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ISSUE

Speak Out Against the Hindutva Assault on California's History Textbooks


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IN DEPTH:













We in California are facing a Hindutva assault on school history textbooks of the kind that went on a few years ago in India.  This is an issue of rising concern in the California community, and we at Friends of South Asia, as a group of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, atheists, agnostics, and others with roots in South Asia,  are alarmed by these attempts to misrepresent the history of India and South Asia, as well as the history of Hinduism.


Please join us in speaking out against these attempts to distort history texts with propaganda, and make your voice heard in favor of our children having an opportunity to learn our history as it should be  - unbiased, developed using scientific methods, based on historical evidence from multiple sources of scholarship that has been subjected to stringent standards of peer-review, and that is widely accepted by historians and scholars worldwide.


UPDATES

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.
The 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.

Representatives 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 textbooks.


Feb 24, 2006 - 
FOSA and CAC  to participate in California State Board of Education's public hearing. Board staff reject many contentious changes proposed by Hindu Nationalist groups. Special committee to decide on controversial textbook changes on February 27th. - Press Release by Friends of  South Asia (FOSA) and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC)

Jan 15, 2006 -
"California Educators Hear Impassioned Pleas from Concerned Indians/South Asians to reject the Views of Hindu Supremacist Groups in History Books" 
- Update on the CA Textbook issue by FOSA and CAC

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). At the meeting, the State Board announced the formation of a Sub-Committee to investigate the Curriculum Commission’s recommendations.

Jan 10, 2006
- "Indian-Americans Decry Attempts by Hindu Supremacist Groups to Rewrite India’s History…in California" - Press Release by Friends of South Asia, Coalition Against Communalism, EKTA, Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA), NRI-SAHI (NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India) and Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment.


BACKGROUND

California state textbooks come up for review every six years. This year, the sixth grade texts relating to Ancient Indian history are under review.

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 (a purely advisory body to the State Board of Education)  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 experts in South Asian Studies, 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 “edits” by 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 some 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. 

For more information, including how you can participate in these efforts, please follow the links on the left, or contact us at mail[at]friendsofsouthasia.org
© 2005 - Friends of South Asia (FOSA). Site hosted by ektaonline.org