Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ‘Tiger of Mysore’, ruled a kingdom that challenged British rule in India, sent ambassadors to Napoleon in Paris and was hailed as a legendary warrior by Sir Walter Scott.
Today his descendants are rickshaw pullers and domestic servants in Kolkata, shunned by India’s remaining royal families and humiliated by officials of a trust established to provide for their welfare.
But more than 200 years after Tipu Sultan was overpowered and killed by East India Company forces his impoverished descendants are to have their royal status restored.
They are being rehabilitated as a mark of respect to the ruler many Indians regard as the first hero of their freedom movement.
His reputation as a great general and fearless warrior was sealed in the Second Mysore War when he defeated British forces under Sir Hector Munro at the Battle of Pollilur in 1780. With the aid of French officers, he broke through British lines and unleashed 13 offensives until the British officers surrendered. One of them, Captain David Baird, was held prisoner for four years before returning to his regiment and leading the force that defeated Tipu Sultan in 1799.
The defeat marked the start of a long and painful descent for his family. His sons and their families were rounded up, jailed and later exiled to Kolkata, where Tipu Sultan had bought large estates for them.
The family’s defiance of British rule led to their being shunned by other Indian royal families and their fortunes declined.
The estates, which include the Royal Calcutta Golf Club and the Tollygunge Club, one of the foremost gentlemen’s clubs of the British Raj, are worth hundreds of millions of pounds. But they were taken over by a trust, which has refused to pay for their children’s education or save them from penury.
The estates were leased out on long-term peppercorn rents. Shahid Alam, the trust’s secretary, complained recently that the descendants wasted any money they were given and that the trust’s role was to maintain two mosques named after the Tiger of Mysore rather than provide handouts
Courtesy: Gulf News July 31, 2009