Addanda Cariappa, who was the creator of the fictitious characters Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda, resigned as the director of the Mysuru-based theatre institute Rangayana on Sunday, 14 May.
This, even as Karnataka-based historians took potshots at BJP leaders, especially CT Ravi and CN Ashwath Narayan.
The two characters are from Cariappa’s play Tipu Nija Kanasugalu (Tipu’s Real Dreams), which depicts the Vokkaliga chieftain brothers killing Tipu Sultan, the man who ruled the Kingdom of Mysore in the late 18th century.
The play was in apparent response to noted actor-playwright Girish Karnad’s work Tipu Sultan Kanda Kanasu (The Dreams of Tipu Sultan).
The BJP picked up on this and tried to play the communal card in the run-up to the Karnataka polls, but it seems the endeavour went in vain.
The Congress won 135 of the 224 seats in the Karnataka Assembly, while the BJP won 66 — less than half that.
Ire of historians
Historians are now training their guns at BJP leaders who tried to use Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda for political gain.
They have stated that CT Ravi and Ashwath Narayan were reincarnations of the fictitious Vokkaliga chieftains, and that the people of Karnataka realised that “fact” and voted the BJP out of power in the state.
Ravi was defeated by Congress candidate HD Thammaiah in the Chikmagalur constituency. Ashwath Narayan, who won his Malleswaram Assembly seat, will be sitting in Opposition.
“We Hindus, believe in rebirth,” historian and professor PV Nanjaraj Urs told South First.
“If it was true that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda — the two Vokkaliga chieftain-brothers — and not the British had killed Tipu Sultan, as asserted by both CT Ravi and CN Ashwath Narayan, then we have strong reasons to believe that the two former ministers were reincarnations of Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda,” he told South First.
Cariappa takes ‘moral responsibility’ for BJP defeat
Cariappa, it may be noted, tendered his resignation on Sunday taking “moral responsibility” in the wake of the defeat of the BJP, the party whose government had appointed him as the director of the institute.
In his letter addressed to the secretary of the state’s Department of Kannada and Culture on 14 May, Cariappa stated: “The government that appointed me as the director of Rangayana has lost the election. I respect the people’s mandate and by taking moral responsibility, I’m resigning from the director’s post.”
Cariappa was appointed the director of Rangayana on 27 December, 2019, and took charge on 31 December that year.
In November 2022, Cariappa was embroiled in a controversy after he directed the play Tipu Nija Kanasagalu. The play was staged at Bhoomigeeta in Mysuru.
A book was published with the same story, the crux of which was that the Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan was not killed by the British but by Vokkaliga chieftains Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda.
According to the play, the duo camped in Malavalli, plotting to kill Tipu, and successfully executed the plot.
It also mentioned that around 80,000 Kodavas — native warriors from the Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka — were massacred by Tipu.
Enraged with the fictitious and propagandist play pushed for a political agenda, historians in Karnataka not only rebuked Cariappa and his work but also lambasted the then ministers Ravi and Ashwath Narayan, who — in their campaigns, especially in the Old Mysuru region — talked about Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda.
Posters of the two chieftains were erected at places where the BJP election campaigning was done in the Old Mysuru region, like Mandya, Srirangapatna, and Malavalli.
The BJP’s agenda was to make inroads into the Vokkaliga-dominated region.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to inaugurate the Mysuru Express Highway, a huge arch was erected with pictures of Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda welcoming him at the “Mahadhwar” — Great Entrance — to Mandya.
However, the district administration removed it on the day of Modi’s visit after the arch garnered attention on social media and was trolled.
Complaint against Cariappa
Professor PV Nanjaraj Urs, along with his associates Baburaj, an advocate; Shantharaj, a Dalit leader; and Khaleem, a Muslim leader; and a few social workers approached the Jayalakshmipuram police in Mysuru and filed a complaint against Cariappa for hurting the religious sentiments and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence.
“However, the police counselled us that with this case, Cariappa would hog the limelight and publicity to the extent that he could get a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. They advised us to have patience and not to complain,” Nanjaraj Urs told South First.
Meanwhile, one BS Rafiulla, a former chairman of the District Wakf Board Committee, also filed a writ petition seeking a stay on the play and the book.
Another historian, Dr Chikka Range Gowda, told South First: “The BJP made a huge blunder by introducing fictitious characters like Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda. It made a mockery of itself.”
He explained: “The hype went on to the extent where there was a plan of making a movie on the Vokkaliga chieftains Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda. Minister and film producer Munirathna held a meeting with the Adichunchunagiri seer Nirmalananda Swami on March 20 to discuss if it was feasible for him to produce the movie.”
However, the seer asked him and other political leaders to refrain from peddling fictional characters to members of the general public.
The seer also conveyed to the leaders not to misguide people with imaginary stories, said Range Gowda.
“If they have any credence to prove it, they could always bring those materials to the matha and they could discuss it with the seer, the pontiff said. Soon after the seer’s reaction, the Uri Gowda-Nanje Gowda topic diminished,” he explained.
“The BJP was indeed pushing this propaganda story without any credible materials. Otherwise, they would have fought until the end,” said Range Gowda said.
“The new director [of Rangayana] appointed by the new government has to start everything with a clean slate. The director should also scrap the drama and the book and make sure that the play is not performed or the books sold henceforth,” he added.
He concluded with a piece of advice to the BJP: Have real historians rather than “pseudo” or “drop-out” experts who take people for a ride.