Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI June 21 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 30 secs

Textbooks are increasingly misrepresenting with deletions and distortions altering historical facts. This alarming trend, with targeted violence against Muslims, becomes a grave issue, writes Humra Quraishi.

It is deeply distressing to realize that numerous deletions have been made in the NCERT published Class 12 Political Science textbooks. Significant portions detailing the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992, have been removed. This includes references to the Rath Yatra led by L.K. Advani, the karsevaks responsible for the demolition, and any details about the Gujarat Riots of 2002. Alarmingly, the word "Masjid" has been dropped from "Babri Masjid," replaced by the term "Three Domed Structure."

This is not merely an issue of semantics but a disturbing attempt to alter historical facts. Such changes should concern all citizens.

This is not the first instance of such interference. Previously, the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, headed by Dina Nath Batra, recommended several changes to NCERT textbooks. These included removing English, Urdu, and Arabic words, a poem by revolutionary poet Pash, a couplet by Mirza Ghalib, thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, and extracts from painter MF Husain’s autobiography. Batra also sought to eliminate references to Mughal emperors as "benevolent," the BJP as a "Hindu" party, the National Conference as "secular," the apology by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots, and the statement that "nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002."

History and historical facts are being camouflaged, covered up, or simply whitewashed. This is a very serious matter that warrants widespread concern.

News reports also stated that Nyas objected to the fact that the Class 11 Political Science textbook mentions the “massive majority of Congress in 1984” but does not present details of the 1977 election. They also criticized the Class 12 Political Science textbook for describing the National Conference of J&K as a secular organization and the Class 10 English textbook for placing nationalism against other ideals, alleging it attempts to create a rift between nationality and humanity by citing Rabindranath Tagore’s thoughts. Additionally, Nyas demanded that Hindi textbooks highlight that the medieval Sufi mystic Amir Khusrau “increased the rift between Hindus and Muslims.”

Previously, Nyas had successfully demanded the removal of A.K. Ramanujan’s essay "Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation" from the undergraduate syllabus of the University of Delhi and sought a ban on Wendy Doniger’s "The Hindus" in India. Their demands were met: Ramanujan’s essay was removed from Delhi University’s reading list, and Penguin India, the publisher of Doniger’s book, pulled it from circulation.

It is also relevant to mention that in 2014, government schools in Gujarat were provided six textbooks written by Batra as “supplementary literature.” These textbooks claimed that cars were invented in ancient India and encouraged children to draw an “enlarged nation” including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

There have been significant distortions in the presentation of certain words and concepts in textbooks. For instance, the word ‘Roza’ (the fast observed by Muslims during the month of Ramzan) has been misrepresented in textbooks taught in Gujarat schools. In the summer of 2017, an ICSE board Class VI textbook circulated across India 'blamed' mosques and Azaan for causing noise pollution. A chapter on noise pollution in the book, published by Selina Publishers, included images of trains, cars, and planes as usual sources of noise pollution. Shockingly, it also depicted a man covering his ears in frustration in front of a mosque, implying that the Azan is a source of noise pollution.

Additionally, there are other pressing concerns. Recent reports suggest that communal tension has reached alarming levels. Merely spreading a rumour that a Muslim household stores beef can result in bulldozers arriving to destroy that home within an hour. This barbaric behaviour—targeting and ruining homes—has become disturbingly common.

Muslims are increasingly being targeted under various pretexts. Muslim-owned shops are not spared either. Right-wing extremists recently targeted Muslim-owned shops in Uttarakhand, and last week, a Muslim’s textile shop was looted by Hindutva goons in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh, in broad daylight. Lynching of Muslims continues unabated.

In the midst of this, Sitamarhi Member of Parliament Devesh Chandra Thakur made a highly provocative and communal statement, declaring that he won’t work for Yadavs and Muslims because they didn’t vote for him. Alarmingly, he seems to be facing no repercussions for this vicious, communal rhetoric.


Akhlaq Mohammad Khan, better known by his pen name Shahryar, was born on June 16, 1936. I recall meeting the Aligarh-based poet and academic Shahryar in New Delhi around 2004. Incidentally, his family also belonged to my ancestral qasba, Aonla. He also knew my Aligarh-based younger sister, Habiba.

When I was introduced to him as "Habiba’s sister," he looked somewhat taken aback, as my sister and I look very different. He uttered spontaneously, "You are Habiba’s sister?"

"Yes, I am. She’s my younger sister."

"But you look so different! She covers her head and you..." He gave a disapproving look at my sleeveless shirt. "You two are real sisters?"

"Yes, we are real sisters."

"From the same father?"

"Yes, of course."

"Same father?"

"Yes, yes."

"Same father!"

"Yes, at least that’s what amma has told us!"

He had a hearty laugh at that. Despite his sense of humour, Shahryar had endured emotional pain, particularly after a messy separation from his spouse after 23 years of marriage. Perhaps it was this pain and loneliness that emerged in his haunting lyrics and verse. He spoke of his emotional vacuum and sounded philosophical, "Whenever I felt I was going ahead in life, Allah seemed to pull me down. His ways—who can question them? But one thing is sure: the minute you are moving towards success, hurdles come about. I have seen this happen in my life."

He also spoke at length about the difficulties of being single. Although there were stories about his colourful lifestyle, whenever I saw him at various gatherings, he was always alone and looked lonely too. He seemed to carry strains of loneliness, trying to camouflage it by being witty and talkative. He had a certain attitude—blunt and outspoken, quite a contrast to the romantic songs he penned for the film Umrao Jaan.

The last time I saw Shahryar at a reception, he looked unwell but tried not to dwell on his ill health, putting up a brave front until the very end. He passed away on February 13, 2012.  

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