Crushing Defeat of Hindutva attempts to saffronize Californian textbooks

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Mar 9 02:14:16 UTC 2006


Sacramento, California, March 8, 2006, 5:30 p.m. PST

The intense struggle over the presentation of ancient Indian history in  
school books in California has ended this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. PST,  
with  total victory over the right wing and sub-sectarian  Hindutva  
foundations, the so-called Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu  
Education Foundation (HEF).

The California State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to  
overturn the sectarian and politically motivated distortions pushed  
through by the two obscurant Hindutva foundations during an earlier  
phase of the review process for history textbooks. On February 27, a  
sub-committee of the SBE had also voted unanimously to overturn a  
majority of the disputed changes.

This decision is a victory for Californians, particularly for Indian  
Americans, and by implication for all Americans and all others  
worldwide who are interested in the historically correct depiction of  

More than a hundred of South Asian scholars from across the United  
States and more than fifty American and international Indologists had  
written to the Board, protesting the changes proposed by the Hindutva  
groups. The SBE had also received important scholarly input from South  
Asian Studies faculty (Title VI) as well as other Indologists. In  
addition, many Indian American community organizations and many private  
individuals have been working diligently to ensure that ahistorical and  
sectarian content proposed  by Hindutva groups  does not infect  
California school textbooks.

We must wholeheartedly applaud the courage of various individuals and  
community organizations, who in spite of being constantly harassed,  
abused and threatened by various Hindutvavadins, stood their ground and  
put in a tremendous effort to defend the educational futures of their  

Today, all involved in fighting for this goal have expressed their  
admiration of the State Board for rejecting the most egregious edits  
proposed by the Hindutva groups that attempted to sanitize caste and  
gender oppression. The victory over the machinations of the VF & HEF is  
especially poignant as it has been achieved on International Women's  
day, March 8th.

We must applaud the State Board for voting on the side of historical  
accuracy, and for not caving to the intimidation and blackmail tactics  
of HEF and VF who, failing to obtain any academic or other scholarly  
support, have now turned to a politically connected law firm and are  
issuing threats of legal action in a desperate attempt to intimidate  
the Board of Education, and to force the Board to divert precious  
resources that could have gone towards the education of California  
school children.

We also must commend the SBE staff for having patiently considered a  
wide variety of views from community groups, as well as from scholars.   
With the changes recommended by
the SBE, the textbooks are a vast improvement over earlier textbooks  
and are now largely free of errors. We must note with appreciation the  
stance taken by Ms. Ruth Green, President of the History-Social Science  
Sub-committee, that the textbooks should represent the plurality of  
scholarly opinion.

We must also thank the community organizations such as Friends of South  
Asia (FOSA), Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA),  
various Dalit organizations (, New Republic India,  Dalit  
Freedom Network, Dalit Sikh temples), Coalition Against Communalism  
(CAC), Indian American Public Education Advisory Council (IPAC). We  
must  especially commend the representatives of Dalit organizations,  
who urged the SBE to restore references to Dalits and the Caste System,  
which had been deleted from the textbooks on HEF's and VF's  
recommendations. Individual Dalits and their organizations have  
suffered the crassest abuse and vituperation from the self-styled  
representatives of the Hindu Indo-American community. Their eloquent  
and moving testimonies which outlined the daily depredations that  
Dalits face was crucial as it laid bare the hollowness and dishonesty  
of the HEF and VF agenda.

The  combined efforts against the attempts by Hindutva groups to  
distort California's textbooks have resulted in a crushing defeat of  
these obscurantist views. After a long struggle, historical accuracy  
and a balanced depiction of life in ancient India has prevailed, not  
the sugar-coated version of a hoary, mythical Golden Age that never  

In gratitude to all involved,

Michael Witzel

See: <> item 19

If you give me six lines written by the hand
of the most honest of men, I will find something
in them which will hang him.

(Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main
du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi
le faire pendre.)
			            Cardinal Richelieu, Minister of Louis XIII
                                  (Quoted: January 1641, in  "Mirame")
Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street , 3rd floor, Cambridge MA 02138
1-617-495 3295           Fax: 496 8571
direct line:       496 2990

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