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Indian-Americans Decry Attempts by Hindu Supremacist Groups to Rewrite India’s History…in California

Palo Alto, CA, January 10, 2006 -- A coalition of American groups representing the immigrant communities from the Indian subcontinent, led by Friends of South Asia (FOSA), has taken strong exception to numerous misrepresentations of India’s ancient history and of Hinduism recently put forward by the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) for incorporation into Grade 6 History/Social Sciences text books in California.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to the California State Board of Education (SBE), dated January 5, 2006, on behalf of Hindus as well as people of other faiths and beliefs who have a stake in the narrative history of the region, the coalition has urged the Board to reject the VF’s/HEF’s reactionary ideologies, which they say “negates great pluralism within Hindu practice, as well as the religious diversity within Indian society,” and “does not represent the larger Hindu community any more than white supremacist groups like the ‘Aryan Nation’ represent the views of all White Americans.”

“As members of the South Asian diaspora, many of us immigrants ourselves, we and our children live with the experiences of marginalization, and understand well the harm that can be caused to young minds by distortions and errors in text books regarding their religious and socio-cultural heritage. But, we are also very clear that misrepresenting Hinduism so as to ‘boost the self-esteem of Hindu students’ is entirely the wrong solution,” the letter states.

Among the edits recently accepted by the Curriculum Commission (an advisory body to SBE) which the coalition finds objectionable:
  • Recasting Hinduism as a monotheistic religion in a vain attempt to force it into a “Semitic mold,” contrary to the way it has been practiced for centuries.
  • Claiming that the Aryans were indigenous to India, based on questionable and fraudulent research, in an attempt to blur the distinction between Aryans and the Indus-Valley Civilization.
  • White-washing the legacy of caste and gender to the point that it bears little or no resemblance to either history or to contemporary realities. The VF even claims that the caste system is a thing of the past rather than acknowledge the ongoing human rights violations against individuals of the lower castes.
  • The term Dalit, which identifies 160 million Indians who were previously called ‘untouchables,’ has been edited out on the specious ground that the Indian Constitution guarantees right to equality.
The coalition has also forwarded to SBE a strong letter of protest addressed to the U.S. Ambassador to India, Dr. Mulford, by many notable Indians who are dismayed at the developments in California, and who wish to prevent the repetition of recent attempts in India to inject sectarian doctrines into NCERT history books. In addition, the coalition has received several letters by Dalit groups in India expressing their shock and dismay at the edits recommended by VF/HEF.

The coalition believes that both VF and HEF have strong ties to the supremacist ideologies of the Hindutva movement in India: HEF has recently admitted that it is run by HSS, the U.S. arm of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS; and VF has links to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, VHP. Both RSS and VHP were largely responsible for the massive pogroms against religious minorities in the state of Gujarat in 2002 in which over 2,000 Muslims were killed and thousands made homeless. It is therefore an irony that these groups are now trying to don the mantle of minority victimhood in a multicultural U.S. society and are complaining about “discrimination against Hindus” in California.

“As a concerned Indian-American and as a Hindu, of course, I want our children to grow up with a better appreciation for other nations and other cultures,” noted Raju Rajagopal, an activist from the community who works on rural development issues in India and on initiatives promoting religious tolerance. “But the pride of a small cross-section of Hindu ‘creamy layers’ can’t be the sole basis of determining how we introduce Indian history to our future generations. In my view, scholarship must take precedence over petitions and ideologies.”

“VF’s/HEF’s effort to meddle in California history text books is akin to recent ill-fated attempts to inject ‘Intelligent Design’ into the science curriculum, which has been rejected by a federal judge as ‘a particular version of Christianity,’ says Anu Mandavilli, who volunteers for Friends of South Asia and is a doctoral candidate at University of Southern California. “Similarly, an academically valid and constitutionally sound policy for California schools should reject the attempt to impose ‘a particular version of Hinduism’ upon the study of Indian history.” 

For further information on this press release, please contact mail[at]friendsofsouthasia.org

Released by:

Friends of South Asia (FOSA), California

EKTA, California

Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), California

Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA), Chicago

NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), Chicago and New York

Vaishnava Center of Enlightenment, Michigan

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