Tipu Sultan is known for his fierce spirit of independence and hard-headed leadership particularly in relation to resisting British expansionist interests in the south of India. He came to signify formidable native power and proved to be East India Company’s worst nightmare for almost thirty years. Tipu on various occasions displayed great dash, courage and wisdom including the first and second Anglo-Mysore wars in which the British were defeated. During the first phase of the third Anglo-Mysore war, Tipu once again demonstrated his military ingenuity and confirmed that Mysorean army was second to none. However, despite his bravery and martial skill, Tipu lost in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war fought in 1799. The abrupt fall of Seringapatam resulting in Tipu’s death has been a subject of great intrigue in the scholarly world resulting into extensive research which has branched out into two main theories. In the first case, it is believed that it was when the English won the alliances of regional powers such as the Nizam and the Marathas against the Sultan that he began losing ground. Despite the fact that Tipu in 1799 did not have the military resources as he had eight years ago, it was still not difficult for him to keep the joint forces of the enemies at bay from Seringapatam till the arrival of rains. He certainly would have dealt a decisive blow on the enemy were it not for the betrayal of his own ministers and officers. Highly influential persons in Tipu’s court conspired with the English for monetary and other gains to encompass the fall of Tipu. His military talent lost prowess in the complex web of intrigues causing Seringapatam to slip into the hands of the British with perfect ease. The second line of thought regards the role of treachery as untenable. The stories of betrayal have their origins in rumours inflamed by passions and emotions rather than factual reporting, and so, cannot be accepted as true. Is this stance on Tipu’s abrupt defeat justified? Should the stories of betrayal be regarded as untrue? If not, then how far could the stories of betrayal be trusted? Are these stories provoked by emotions and without any valid reasons or rooted in facts?This article undertakes a close evaluation of the two theories basing it on the research of leading historians__ Mohibbul Hasan and Kate Brittlebank, on the final phase of Tipu’s life. Hasan, an Indian historian, is regarded as a canonical biographer of Tipu. In his book ‘History of Tipu Sultan,’ he reflects that the fort of Seringapatam was strongly built and with time its fortifications were extended with a series of concentric defences to make it formidable for the enemy. But it is strange that despite deployment of strong and highly experienced Mysorean garrisons, it fell to the enemy without much loss and struggle mainly due to non-existence of opposition. Studying the episode in the light of historical data, Hasan concludes that the cause of Seringapatam defence collapse was the grand conspiracy and treachery plan intricately conceived and executed by the English against Tipu. The loyalties and sympathies of most of the Tipu’s principal ministers and officers were won over by the English through bribes and they were furnishing all critical information and aid to the English. Tipu was kept in the dark by his trusted men till the end of the game. Hasan further informs that the existence of traitors in Mysore has also been referred to and acknowledged by notable East India Company officials including Wellesley, Lushington, Fortescue, Munroe, William Pertie and the contemporaries.Kate Brittlebank, a renowned Australian historian, on the contrary, holds a diagonally opposed opinion on the matter discrediting the stories of betrayal as implausible. In her work, ‘Tales of Treachery: Rumour as the Source of Claim that Tipu Sultan was Betrayed,’ the author re-examines the historical sources of claims and evidence, principally that of Hasan, and establishes that “without Kirmani’s evidence to support his case, Hasan’s argument that the main cause of Tipu’s death and fall of his capital was the treachery of some of his senior men is not clearly untenable”. She believes that the origins of the stories of betrayal seem more likely to lie in rumour than in fact. Brittlebank focuses her assertions on Hasan’s writings because she feels the version of events as stated by Hasan still “remains influential and continues to be drawn on by other writers”. According to her, Hasan has accused five of the Tipu’s senior most men as having conspired against Tipu, being in league with the British and having led to his fall. These five men include Mir Sadiq, Purnaiya, two military commanders Saiyed Saheb and Qamaruddin, and Mir Nadim, commandant of the fort of Seringapatam. The episode of treachery as narrated by Hasan starts with the disobedience of Tipu’s instructions. Purnaiya and Saiyid Sahab remained inactive and allowed the British army to advance without any hindrance. Qamaruddin not only failed to encounter with the British troops at Malvalli but also turned against a group of Mysore soldiers. He even failed to stop the Bombay army coming from the west to join the main British army. The successful storming of Seringapatam fort by the British troops was the result of treachery by Mir Sadiq and Mir Nadim. Mir Sadiq removed the Mysore troops from the breach in the fortifications under the pretext to distribute pay and then a signal was given by a handkerchief to the British troops to capture the breach and enter into the fort. Mir Nadim, in the middle of the battle, refused to obey Tipu’s order to open one of the fort gates apparently to prevent Tipu’s escape. Tipu was wounded and killed.Brittlebank while commending the scholarly work of Hasan states: “Virtually the entire episodes of betrayal that he describes are based on two highly dubious sources, neither of which is an eyewitness account. He relies mainly on the account of Tipu’s life by Mir Husain Ali Khan Kirmani, the ‘Nishan-i-Haidari,’ supplemented by details from anonymous manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection in London known as the ‘Tarikh-i-Tipu Sultan’. Both these works, Hasan acknowledges in his bibliography, contain inaccuracies and it would be extremely unwise to regard them as reliable”. At the very outset it can safely be argued that this statement is very harsh and does not convey the correct message of the bibliography. Regarding ‘Nishan-i-Haidari,’ the bibliography emphasises that it has been translated into English by Colonel W Miles__ a staunch supporter of imperialism dedicating the text’s translated version to Queen Victoria. This fact weakens the credibility of the translation for it is heavily influenced by the translator’s subjective prejudices.Hasan maintains that “the translation is not reliable”, however, nobody has doubted the original script. Kirmani, Tipu’s court historian, was pensioner of the English and he wrote his work under their aegis in Calcutta. He is, therefore, “biased in their favour”. But otherwise, “Nishan-i-Haidari is very valuable, because it is written by one who knew both Hyder and Tipu intimately, and is the only extant contemporary history which gives a detailed account, and covers the full period of their reigns”.Hasan further says that the other source ‘Tarikh-i-Tipu Sultan’ is deficient because the events stated therein defy chronology and are sometimes described in wrong sequence. There is no mention in the bibliography that it contains inaccuracies. The bibliography states, “the work is very useful, having been written with a balanced judgment and impartiality”. In the light of what is stated in the bibliography, both the above sources cannot be labeled as “dubious”, as Brittlebank insists, but to a highly degree, authentic.In order to better understand the correctness of the accusations, Brittlebank attempts to search a reliable and strong evidence. She hints that the circumstantial evidence does throw suspicions mainly on Purnaiya, Qamaruddin and Mir Sadiq. Undoubtedly, Qamaruddin and Purnaiya financially gained from Tipu’s death.Commenting on the disloyalty to Tipu, she says that the British secret agents in Mysore reported that in 1797 correspondence from Purnaiya, Qamaruddin and Mir Sadiq with the British, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas was intercepted by Mysorean intelligence. As a result, Tipu imprisoned Purnaiya and Mir Sadiq but released them later on re-pledging loyalty. Qamaruddin went to the extent to submit a plan to the Nizam’s chief minister in 1798 to hand over Tipu in exchange for the province of Cuddapah. Both Qamaruddin and Mir Sadiq also had contacts with the British from late 1798. Brittlebank construes that “this does not, however, necessarily mean they ultimately betrayed Tipu”.The author also points to other reasons which make the episodes of treachery suspicious. Firstly, she asks why Qamaruddin continued to be the commander after the commitment of outrageous acts at Malvalli. The British accounts of the Malvalli fight do not make reference to any such occurrence. Arthur Wellesley, who was in command of contingent, “claimed the Mysorean defeat was the result of tactical error on the part of Tipu”.Secondly, another writer Denys Forrest, on the subject of British eyewitness accounts of Seringapatam defence collapse, does not allude to any understanding or collusion between the Mysore officers and the English. (Ironically, Brittlebank in a footnote to ‘Tipu Sultan’s Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain,’ comments that Forrest’s work is “poorly documented history of the Mysore ruler based on European-language sources.” This observation renders the source as inauthentic.)There is also no mention of the handkerchief signal from the fort in the British accounts. Brittlebank concludes that “such a complete silence on the issue strongly suggests it did not happen”. Regarding the murder of Mir Sadiq, it is possible that he was killed by his own men. Arthur Wellesley, who was writing to his brother, “merely noted that he was killed in the storm along with Saiyid Saheb and Saiyid Ghafair. There is nothing in the letter to suggest that Mir Sadiq had betrayed his master”.Finally, she refers to the actions of Qamaruddin and Purnaiya following Tipu’s death. By her telling, neither of them were inside the fort when it was attacked. They were, “instructed by Tipu to harry the British convoys along with the Prince Fath Haider”. They surrendered after four days of the fall of Seringapatam. Though Purnaiya ultimately benefitted from Tipu’s death by becoming regent to the new young raja, he initially proposed to place Fath Haider on the Mysore throne. She observes that “had Purnaiya really plotted with the British to overthrow Tipu, it is hard to believe his proposal to install Fath Haider on the throne”.The author contends that it is quite possible that realising the deteriorating situation during the last years of Tipu’s reign, some of his officers might have tried to contact the Nizam and the British to save their skins. Brittlebank confesses that the British were also actively pursuing a policy to win over Tipu’s subjects including Mir Sadiq, Purnaiya and Qamaruddin to their side through the use of propaganda, monetary reward and offers of territory but how far the policy was successful cannot be quantified.She concludes that the close examination of the evidence does not support the version of Kirmani and the anonymous manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection that the five men betrayed Tipu.While examining the correctness of the evidence, it seems that Brittlebank, has completely ignored some of the vital facts, as accentuated by Hasan, to give her verdict. Firstly, she has not given any weightato the letter of William Petrie of the Madras Council reproduced below:“You will hear every event and circumstances of this unparalleled war attributed to the sole cause of the invincible valour and prowess of our troops. It is natural for military men to look for no other cause. Of course this is a theme on which I am silent here and on which I shall speak and write with great caution and reserve elsewhere. I am possessed of much information on this curious edifying event, which is still lodged in my mind and from whence I may never have leisure to extract it, before many of the most important traces are erased from the tablets of my memory. But I never can forget on how many slender hairs and threads the fortune of this great event has been suspended, almost any of which breaking would have dangerously retarded, if not entirely frustrated, the grand object of the measure.”The letter was written in 1799 on the fall of Seringapatam and contains oblique references to the conduct of war or conspiracy against Tipu by the British. A detailed investigation into the accusations would certainly have brought to surface incidents of collusion between the East India Company and the principal men of Tipu.Secondly, the secret correspondence and contacts of Purnaiya, Qamaruddin Khan and Mir Sadiq with the British, the Nizam and the Marathas from 1791 onwards have been established without any doubt. Qamaruddin Khan went to the extent to hand over Tipu in his treacherous barter plan to the Nizam in 1798 in exchange for Cuddapah. This all was happening under the garb of loyalty when Tipu’s power was on the wane. According to Hasan, the British set up a commission with the prime purpose to “spread disaffection among Tipu’s subjects to win them over to the English side” including Mir Sadiq, Punaiya and Qamaruddin. What was the objective of the secret contacts and correspondence? Obviously not to support and strengthen Tipu but to weaken and destroy him through intrigues. Of all the circumstantial evidences, perhaps this is the strongest evidence on which they could be judged as traitors and destroyers of Tipu under any law.Thirdly, Brittlebank completely ignores the circumstantial evidence of Frenchmen in Tipu’s service including M Chappuis, commander of Tipu’s French troops with regard to giving of the signal by Mir Sadiq to the British. Chappuis also made reference to the troops being withdrawn for the payment. He was inside the fort and helping Mysorean forces to defend it against the British attack. Independent verification of his evidence from the relevant record held in French archives would have provided a solid base to the episode of treachery.Fourthly, Wellesley’s account creates suspicions about the authenticity of his written record. Mir Sadiq was murdered by his own men on the day of the fall of Seringapatam which is May 4, 1799. Alexander Beatson agreed to this. But Wellesley, writing to his brother, merely noted that “the Diwan had been killed in the storm, along with Saiyid Saheb and another commander whose loyalty was never questioned, Saiyid Ghufair” Undoubtedly, they all died on May 4th, 1799, not on the day of the storm which was May 5, 1799. This deliberate error casts doubts on his record and suggests suppressing and hiding of facts.An impartial and careful examination of above accounts would clearly establish that Tipu’s premature death and fall of Seringapatam were the result of culmination of the treacherous activities of his principal men. By exposing the fallacy of Brittlebank’s assertions, I aim to place in its true perspective the tragedy of Tipu’s abrupt fall. I also wish to keep his story alive very much in the spirit of Hamlet’s dying words to Horatio:O, good Horatio, what a wounded name, things standingUnknown, shall live behind me,If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,Absent thee from felicity awhile,And, in this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain,To tell my story…Published in Daily Times, November 20th 2018.