Letters of Support
|Press Releases/Letters FAQ
April 30, 2006 - Court Transcript Exposes HAF’s Fraudulent Press Releases. Press Release by FOSA and CAC. Transcript of Court proceedings.
A recently-released transcript
from the Superior Court of California reveals that the Hindu American
Foundation (HAF) and its allies have misled the media and public about
the proceedings during the court hearing on April 21, 2006. At that
hearing, the Superior Court of California in Sacramento denied the
Hindu American Foundation (HAF)'s demand for a preliminary injunction
against the publication of new sixth-grade textbooks.
April 24, 2006 - Hindutva Defeated Again in California Courts. Press Release by FOSA and CAC.
Superior Court of California in Sacramento has rejected the Hindu
American Foundation (HAF)'s demand for a preliminary injunction against
publication of new sixth-grade textbooks. Several community groups
applauded this decision calling it a victory for secularism and
pluralism, and a victory for the children of California.
April 18, 2006 - University Faculty and Scholars on South Asia Submit Declaration in Support of Amicus Curiae, Expressing Opposition to Hindu American Foundation's Lawsuit
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.
April 17, 2006 - South Asian Groups File Amicus Curiae Brief Opposing Hindu American Foundation's Lawsuit
On April 17, 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 Hindu American Foundation's demand for a preliminary
injunction against the proposed textbooks. This brief demonstrated the
absurdity of HAF's claims 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.
Mar 8, 2006 - R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Representing Women in California Textbooks. Press Release by FOSA and CAC.
of women’s groups and gender studies faculty held a press conference
this afternoon at the State Board of Education (SBE) to commemorate
International Women’s Day and to urge the Board to adopt textbooks that
accurately depict the history of women’s struggle against oppression. Speakers also read from a letter sent to the SBE by seventeen prominent California legislators, including members of the Assembly and Senate
Committees on Education, the Women’s Caucus, and the Asian
Pacific Islander Caucus, where they expressed their dismay at the Curriculum
Commission's recommendations, specifically ones where the history of
women's rights in ancient India was being whitewashed, and warned about
the dangers of revisionist history.
Feb 28, 2006 - Victory over Hindu nationalists in California textbooks rewrite. Press Release by FOSA and CAC.
The intense struggle over the
content of Indian history in California textbooks ended yesterday
afternoon at 2 p.m. with the special committee of the California
State Board of Education [SBE] voting unanimously to overturn a
majority of contentious changes proposed by Hindu right-wing groups
to California school textbooks. This decision is a victory for
community organizations such as Friends of South Asia (FOSA), the
Ambedkar Center for Peace and Justice, the Federation of Tamil Sangams of
North America, and the Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), who have
worked diligently to ensure that ahistorical and sectarian content
proposed by Hindu right-wing groups is removed from California
Press Release by Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism - Feb 24, 2006.
to the California State Board of Education, by Friends of South Asia
(FOSA), Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), EKTA, Federation of Tamil
Sangams of North America(FeTNA), Guru Ravi Dass Gurudwaras and
the Dalit Community of Sacramento, and Ambedkar Center for
Justice and Peace(ACJP), Feb 20, 2006.
Press Release by Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism - Tuesday, Jan 10, 2006
of South Asia and Coalition Against
Communalism (CAC) to Ruth Green (President, California State Board of
Education) and Tom Adams (Director, Curriculum Framework and
Instructional Resources Division.) - Jan 5, 2006.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(For Hindi version of this FAQ, Click Here)
What is the
controversy regarding California school textbooks?
California state textbooks come up for review every six years. This
year, the sixth class texts relating to Ancient Indian history are
We recognize that most of these textbooks are inadequate for a number
of reasons and have many errors on Indian history. Taking advantage of
this inadequacy, two groups: Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education
Foundation (VF and HEF), backed by the Hindu American Foundation
(HAF)—all with demonstrable links to Hindu rightwing
organizations – suggested many changes in the depiction of
ancient Indian history and Hinduism in the text books. But instead of
just making corrections to erroneous texts, their proposed changes also
reflect their supremacist and chauvinistic political agendas, which
seek to equate the history of India with the history of Hinduism, and
the living, diverse religion of Hinduism with a Brahmanical, Vedic
religion frozen in time for thousands of years.
As things stand now, the HEF and VF have managed to get the Curriculum
Commission to agree to a large number of their suggested changes in
alignment with their Hindu supremacist ideology (Hindutva). The only
opposition they faced was a last minute organizing by some Indologists
(M. Witzel from Harvard, S. Wolpert from UCLA and J. Heitzman from
UCDavis with around 50 other scholars supporting them, http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/witzelletter.pdf
) and a faculty letter from over 130 South Asian Studies experts and South Asian
professors at universities. While these interventions did help prevent
the inclusion of many incorrect and potentially harmful suggestions,
many other problematic Hindutva changes got accepted by the Curriculum
Commission on Dec 2, 2005.
We are quite dismayed by the acceptance of these
the Curriculum Commission and are petitioning the State Board to reject
them. Because of the success of Hindutva mobilizations, the media has
been covering this issue in an alarming manner–this
“controversy” is being framed as a debate between
faculty (who are represented as white and non-Hindus) and a monolithic,
aggrieved Hindu community. We reject this oversimplification along
racial lines which allows a complete dismissal of genuine scholarship,
and would appreciate the media paying more attention to the diversity
of views within the community itself.
treatment of Indian History in sixth grade textbooks racist and
Eurocentric? Then, why are you opposing changes to them?
There is no doubt that the instructional materials up for review in
California contain problematic histories and need revision. We are not
opposing ALL the changes, only those that aim to equate India with
Hindu, and Hindu with Aryan, and other changes that ignore or erase the
lives and struggles of marginalized peoples for survival, equity and
justice. We are asking for a review process that includes established
experts in South Asian scholarship, in addition to other concerned
community members. In November 2005, we discovered that the two
organizations that offered input into the revision process--the Hindu
Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation—as well as the
expert hired to assess these inputs and advise the Curriculum
Committee, all have close connections to Hindu right-wing organizations
with sectarian and chauvinistic agendas. We do not believe that it
helps the cause of our children’s education if Eurocentric
chauvinism in textbooks is replaced by Hindu chauvinism.
community have no role in deciding what it taught to our children?
We firmly believe that community members should have input in the
curriculum that is taught to their children. We also believe that it is
important to establish a transparent system for selecting the qualified
participants in the curriculum review process, so that those involved
be held accountable to their work. However, in this case, the
“community members” providing input to the
Commission are not accountable to the breadth and diversity of South
Asian community, nor has their scholarship been assessed by established
scholars of South Asia. In seeking to speak for ALL South Asians, these
groups and the histories they advocate erase the spiritual and cultural
diversity of South Asian peoples in the past (e.g. dalits and adivasis)
and downplay the struggles of these communities in the present.
recommendations from Christian, Jewish and Muslim bodies have been
accommodated without any controversy, why is there opposition only to
Hindus trying to get negative stereotypes cleared from their
children’s school textbooks? Is this not unfair
First, we are not opposing removal of
positive or negative, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian -- from
textbooks. Instead, we are opposing the insertion of falsehoods and the
sanitization of history. We believe that textbooks should be based on
sound scholarship and should not be used for dishing out a narrow
Second, we note that the current review is about textbooks of ancient
*history* and not religion. We believe that all changes have to be
evaluated on the merit of their historical competence alone. Hence, we
are opposed to ALL ahistorical falsehoods in textbooks, be they in the
representation of Ancient Judaism, Christianity or Islam. However, as
South Asian scholars and South Asian community members, we feel it is
most reponseible to make relevant interventions only in texts relating
to South Asian history and sociology.
Lastly, we do NOT think that removal of certain falsehoods from
textbooks is “unfair discrimination.” In fact, we
children will benefit from having access to competent scholarship in
any field of inquiry. Even if we grant that other groups are managing
to insert propaganda in history books— equality
be achieved by disseminating historically suspicious interpretations
that promote a narrow perspective on hinduism. That is just
self-defeating equality that works to the disadvantage of ALL our
This situation also asks the question: for what purpose do we learn and
write history? Is it only to find the truth of the past so that one can
feel good about oneself in the present? Can it also be to learn of the
past so that one can understand the present, to comprehend and stand up
against oppression and injustices in the present?
What are some
of the changes that you are opposing?
The changes we are opposing are largely on three issues:
tables listed here give a more detailed version of some examples of the
changes we are opposing.
of caste and gender inequalities in Ancient and present-day India,
since we believe that such sanitization only silences a large number of
peoples’ struggles against injustice and oppression.
of Hinduism as a monotheistic, brahmanical and revealed religion, and
not the pluralistic, lived religion of diverse tendencies.
ahistorical notion that the speakers of the Indo-European languages in
Ancient India were indigenous to India instead of the currently
accepted historical research that gives them a Central Asian origin.
seems to be
considerable confusion in press reports between the Curriculum
Commission (CC) and the California State Board of Education (SBE). In
fact, some of the reports have suggested that the SBE has adopted the
edits submitted by VF/HEF. Can you clarify the difference?
SBE has not
the recommendations of the CC at this time, and there is considerable
discussion going on as to whether the December 1-2 meeting of the CC
violated its mandate to review all the edits on the basis of historical
accuracy and to not add new information.
The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission,
commonly called the Curriculum Commission (CC), is an advisory body to
the California State Board of Education (SBE). It is an 18-member panel
that includes two members of the legislature and 13 public members
appointed by the SBE. Frameworks are developed by the CC, which also
reviews and recommends textbooks and other instructional materials to
be adopted by the SBE. The CC does not have any legal authority to
approve or reject contents; the SBE can accept or reject CC’s
recommendations after getting input from its own professional staff in
the Department's Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources
Division (CFIR). See for further details: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/fwdev.pdf
What is the Content
Review Panel (CRP)?
Following its November 9th meeting at which edits submitted by VF/HEF
were discussed, the SBE appointed Professors Wolpert, Heitzman, and
Witzel as members of an official Content Review Panel (CRP) to help the
SBE evaluate the proposed edits. Reflecting the Board's directive, the
CRP was to make its judgments solely on the basis of what its members
felt was the historical accuracy of the books. After the CRP review was
completed, the SBE drew up a report recommending that the CC accept the
edits approved by the three academic scholars serving on the CRP.
Isn’t it true
that FOSA has Pakistani members too? Why should ancient Indian history
be something that Pakistanis comment upon?
some members of FOSA are of Pakistani origin. As regards their
investment/interest in this issue, we would like to point out that
“Ancient India” as talked about in the history
to a region that intersects with contemporary political boundaries of
at least three countries--India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact,
many of the largest centers of pre-Vedic civilizations, such as
Mohenjodaro and Harappa are in present-day Pakistan. So Pakistanis are
very much concerned about this history.
we also want to state that this issue is not about South Asians and
South Asian history alone. This is an issue that concerns all public
school students in California, and is a matter of concern for all
Californians, if not all Americans. This is an issue about (1) what the
boundaries between history and mythology are, (2) whether peer-reviewed
scholarship should determine what gets into history books, or whether
that should be determined by groups pushing for narrow
religio-political agendas, and (3) whether there should be vetting
procedures to ensure that only established scholars are asked upon for
expertise. Just as the issue of teaching Creationism in schools is not
of concern to Fundamentalist Christians and the Kansas School Board
alone, this issue too has to be debated at a national level.
attempting to create their own politically-biased history?
recognize that the very act of deciding whose histories get told and
whose do not is inherently political, and as such it is naïve
imagine that there can be an apolitical telling of history. As FOSA, we
are very open about our politics—we are committed to
the diversity and plurality of South Asia and firmly believe that
histories of Dalits, Adivasis, women and other marginalized communities
in South Asia need to be told. We believe that there is a difference
between pointing out histories of oppression to denigrate/stereotype
South Asians and writing careful histories that empower ourselves, our
children, and our allies to question and stand against injustice and
normalized violence anywhere in the world. We also think it is
important to incorporate a correct representation of diverse viewpoints
of history, as long as they are backed up by robust scholarship.