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Hindutva Defeated Again in California Courts
Judge Rejects HAF’s Demand for Preliminary Injunction Against School Textbooks Community Groups Applaud Decision

 Oakland, California, Apr 24, 2006: Friends of South Asia (FOSA) applauds the decision by the Superior Court of California in Sacramento to reject the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)'s demand for a preliminary injunction against publication of new sixth-grade textbooks.
On Friday, April 21, after giving HAF lawyers a long, patient hearing, the court denied the injunction. The court's ruling means that HAF failed to demonstrate to the judge even one of the three soft requirements for a preliminary injunction: that the suit had a likelihood of success on the merits, or that there was going to be any irreparable injury, or even that granting the injunction will advance the public interest.

HAF had asked for an injunction to stop the California State Board of Education (Board) from approving publication of new History–Social Science textbooks, until HAF's lawsuit against the Board could be tried.  In its suit, HAF is asking the court to reverse the March 8 decision by the Board to reject the seriously distorted version of Hinduism and ancient Indian history demanded by two groups, the so-called Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) and the Vedic Foundation (VF).  The Board's March 8 decision was supported by the majority of the South Asian community as well as over two hundred scholars and university faculty who do research and teach in the area of South Asian history and religion.
Community groups and scholars have challenged the efforts by Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) groups to influence textbooks in California since those efforts began last year.  Over the last six months, concerned individuals, South Asian-American groups and scholars made several presentations to the Board to make it aware of the fact that not only did the HAF, HEF and VF not speak for the larger South Asian-American community, but that they did not even speak for any but a small fraction of Hindus in the United States.  The Board's attention was also directed to the sectarian nature of, and complete lack of scholarship behind the changes being demanded.  After many public hearings and gathering information from subject area experts from universities across the U.S., the Board rejected the changes sought by the Hindutva organizations in the textbooks.
Following the Board's rejection of Hindutva demands, the HAF started a large publicity and fundraising campaign, and filed a lawsuit on March 16, projecting itself as the representative of an aggrieved minority in the U.S.  Even before the hearing on the Preliminary Injunction, the HAF demanded a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to freeze the textbook approval process, but a Superior Court judge rejected that
demand on March 21.  At the same TRO hearing, the judge also rejected HAF's demand to be allowed to attend corrections meetings between the Board and the publishers.
On April 18, FOSA and six other South Asian community groups, the Ambedkar Center for Justice & Peace (ACJP), Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), EKTA, Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA), and the Guru Ravidass Gurdwaras of California, filed a friends of the court brief (Brief Amici Curiae) opposing the HAF's claims.  The brief demonstrated the absurdity of HAF's stand that the proposed textbooks maligned and misrepresented Hinduism and would "harm" Hindu children, and questioned the legitimacy of HAF to speak on behalf of Americans who profess Hinduism, leave alone all Hindus.  Amici also pointed out to the court that the version of Hinduism being advocated by HAF was nothing but Brahmanism with its undisguised contempt for Dalits, women's rights and historical truth.  Amici directed the court's attention to the sectarian political ideology driving the changes being demanded by the HAF, HEF & VF, and to the fact of these organizations being the U.S.-based institutional fronts of the broader Hindutva movement, a supremacist movement whose current interest in rewriting school textbooks in the United States demonstrably comes from the movement's failure to impose its textbook agenda in India.
Along with the brief by amici, 126 university faculty and scholars with expertise in South Asia submitted a declaration to the Court denouncing the efforts of the HAF to distort history.  The faculty declaration challenged the changes advocated by HAF because such changes would be historically inaccurate, and also pointed out the Hindu nationalist ideology underpinning these changes.  The declaration said in part:
"Hinduism, it is widely recognized by scholars and most practitioners alike, is constituted of diverse and plural traditions, and consequently the religion cannot be reduced to a narrowly defined group of texts and precepts. Many of the changes that plaintiffs [HAF and others] seek will distort the distinctive character of Hinduism by defining it exclusively as a monotheistic religion. Such a monolithic concept of Hinduism, with Brahminical texts at its core, has been used extensively by Hindu supremacists in recent years to delegitimize the various folk and syncretic traditions that give Hinduism its vibrant, lived form."
Signatories to the declaration include many prominent scholars from around the world, such as D.N. Jha, the president of Indian History Congress, Suvir Kaul, Director of the South Asia Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Stephanie W. Jamison (Watkins), Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures, and Head of the Program in Indo-European Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.
The HAF's claims are so patently absurd that the court had little difficulty in rejecting them.  It is important to note that in Friday's court hearing, the judge ruled that the HAF not only failed to demonstrate the merits of its arguments on the alleged procedural violations by the Board, but also failed to support its claims in relation to the substantive issues involved—the depiction of ancient Indian history and Hinduism.  The court's decision means that the Board can move ahead with the approval process for publication of the new history-social science textbooks, whether or not the HAF withdraws its now meritless lawsuit.
FOSA is pleased to note that today's decision by the Superior Court of California has sounded the death knell for Hindutva's broad offensive to inject its sectarian ideology into textbooks in the U.S.  This is a clear victory for the forces of secularism and pluralism, and no less a victory for the children of California, who will benefit from new textbooks that include greatly expanded sections on South Asian history, religions and cultures, reflecting the insights of historical scholarship instead of sectarian propaganda.
It is HAF's hubris in arrogating to itself the right to speak on behalf of Hindus and Hinduism that has resulted in its utter failure to convince two different judges of the merits of its case – despite hiring expensive, high-powered legal talent.  HAF also seems to have forgotten that Hindus can see as well as other people, and have no trouble in seeing right through its façade and look upon its sordid ties to the broader anti-minority, anti-dalit, and anti-women Sangh Parivar agenda in India.  If, as it claims, the HAF really cares about Hindus, particularly Hindus in the United States, it must not only withdraw its lawsuit, it must abrogate all ties with Hindu supremacist groups in the U.S. as well as those in India, and work to heal the hurt it has caused to the community through its attempts to distort and delay textbooks for California schoolchildren.

The coalition issuing this press-release includes Friends of South Asia (FOSA), an organization working toward a multicultural, pluralistic, and hate-free South Asia, and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), an Indian American organization which promotes religious tolerance in the Indian diaspora.

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