Strengthening its fight against proposed edits to California school textbooks, which seek to remove references to India and Hinduism and replace them with the terms “South Asia” and “ancient Indian religion,” respectively, the Hindu American Foundation launched a campaign on social media April 6 to keep Hindu and Indian history included and accurate within the framework of the textbooks.
Called #DontEraseIndia, the campaign will continue until May11-12, which is when the State Board of Education hearing is scheduled that will make a decision on whether or not to incorporate the suggested edits, which HAF says reinforce cultural stereotypes and historical inaccuracies.
According to HAF, there are 33 places in the sixth and seventh grade curriculum where any reference to India or Hinduism will either be removed or replaced.
Some examples of the proposed edits: ‘early civilizations of India’ will be replaced with ‘early civilizations of South Asia’; ‘in this unit, students learn about ancient societies in India’ will be replaced with ‘in this unit, students learn about ancient societies in South Asia; ‘a flourishing urban civilization developed in India from as early as 3300 BCE along the Indus River’ will be replaced with ‘a flourishing urban civilization developed in South Asia from as early as 3300 BCE along the Indus River’; and ‘enduring contributions of ancient Indian civilization to other areas of Afroeurasia’ will be changed to ‘enduring contributions of South Asian culture and civilization to other areas of Afroeurasia.’
On March 24, over 100 Hindu Americans staged a silent protest outside the Department of Education building in Sacramento, Calif., to voice their concerns regarding the California Department of Education Instructional Quality Commission’s plans to accept edits made by a group of South Asian studies faculty members to California state textbooks from Grade 6–10.
Samir Kalra, HAF director and senior fellow for Human Rights, had earlier told India-West that the majority of the edits that the faculty group were trying to suggest were “negative in nature in relation to Hinduism and India” and that they were trying to “erase a lot of the identity and contribution of Hinduism and ancient Indian civilization.”
Kalra said HAF has been involved in this process since 2014, and their concerns remain with how the commission gave preference to one group of scholars over the views of many others, especially at a later stage in the process. (Read the interview on India-West’s website: http://bit.ly/1SkS1FB).
HAF will also release an anti-bullying report in May, in which Hindu and other Indian American youth will speak out about the bullying they experience as a result of cultural stereotypes and a misunderstanding of their heritage and religion.
“My classmates and teachers think that we Hindus still believe in primitive and unjust practices. The experience I had (in sixth grade) clearly shows that my class was not helped to become aware or accepting of my heritage, nor was I allowed to remain secure in my beliefs,” said Akanksha Maddi, a ninth grade student from Pleasanton, Calif., who recently testified before CDE’s Instructional Quality Commission. “I don’t want my friends to look down upon me and my culture because of my textbook. It’s unfair? What I ask is for fairness and dignity. Is that too much to ask for?”
Other groups, including the Hindu Education Foundation and Uberoi Foundation, along with several scholars such as University of San Francisco professor Vamsee Juluri and Saint Mary’s College of California professor Barbara McGraw, have also been involved in the process to ensure an accurate representation of Hinduism and India in the framework, according to HAF.