam and left for France where he enrolled in the navy and fought the war against the British. He was killed on 23 rd February, 1814. According to Gautier, 'Even the British, his arch enemies, gave a 21-cannon salute to this brave adventurer, once Tipu Sultan’s ‘Great White Hope’.
Much of the narrative defending Tipu against charges of fanatic barbarism was that these stories were invented by the British historians to defame the patriotic Mysore ruler and to drive a wedge between two communities. But, here we have the testimony of an ally who has faithfully recorded his sense of revolt at the atrocities as these were being committed by forces he was fighting along with. There is apparently no reason to disbelieve this account.