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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 18, New Delhi, April 17, 2021

Planned Demolition of Khuda Baksh Library / Twisting of Historical Facts | Humra Quraishi

Friday 16 April 2021, by Humra Quraishi


14 April 2021

Signs of fascism are spreading out, yet as mute spectators we sit all too quiet and subdued. In fact, one of the prominent signs is exactly this. That is, the masses will be rendered so fragile and helpless that they wouldn’t be able to combat the disasters and tyrannies heaped on them by the political rulers.

Another significant sign is the attack on books and libraries and the written word. News reports of the proposed or upcoming demolition of one particular segment or section of the internationally known Patna situated library, the Khuda Baksh Library, came as a shocker. Talk to any scholar and he and she will detail how this heritage library is simply loaded with treasure, in the form and shape of rare manuscripts and volumes. In fact, last evening as I got in touch with the Varanasi based historian, Dr Mohammad Arif, who taught history at BHU (Banaras Hindu University) and is the Chairman of the Centre Harmony and Peace, he told me that he spent years at the Khuda Baksh Library when he doing his doctorate on the Tughlaq dynasty. To quote this historian, “During my research years and also during the post-doctorate phase, I spent months or years at this library. It has rare books in Urdu, Arabic, Persian …those musts for any scholar delving into our Medieval History. Its one of those libraries that ought to be nurtured and kept safe if we have to keep our heritage all intact. Also, let’s not bypass this touching factor: This massive world famous library was started by Khuda Baksh with only 1,400 books which his father, Maulvi Mohammad Baksh, had gifted him. Its with tremendous hard work and sheer focus that Khuda Bakshi could collect thousands of books…build this collection. ”

In fact, this historian also told me that just few years back another library was demolished. The Karl Michael library in Varanasi. “ The Karl Michael library was setup by a British collector in the Raj days but it was demolished when the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor was coming up…A setback for the scholars and students of this city but one couldn’t do a thing but lament…there’s worry, the way things are going on, we could be ending up sans rare manuscripts and books and libraries which form the very base of any civilization…our heritage seems in danger!”


Another shocker awaited. Last weekend a Muslim labourer’s library housing 11, 000 books was burnt in Karnataka’s Mysuru … 62 year old Syed Isaaq is a daily wager who couldn’t attend school because of his family’s financial condition and constrains and to make up for that loss he started collecting books and more books… hundreds of books in Kannada, English, Urdu. In fact, his library also had copies of the Bible, Quran, Bhagwat Gita. And for the last ten years his library was open to all, free of cost.

Now with all his books reduced to ashes, the only ray of hope is that Syed Isaaq’s spirit hasn’t been hit. He plans to re- build his library. My Salaams to his spirit! I do wish and hope the people of Mysuru would help him re-build his library. Let writers and authors and publishers help him re-build his library.

Don’t know whether the goons who burnt this library would ever be caught or like ‘unknown killers of the day’ go about scot free! After all, actual killers and destroyers are rarely apprehended, in today’s fascist times.


In these recent years, there have been fears and apprehensions of distortions if not deletion of entire chapters. Together with that, twisted versions of the historical facts.
Around the autumn of 2016, news-reports had come in of the then Right Wing government in Rajasthan plans to remove the particular chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, from the school text books…Also, news reports had come in that students in Rajasthan were to be taught incorrect and twisted versions of historical facts: Maharana Pratap defeated the army of Mughal Emperor Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati some 450 years ago. This is 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 guerilla war against the Mughals… Also, the then BJP-led government in Rajasthan had even renamed the Ajmer Fort — from Akbar Ka Qila to ’Ajmer ka Qila and Sangrahalaya’. No expert committee of historians and academics was involved in the decision. Just by the order of the then Rajasthan education minister, Vasudev Devnani, the name of this historical fort was changed. Mind you, this fort built by Akbar in 1570 was left untouched even during the rule of the Rathors, Marathas and the British. 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, Right-Wing came centre stage. In fact, the then Right-Wing government in Rajasthan, very apparent dislike for the Mughals can be judged from the fact that not just the very title ‘Great’ was removed from Mughal Emperor Akbar’s name, but also the relevant focus on him from the text books taught in the state of Rajasthan.

I’m not sure whether the present day Congress led government in Rajasthan has duly corrected the omissions and subtractions and deletions done in the State run institutions , by the previous BJP led government in the State…Those dents or call them by any other term of your choice ought to be settled before the damage penetrates any further.

Also , the Maharashtra government under the earlier BJP rule had almost near-defaced the names of Muslim rulers from its history text books. There were plans to omit from the text books, vital details to the Delhi Sultanate and the Suri Empire in India. Without realizing that without those, the very history of India would be incomplete. Perhaps half- history if nothing else!

And the RSS’s intrusion into the education sphere was more than apparent, when the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, headed by Dina Nath Batra, had sent a list of recommendations to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) demanding a host of changes in its textbooks. Batra asked the NCERT to remove English, Urdu, and Arabic words, a poem by the revolutionary poet Pash and a couplet by Mirza Ghalib, the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, extracts from painter MF Husain’s autobiography.

Batra had also wanted references to the Mughal Emperors as “benevolent”, the BJP as a “Hindu” party, the National Conference as “secular”, an apology tendered by former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots, and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002” — to be all removed!

News reports also stated that Nyas objected to certain facts — the Class 11 political science textbook mentions “the massive majority of Congress in 1984” but “does not present the 1977 election details” …Also, the Class 12 political science textbook, “terms National Conference of J&K a secular organization”, and the Class 10 English textbook “places nationalism against other ideals” as “an attempt has been made to show a rift between nationality and humanity by citing thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore”… It also wanted that the Hindi textbooks to mention that the medieval Sufi mystic Amir Khusrau “increased the rift between Hindus and Muslims.”

Nyas had on earlier occasions demanded the removal of AK Ramanujan’s essay, Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, from the undergraduate syllabus of the University of Delhi. It also went to court demanding Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus, not be sold in India. Mind you, those demands were fulfilled. Ramanujan’s essay was removed from University of Delhi’s reading list. And Penguin India, the publisher of Doniger’s book, pulled it from circulation.

I could go on and on, with the ongoing onslaughts and the damage getting done. There are genuine worries. As nothing seems to be going right under this Right –Wing regime!

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