December 14, 2005
The controversy over Indian history textbooks has travelled to the US. So much so, California is currently witnessing a raging battle between pro-Hindutva groups and "secular" academics over textbooks on Indian history presented to "impressionable minds" in the US.
The pro-Hindutva groups are in the forefront of a campaign to revise the textbooks on the ground that they show ancient India in poor light and single out Hinduism for "bias, distortions and prejudicial treatment". The "secular" formation, on the other hand, has plunged into the battle with equal fervour, warning the California Board of Education (CBE) against making revisions of "a religious-political nature".
Among issue whipped up in this battle are the reported projections about ancient India, the Aryan invasion, the caste system and the status of women in India. Faced with the clashing viewpoints of the two formations, the CBE is still to make public the nature and extent of revisions that it proposes to make in the books on Indian history and culture for students in grades six to eight.
On Wednesday, the Hindu groups charged the CBE with going back on the recommendations made by an expert it had appointed to go into the controversy � Shiva Bajpai of California State University, Northridge.
The rival group is led by Michael Witzel, an American professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, and has the support of a number of academicians including Indian historians Romilla Thapar, D.N.Jha and Shereen Ratnagar.
Witzel, in a letter to CBE president Ruth Green, suggested that the groups seeking revision have a hidden agenda. "The proposed revisions are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature, and are primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics," he commented.
Reacting to the charge, Ved Chaudhary, president of the Educators' Society for the Heritage of India (ESHI), said: "The ESHI totally rejects the last minute interjection of a group called IER (Indo-Eurasian Research), who were not involved in the reviews".
About 200 changes have been sought by the Hindu groups, led by the Texas-based Vedic Foundation and the New Jersey-based Hindu Education Foundation.
COMMENTS OF SOME PEOPLE :
Mysore Madhwa from Chicago wrote, "I am surprised by the headline for this 'report'. While calling the sincere efforts by Hindus to correct the factual errors is termed 'saffron', the last-minute effort by Indian Leftists and their white masters does not carry any adjectives except being dubbed 'secular'."
"Your use of the word 'saffronisation' shows your sick mindset. Can Hindus in the USA ask for parity with other religions? Can they demand that Hinduism in textbooks be taught using the same yardstick applied to Islam and Christianity?" asks Sadanjan from Hyderabad.
Jagan Mohan from Pondicherry asks, "Is asking for a review of the decision to include Aryan invasions in fact 'pro-Hindutva'? India has always been portrayed as a land of snake charmers, sati, maharajas and cows. The Witzel group is trying to maintain the status quo by showing India as a backward, cultural inferior civilisation by taking refuge behind the anti-Hindutva facade. And the amazing thing is that the Hindustan Times is also taking sides blindly by calling the activists who are trying to set right the distorted image as 'pro-Hindutva' fundamentalists.What's next? Call them terrorists?" he asks.
Raunak from San Francisco says, "I have not read a more ill-informed article that this!
I am a resident of California and I see no saffronisation in the campaign taken up by some Hindus against the misrepresentations made in the proposed text. Does a secular Hindu have a right to make a representation or not? Are you going to label all of them as RSS followers? I am a proud Hindu and not a supporter of RSS. You must be ashamed of being a Hindu and hence the title." Many have outrightly denigrated the Harvard scholar.
Sadanjan adds, "Witzel has made many derogatory remarks about Hindus. He has made fun of Hindu immigrants to America and ridiculed their practice of cremating their dead. He has called them 'lost' or 'abandoned' people. He has ridiculously claimed that American Hindus do not invest in their children's higher education. What motivates him to make such disparaging remarks? What motivates other academics to follow him and sign on the petition?"
Making the case stronger, Anjali from San Francisco writes in to say how the Witzel group's was countered and which recommendations were chosen.
These include the use of upper case "G" for Hindus gods, replacing the use of word statue with deity and one sentence be changed from saying,
"Modern Hindus continue to visit temples to express their love of the gods" to "...visit temples to worship and express their love for God".
Hindu brethren, it is a known fact since decades, that various media in India are biased and under the influence of Political Parties. To stop this tirade, We need to stop reading Hindustan Times and Promote Pro-Hindu media like Daily newspaper Sanatan Prabhat(currently only in Marathi) which is striving continously for the Hindu cause!
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