One of the most famous monuments in Delhi is Qutab Minar is believed to be constructed by two Muslim rulers named Qutbuddin Aybak and Iltutmish. At least this is what we had learned in our school days from our school books, and the website of Delhi Tourism also says so. However, there is a twist in the story. In 2012, Neeraj Atri, author of Brainwashed Republic, wrote to the National Council Of Educational Research And Training (NCERT) and asked for the source of this information.
The NCERT did not have any.
The claim, the question and the reply— Neeraj Atri (@AtriNeeraj) January 18, 2021
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In his Right to Information (RTI) application, Atri said asked NCERT about a specific figure in the Class VII history textbook titled Our Pasts – II. In Chapter 3 of the book titled “The Delhi Sultans,” on page 36, there is a figure of Qutab Minar and a description of the structure written on the left side. It reads, “Quwwat al-Islam mosque and minaret, built during the last decade of the twelfth century. This was the congregational mosque of the first city built by the Delhi Sultans, described in the chronicles as Dehli-i- Kuhna (the old city). The mosque was enlarged by Iltutmish and Alauddin Khalji. The minar was built by two Sultans: Qutbuddin Aybak and Iltutmish.”
Atri asked about the source of the information that these two Sultans made the minar along with the information about the authors and contributors who proposed the information to be added in the book. He had also asked if the NCERT has certified copies of any epigraphic or other evidence to prove the claims made in the book. The questions he asked were:
- Certified copies of the references/texts which were used to conclude that the structure called Qutub Minar was built by these Sultans, as per records
- Certified copies of any epigraphic or other evidence to support to the above mentioned assertion, as per records
- Name(s) of the persons who had put forward the proposal for including the above mentioned sentences in the textbook, as per records
- Name(s) of the persons who vetted the proposal
- Certified copies of the file notings pertaining to this assertion
While speaking to OpIndia about his RTI, Atre said that the information in History books should be based on historical facts and not biased by the ideology of the authors. He added that during his interactions with engineering and medicine students, he felt that they have strong opinions about history that are not based on facts.
“AIT has been debunked by all disciplines of Science and History. I felt that may be they are being fed such wrong information during their formative years. To cross-check my hunch, I filed such RTI applications.” He added.
He further added that those who twist the fact should be punished. In Germany, there is a law that forbids the denial of the holocaust of jews. Neeraj believes that India should also have a law on similar lines that prohibits and punishes those who try to twist the historical events of India. “Right to true history should be a fundamental right. Our students should be taught about different religions as subjects,” he added.
Reply from DESS, NCERT
The application was submitted on November 28, 2012. On January 1, 2013, the Department of Education in Social Sciences (DESS) under NCERT replied to his query. In her reply, Prof. Saroj Bala Yadav, Head, DESS & Public Information Officer, said that her office received a copy of RTI on December 11, 2012. To his queries, the department said that there are no records of any references/texts that were used to conclude that those two Sultans built the Minar.
DESS further said that they do not have any evidence to support the above-mentioned assertion. The names of those who proposed the content are mentioned in the book, and it was approved by the National Monitoring Committee, Chaired by Prof. Mrinal Miri.
Prof. Miri has a PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge University. When we checked the details about the team involved in compiling the book, we found that the Archaeological Survey of India provided the figure of Qutub Minar. However, the book does not provide any specific information chapter-wise about the historians or contributors who worked on the book. The list of team members only contains names and their designations. PDF of the book can be downloaded [PDF] for free from NCERT’s website.
The information on Qutab Minar on Government websites
The website of Delhi Tourism has interesting information about the Minar. It says Qutab-ud-din Aibak built the Minar in 1193, immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. However, the website further stated, “Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey.”
As per KnowIndia website by the Government of India, the foundation stone was laid down by Aibak in 1199. It has to be noted that Aibak demolished 27 Hindu and Jain temples, and their stones were used to construct the rectangular courtyard of the structure. This fact is used by Tourism website to assert the reason behind the presence of Hindu and Jain ornamentation in the structure. It says, “The main mosque comprises of an inner and outer courtyard, decorated with shafts and surrounded by piller. Most of these shafts are from the 27 Hindu temples, which were plundered to construct the mosque. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Muslim mosque has typical Hindu ornamentation.” Qutab Minar is a Heritage Building under UNESCO.