Indian American Hindus of California are closely watching a revision of the historysocial science school course that they fear may end up giving a skewed depiction of their religion.
The California department of education’s instructional quality commission, which is overseeing the revision process, is expected to submit a new set of recommendations in April.
The community, led by activists and groups such as the Hindu Education Foundation, an arm of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, has been somewhat successful. They were able to prevent what they said, for instance, proposed edits in the reading material to replace India with “South Asia” and “Hinduism” with “ancient Indian religion”.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), an advocacy body for the community, called the proposed changes “problematic”. “The proposed edits included removing mention of Hinduism’s acceptance of religious diversity, relinking Hinduism with caste, and removing mention of the contributions of Hindu sages of different backgrounds, such as Valmiki and Vyasa,” it said in a statement.
A change made in the course for Grade 7, according to minutes of the hearing from November 2015, says: “While relations between people of different religions were often peaceful, some Mughul rulers, who were Muslims, persecuted Sikhs. Change to, ‘While relations between people of different religions were often peaceful, generally, most Muslim rulers persecuted Sikhs as well as Hindus and Jains’.”
Other modifications included describing god Shiva as the “transformer” and not the “destroyer” or “the destroyer and creator” as proposed by the editors. In another change, already accepted and also from Grade 7, deleted the word “Hindu” from the phrase “the Hindu cast order” in the context of the founding of Sikhism.
The community is awaiting the revised text, likely to be made public in April.
“The accurate portrayal therefore in our classroom, of women in India’s history as leaders, sages, scholars, and often spiritual authority figures for families and communities is incredibly important for all members of my learning environment,” said 12-year-old Vaidehi Dandekar, a seventh grade student from El Cerrito, California, in a statement from HAF.