Over 100 Hindu Indian Americans gathered March 24 in Sacramento, Calif., to oppose the California Department of Education Instructional Quality Commission’s plans to accept edits made by a group of South Asian studies faculty members who seek to remove certain references to India and Hinduism. (hafsite.org photo)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, March 31, 2016 (India West): Over 100 Hindu Americans staged a silent protest outside the Department of Education building in Sacramento, March 24, 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. The proposed edits seek to remove references to India and Hinduism, and replace them with the terms “South Asia” and “ancient Indian religion,” respectively.
Some of the proposed edits, according to the Hindu American Foundation, include eliminating mention of Hinduism’s acceptance of religious diversity, and the contributions of Hindu sages from lower socio-economic backgrounds or disadvantaged groups such as Valmiki and Vyasa. The majority of the edits that the faculty group was trying to suggest were negative in nature in relation to Hinduism and India, said Samir Kalra, HAF director and senior fellow for Human Rights. “They were trying to erase a lot of the identity and contribution of Hinduism and ancient Indian civilization,” he clarified.
The South Asian studies faculty members, who became involved in the process towards the end of 2015, comprise a small group of scholars from various humanities fields representing different universities, many of whom were not religious scholars, according to Kalra. Kalra added that there was a hearing on March 24 where the IQC met to review many of the suggested edits. Initially, the IQC’s writing team had recommended 80 percent of the South Asia faculty group’s edits, but during the hearing many of those edits were rejected, he said.
IQC’s decision to reverse some of the proposed changes was apparently also influenced by public awareness campaigns, including letters from professors of religion and history who disputed the faculty group’s assertions. Prof. Vamsee Juluri, who teaches media studies at the University of San Francisco, circulated a petition along with a number of other professors in order to bring about a public awareness campaign challenging the edits from the South Asia faculty group. The petition, which found supporters in a host of community members and scholars, garnered almost 20,000 signatures.
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