California textbooks: new battleground for Hindutva groups

By TCN News

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Every six years, the California Board of Education reviews its History and Social Science frameworks in a multi-year series of public hearings. These hearings are meant to be part of a transparent process where members of the academic and general community from across the state can weigh in on what the children of the State of California will learn in history and the social sciences, from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

This process has now become a battleground for Hindu fundamentalists. Since 2006, organizations like The Hindu American Foundation, the Hindu Education foundation, the Uberoi Foundation, and have invested thousands of dollars into fact-obscuring campaigns to erase from our textbooks the Hindu religion’s history of caste-based and gender-based inequities and violence.

The stakes are extremely high in this process, as the California and Texas textbook markets set the standards for the rest of the US.

The South Asian Histories for All Coalition which is a coalition of teachers, students, parents, and community members and includes Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis; Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and atheists is challenging attempts by well-funded Hindutva groups in their attempt to rewrite history of Hinduism and South Asia.

In a statement the Coalition said, “we believe California students deserve a balanced and fact-based history, not a partisan history.”

“We believe that All histories – including that of California and the United States – comprise facts that may be difficult and complex in hindsight, but must be understood in order to build a stronger democratic future for our children. We do not support the manipulation of historical facts for the purposes of pushing a fundamentalist religious-political agenda. We believe that our children should learn fact-based history, with evidence from rigorous established scholarship.”

The Coalition is organizing an online petition to lobby support for their position. The petition lists following points about changes proposed by the Hindutva groups:

•Erasing Dalit and downplaying the violent segregationist history of the caste system.
•Erasing the origin of caste as stemming from the Hindu scripture.
•Eliminating the history of gender inequalities present in Hindu historical scriptures.
•Establishing Hinduism as the original religion of the Indus Valley Civilization.
•Erasing the autonomy of the Sikh Religion and stripping the identity of Sikh immigrants.
•Erasing the complex histories of Islam in South Asia that portray Islam as violent, and Mughal rulers as a monolithic invading force in South Asian history.

California Board of Education is expected to vote on May 19-20, 2016. The online petition has so far gathered over 3,500 signatures.