Karnad sorry for ‘slighting’ Kempe Gowda; protests spread

Bengaluru, Nov 11 (IANS) Kannada litterateur Girish Karnad on Wednesday apologised for his remarks on naming the Bengaluru international airport after city founder Kempe Gowda even as protests against him spread in Karnataka.

“I did not intend to hurt anyone. I apologise if I have hurt anyone’s feelings, as I was only expressing my opinion about Tipu Sultan on his birth anniversary,” Karnad told reporters here after protest demonstrations were held and rallies were taken out against him in many cities and towns across the state.

Besides the opposition BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, Bajarang Dal and other political, social and religious organisations criticised Karnad for saying on Tuesday at a function that the “airport should have been named after Tipu than Kemp Gowda, as the 18th century ruler was a apatriota and a freedom fighter”.

Jnanapith award winner Karnad was addressing a gathering of about 300 people at the state’s secretariat (Vidhana Soudha) here at a function the state government organised to celebrate the 265th birth anniversary of Tipu.

“As Tipu was born at Devanahalli where the new airport has been built and operating, naming it after him would have been appropriate, as he also fought against the British,” Karnad said on that occasion.

The airport, about 40-km away from the city centre, was named after Kempe Gowda on December 15, 2013 on the recommendation of the previous BJP government, with the support of all political parties and social organisations.

Eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali, Tipu (1750-1799) was also known as the “Tiger of Mysore”, as he fought against the British East India Company and Hindu kingdoms in the Deccan region to protect and enlarge his kingdom.

Tipu was killed in a battle with the British army in 1799 while defending his fort at Srirangapatna near Mysore, about 120-km from Bengaluru.

Under attack for organising the Tipu function, state chief minister Siddaramaiah, however, distanced from Karnad’s remarks on Kempe Gowda or Tipu and said the state government had nothing to do with the playwright’s views.

“It is his (Karnad’s) personal remarks. The government does not endorse them. He should not have made such remarks. It’s a mistake on his part,” Siddaramaiah told reporters, adding though he was present then and wanted to counter him, he did not do.

Ruling out renaming the airport, the chief minister said its name would remain after Kempe Gowda, as was decided unanimously by the state and central governments with the support of the people.

Hiriya Kempe Gowda, a feudatory ruler under the Vijayanagara empire, made Bengaluru capital of his kingdom in 1537.

“Naming the airport after Tipu would have been apt as the area where it (airport) came up was nearer to his birthplace, whereas Kempe Gowda only founded the city 478 years ago, but was not a freedom fighter,” Karnad recalled.

Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy also criticised the noted writer-cum-film actor for his controversial remarks and termed them as an attempt to divide society.

“Does Karnad know history? I don’t know why he was given Jnanpith award,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here.

Various Kannada organisations and heads of religious institutions also condemned Karnad for raking up a controversy by trying to equate Tipu with Kempe Gowda, who belonged to the dominant Vokkaliga community.

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