The IHC refutes the statement that Sultan Iltutmish settled two thousand Turkish soldiers in the Doab to fortify his political and financial position. Yet Irfan Habib’s own father, Mohammad Habib, asserted that: “…Iltutmish was the first to realize the economic potentialities of the Doab. By setting two thousand Turkish soldiers there, he secured for the Turkish state the financial and administrative control of one of the most prosperous regions of northern India” [A Comprehensive History of India, ed. Mohammad Habib and K.A. Nizami, PPH, 1970, p. 227].
The NCERT authors’ critique of Balban as a weak ruler has been strongly disparaged. Here again, Habib and Nizami assert: “Balban, his officers and his army… proved themselves extraordinarily inefficient and clumsy” (ibid, p. 292) and “…it took Balban six years or more to crush the rebellion of Tughril and a riffraff of two hundred thousand had to be enlisted at Awadh to strengthen the regular army. Balban did not challenge any of the great Hindu rais… his officers failed against the raids of frontier Mongol officers… both in the civil and the military field Balban and his governing class had been tried and found wanting” (ibid, p. 303). The iconoclasm attributed to Sultan Alauddin Khalji is also a direct quotation from Habib and Nizami.
The IHC’s contention that there is no proof that Sher Shah extracted jaziya is absurd. This has been stated even in Prof. Satish Chandra’s (now replaced) NCERT textbook: “Jizyah continued to be collected from the Hindus, while his nobility was drawn almost exclusively from the Afghans” [p. 150]. Surely historical facts cannot be changed to suit every whim and fancy of the moment!
The low annual growth rate of the Indian population between the years 1600 – 1800, pegged at 0.14%, has been denied by the IHC. Alas, it is Irfan Habib who declaims: “…the population during the Mughal period did not remain stable though the compound rate of growth, 0.14% per annum, was hardly spectacular and was much lower than the rate attained during the nineteenth century” [The Cambridge Economic History of India, Vol. I, Orient Longman, 1982, p. 167, ed. Tapan Raychaudhari and Irfan Habib). Is Habib disowning his own scholarship?
The medieval slave trade in India rivals the early Arab and later European trade from Africa, and deserves equal documentation. It would be extremely unjust to negate this atrocity from the annals of world history, as Indian historians have tended to do. The IHC claims this flourishing market in human beings declined under the Mughals.
But the noted historian Dirk Kolff (Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy. The ethnohistory of a military labour market in Hindustan, 1450‑1850, Cambridge University Press, 1990) is fairly emphatic: “There is irrefutable evidence for the enslavement and deportation of thousands and thousands of peasants by the Mughal aristocracy. Many of these were sold to countries to the west of India. The trade had flourished before 1400, when Multan was a considerable slave market, but it was continued after that, with Kabul as the main entrepot” (p. 10); “In these deportations, Jehangir also had a share” (p. 11); and “The Emperor Shahjahan also used to have offenders against the state transported beyond the river Indus to be ‘exchanged for Pathan dogs’.” He concludes: “Anyway, it is clear that, in the 1660s, Indian supply of and Persian demand for slaves was still considerable.”
One could similarly refute each and every objection in the so-called Index of Errors. It denies that the Mughals settled Afghans in areas of insurgence. But Kolff (ibid, p. 13) shows that: “Forced migrations were part of a deliberate policy in this area... Whereas Rajputs in Western Hindustan were exterminated and deported as slaves beyond the Indus, Afghans were deported towards the east and settled in areas notorious for Rajput turbulence. The Dilzak Afghans, for instance, completely disappeared from their native land as a result of intense military enrolment in India, but also because Jehangir deported a large number of them and ‘distributed’ them all over Hindustan and the Deccan.’ Afghans seem to have been especially in demand to deal with Rajputs…”
This is not to insist that there are no errata in the book. Muhammad Ghur should correctly be called Muhammad of Ghur and Muhammad Ghazni designated Muhammad of Ghazni. Bakhtiyar Khalji has been described as a slave when he was a free man, and the historian who commented adversely on Muhammad bin Tughlaq was Badauni, not Barani. But to quibble that the Dastur-ul Amal-i Alamgiri was not an official document when it was a compilation of official documents, shows how contrived the whole exercise is. None of these points merited listing in an Index of Errors; they could have been faxed to the NCERT Director for rectification in his next reprint.