Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI April 19 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 31 secs

Humra Quraishi comments on the mindless destruction of libraries, literature and Indian history by the forces that are leaving no stone unturned to divide India.

All the book lovers, librarians ought to come out in the open, cry hoarse, and ask for the immediate arrest of all the goons who burnt down Madrasa Azizia - the oldest Madrasa in Bihar Sharif, holding thousands of  books, which were  burnt  in a planned and targeted attack. It is estimated that more than 4,500 books of the library have been destroyed on the night of 31st March when a Hindutva mob attacked the Madrasa during a rally for Ram Navami.

Such attacks can only be called fascist, with a mob starting to lob petrol bombs right into the library of the mosque. The State wasn’t able to protect the priceless books of this 110 year old library. Madrasa Azizia was established by Bibi Sogra in memory of her husband, Abdul Aziz, and to this day she’s considered to be one of the most respected personalities in the entire belt.

And along the same lines, the history of the Mughal’s has been removed from text books studied by the students across India.

The present government’s insecurity vis-à-vis the Mughals is visible from the fact that a few years ago, when the BJP-led government was at the helm of affairs in the State of Rajasthan, not only was the suffix ‘Great’ dropped from the name of the Mughal emperor Akbar in the text books of the state, but it had even gone and renamed the well-known Ajmer Fort from Akbar Ka Qila to 'Ajmer ka Qila and Sangrahalaya'. And, there was no expert committee of historians and academics involved in the decision taken. Just by the order of the Education Minister, Vasudev Devnani, the name of a historical monument was changed. This fort built by Akbar in 1570 was left untouched even when the Rathors, Marathas and the British ruled the state. The original name of the Ajmer Fort was legally sanctioned by a Gazette notification in December, 1968. It was named as ‘Akbar ka Qila’ or ‘Daulat Khana’ and this name continued till, of course, the Right-Wing had come to run the state government.

Under the previous BJP rule, the students in Rajasthan were going to be taught twisted versions of historical facts, e.g. the Rajput king Maharana Pratap defeated the army of Mughal emperor Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati 450 years ago. Historians have strongly refuted this: “This is factually and historically incorrect as historical evidence shows that Maharana Pratap, ruler of the Mewar region, had fled the battlefield, although in the later years he continued his guerrilla war against the Mughals.”

And, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s dislike for the Mughals and the architecture they’ve left behind was writ large when the annual budget for 2017-2018 made no mention of Taj Mahal in the  section ‘Hamari Sanskritik Virasat’ (Our Cultural Heritage) incorporated in the Finance Minister’s 63-page speech. This aversion for the upkeep of the Taj Mahal, when it is known to be one of the seven wonders of the world, is bizarre to say the least. It’s this UNESCO world heritage site that draws thousands of tourists and earns crores in terms of revenue for the government.

On earlier occasions, the CM had publicly stated that the Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, did not reflect India’s ancient culture. Also, in his speeches he has made it amply clear that no replicas of the Taj Mahal would be given to the foreign dignitaries visiting Uttar Pradesh, instead  copies of the Hindu scriptures should be used as giveaways. And, the outcome of this misrepresentation of India’s history triggered a fierce debate - whether the Taj is a Mughal structure or a Shiva Temple!

The Maharashtra government had, on earlier occasions, gone a step ahead, by almost having defaced the names of Muslim rulers from its history books. This, when the Mughal and Maratha legacy hold much historical relevance. How is it possible to delete or bypass the following historical fact: In the third battle of Panipat, where the Marathas were defeated by the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan, the Marathas sided with Shah Alam II (Shah Alam II was only a puppet under the Maratha rulers) and then led an army to punish the Afghans for their atrocities in 1772. They even sacked the ruler of Pathargarh and forced the Rohilla Afghans to pay a huge war indemnity. The revisions of the Maharashtra text books omit the Delhi sultanate and the Suri Empire in India, without which most of modern Indian history would be incomplete, fraught with gaps or omissions, particularly when they form a crucial part of its social, political, economic and educational culture. Without a discussion on the Bijapur Sultanate, Aurangzeb's rise to power over other contenders to the throne and the invasion by Ahmed Shah Durrani, cannot be studied or put in historical context.

Here’s a verse of NIKITA PARIK that I picked, to end this column, from the Amity Peace Poems (Hawakal Publishers):

Swimming/This evening, my city/is an old man, bent forward/in Maghrib’s Namaz://Waves of faith/keep it afloat.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.