Letters of Support
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
Some of the public comments heard at the meeting:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Curriculum Commission may have violated the California Education Code
Section 60044 against the inclusion of sectarian doctrines in educational materials.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, Tom Adams email@example.com
Superintendent Sue Stickel, Curriculum & Instruction Branch --
Phone: (916) 319-0806. Fax: (916) 319- 0103 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg; Chair of the Education Committee -- Fax: (916) 319-2145 Goldberg@asm.ca.gov
- Secretary Alan Bersin -- Fax: (916) 323-3753; email@example.com
- Chief Counsel Karen Steentofte -- Fax: (916) 319-0176 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Thank you for caring,
- India Abroad: email@example.com, Fax: 212-727-9730
- India West: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: (510) 383-1155
- Indian Express, North America: email@example.com Fax. (212) 594-8848
Volunteers at Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC)