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January 15, 2006


FOSA/CAC Position

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California Educators Hear Impassioned Pleas from Concerned Indians/South Asians to reject the Views of Hindu Supremacist Groups in History Books

State Board Announces Formation of a Sub-Committee to Investigate the Curriculum Commission’s Recommendations

A broad coalition of Indians and other South Asians representing Friends of South Asia, Coalition Against Communalism, Tamil Sangams of North America, and various groups representing Dalits were present in force at the California State Board of Education meeting in Sacramento on January 12, 2006. They were there to express their strong objections to some of the politically motivated edits to Grade 6 History books adopted by the Curriculum Commission on December 2, 2005, under intense lobbying from organizations such as the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF). Speaker after speaker went to the podium to express their views on the controversy, as members of the Board listened intently.

Earlier, prior to public comments, the chair acknowledged that they were just beginning to appreciate the complexity of the issue -- the Board passed a motion to appoint a five-member sub-committee to look into whether the Curriculum Commission had violated the directives given to it at the November 9th Board meeting.  This decision was welcomed by the many scholars of South Asia, as well as community groups such as FOSA and CAC, who had written to the Board pointing out that the Curriculum Commission had not followed the State Board’s directions, and had accepted many of the recommendations from the HEF and VF, recommendations that are historically inaccurate and promote sectarian ideologies.

Some of the public comments heard at the meeting:
  • Egregious errors and stereotypes in the textbooks must be corrected.  By the same token, sectarian doctrines posing as history must also be rejected. These are History books, not books on religion. Factual and scientific basis should be followed.
  • Parallels were drawn with recent attempts in some states to introduce creationism in the guise of "Intelligent Design" into Science classes.
  • Many practicing and moderate Hindus emphasized that VF/HEF do not represent them or, for that matter, most Hindus and Indians.
  • Attempts to replace "gods and goddesses" with references to a God were offensive and patriarchal; and sanitizing the status of women by suggesting that they had "different rights" not lesser ones, was deplorable.
  • 70 to 80 % of Tamils do not consider themselves to be Vedic people, and for a shudra, the mere act of listening to the Vedas was considered a sacrilege punishable by death
  • Crude attempts to reinvent Hinduism as monotheistic or to "semiticize" it should be rejected since the worship of local village gods is common practice even today, and one of the things that gives Hinduism much of its richness.
  • Dalit groups expressed shock at having their status obscured in the edits and being denied their self-identity. They also decried attempts to whitewash the caste system, the worst hierarchical system ever invented by humans. History should speak the truth, they said.
  • The argument that Dalits and the evils of the caste system should not be talked about because the Indian Constitution guarantees equality is the same as denying the existence of African Americans and continuing racism in the U.S. because the U.S. Constitution guarantees equality.
  • Contrary to VF/HEF's assertions, the Aryan migration theory is still the prevalent view of historians. The VF/HEF’s anxiety to reinvent Aryans as indigenous people is not a scholarly debate; and the effort to conflate Indus Valley civilization with Vedic/Hindu civilization is aimed at labeling everyone but Hindus as foreigners in India.
  • The links between VF/HEF and the Hindu supremacist ideologies of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – who were responsible for the genocidal anti-minority violence in Gujarat in 2002 – have been well documented, including the involvement of RSS affiliates as advisors and activists for VF/HEF. An RSS activist from California, attending a RSS meeting in Gujarat, bragged about RSS's success in California through HEF.
  • Rewriting Indian history in California is an effort to revive the ill-fated effort to rewrite NCERT books in India and must be rejected. What the VF/HEF are trying to do here in California is being projected by them as an experiment to be repeated elsewhere in the world by the Hindu-supremacists RSS and its affiliates. Therefore, the Board's decision in California is very significant and could head off a dangerous precedence.
  • The Curriculum Commission may have violated the California Education Code Section 60044 against the inclusion of sectarian doctrines in educational materials.
  • Speaker after speaker called for rejecting the sectarian edits adopted by the Curriculum Commission and the adoption of the edits suggested by the Content Review Panel of scholars.
  • VF/HEF wearing the mantle of an aggrieved minority is ironic, given that their ideological parent in India scoffs at the very notion of minority rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
  • The Board was advised of the deplorable tactics of VF/HEF supporters, such as the vicious slander campaign against Harvard Professor Witzel, and their previous attempts to smear well known historian Romila Thapar when she was nominated to the Kluge Chair at the Library of Congress.
This was the first time the Board had heard from a broad group of Indian-Americans and others of South Asian heritage.  We are confident that it was a wake-up call to them about the deeper significance of the RSS project in California and gave them a better appreciation for the enormous diversity of Indian and South Asian communities. We are very hopeful that truth and scholarly approach will prevail; that obvious errors and egregious stereotypes will be removed; and that supremacist doctrines adopted by the Curriculum Commission will be rejected. In the end, children in California will be the ultimate victors in this controversy.

The Board will announce its final recommendations for edits to the history textbook once the Sub-committee has completed its inquiry.  While the timeline for the final changes is not clear at this point, it is obvious that the Board understands the urgency of the issue and is moving as rapidly on this as possible.

If you feel as strongly about this issue as we do, it is of utmost importance to make your views known to the Board as they deliberate over the final resolution of this matter.

Please write or fax to the Board at:
  • President Glee Johnson-- (916) 319-0827. Fax: (916) 319-0176. Email: Jack O'Connell joconnell@cde.ca.gov, Tom Adams tadams@cde.ca.gov
  • Deputy Superintendent Sue Stickel, Curriculum & Instruction Branch -- Phone: (916) 319-0806.  Fax: (916) 319- 0103 Email: sstickel@cde.ca.gov
  • Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg; Chair of the Education Committee -- Fax: (916) 319-2145 Goldberg@asm.ca.gov
  • Secretary Alan Bersin -- Fax: (916) 323-3753; kheinrich@ose.ca.gov
  • Chief Counsel Karen Steentofte -- Fax: (916) 319-0176 ksteento@cde.ca.gov

And please write to the Indian-American media that it is their job to present the diverse views of the community and to not act as a mouthpiece for the RSS and its affiliates here.
  • India Abroad: editorial@indiaabroad.com, Fax: 212-727-9730
  • India West: news@indiawest.com, Fax: (510) 383-1155
  • Indian Express, North America: info@iexpressusa.com Fax. (212) 594-8848
Thank you for caring,
Volunteers at Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC)

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