Girish Karnad offers apology over remarks on Kempegowda

Bengaluru: Under severe attack for his remarks that Bengaluru International airport should have been named after 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan rather than the city founder Kempegowda, Jnanpith awardee Girish Karnad on Wednesday offered his apology.

Girish KarnadGirish Karnad

As he remained in the eye of a storm, the noted playwright and actor sought to end the controversy, saying, "If anybody has been hurt by my remarks, I apologise...what will I gain by doing it (by giving such comments)." He said he had only expressed his view and there was no ulterior motive, as his remarks drew strong criticism and protests from different quarters.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the government has nothing to do with the remarks made by Karnad at a state government-organised function to mark the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

"It is his personal remarks. The government does not have any connection to the remarks made by Karnad," Siddaramaiah said, as he also came under criticism for not rebutting the Jnanpith awardee immediately at the function itself.

Siddaramaiah also said it was a mistake on the part of the Jnanapith award winner to have made such remarks. "It is a mistake. I have told you," he said.

"I do not know why Girish Karnad made such a remark. I was also there (when he made the remark), I wanted to counter but I did not do," he said.

Siddaramaiah also said there was no question of renaming Kempegowda International Airport. "A decision had already been taken to keep the name of the BIAL as Kempegowda - there arises no question of replacing Kempegowda's name given to Bengaluru International Airport," he said.

In a controversial remark, Karnad had said that it would have been "apt" had the Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli near here been named after Tipu Sultan rather than Kempegowda, a feudatory ruler under the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire who founded Bengaluru in 1537.

"It is true that Kempegowda was great, he founded Bengaluru. But he was not a freedom fighter, so naming Bengaluru airport after Tipu Sultan would have been apt," Karnad had said.

In another controversial remark at the same function, Karnad had said that Tipu Sultan would have enjoyed the same status as of Maratha king Chhatrapathi Shivaji, if he was a Hindu and not a Muslim.

BJP, JDS and various Kannada outfits slammed Karnad's remarks on naming the international airport after Kempegowda. BJP said he had insulted the founder of Bengaluru on an issue which was a "closed chapter".

JDS leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said the remarks were an attempt to divide the society and the Chief Minister should have immediately responded to Karnad's remarks. "Does he (Karnad) know history? I don't know for what reason he was given Jnanpith," the JDS leader said.

Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce President SaRa Govindu said those with sense should not speak in that manner. Karnad's remarks were an insult to Kempegowda and an attempt to tar his image, he said, adding, the entire film industry condemned it.

Tipu was a ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore, who was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort of Srirangapatna against the British forces.

The Congress government's decision to hold celebrations marking Tipu Sultan's birth anniversary for the first time had triggered a controversy, with BJP boycotting the functions statewide, saying Tipu Sultan was a "religious bigot".

It also led to violence claiming the life of a local VHP leader in Kodagu district where, several historians say, the Kodavas (Coorgis) were persecuted by Tipu Sultan with forcible conversions and killings, the scale of which, as portrayed, is disputed by many other historians.

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