Sectarian Hijacking of Textbooks Blocked

SAN FRANCISCO: The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) applauds the
successful mobilization of the South Asian community in response to the
Hindutva [Hindu supremacist] attempts to inject their sectarian
political ideology into California school textbooks.

On Monday, February 27, 2006, people of diverse backgrounds, faiths and
ethnicities testified at a public hearing before a committee of the
California State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE held the hearing to
consider proposed changes to the new history-social science textbooks
for the 6th grade in public schools in California. Eight books, and the
associated teachers’ guides and students’ workbooks, were put forward by
different publishers last year, and released by the SBE for public
review and comment. Several Hindutva groups inserted themselves into the
review process by claiming to be representative of the diasporic South
Asian community, and began pushing the SBE to accept sectarian,
unscholarly edits. Leading the attack were the Hindu Education
Foundation (HEF) and Vedic Foundation (VF), backed by the Hindu American
Foundation (HAF), a Hindutva front posing as a ‘human rights’
organization. Outraged scholars and community members from California
requested the SBE to stand firm and not cave in to sectarian pressures.
The public hearing was organized to allow everyone to air their views.

Even as the HAF, HEF and VF sought to erase Dalits from the ancient past
and portray the caste system as a benign form of social classification
instead of the brutal system of oppression and exploitation that it
really is, the Sangh’s view of caste was on full display at the public
hearing (“Sangh” and “Sangh Parivar” refer to the family of Hindutva
organizations that have been spawned by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,
the RSS, of India). While the worldwide Sangh Parivar is busy
celebrating the birth centenary of M S Golwalkar — the second supremo
of the RSS, an admirer of Hitler and his genocide of Jews, and of Manu,
the Hindu lawgiver who codified the oppressive caste system [1] — every
mention of caste found the Hindutva supporters squirming in their seats
and exchanging unpleasant glances. Some of them, laboring under the
illusion that they were whispering, spewed vitriol about the SBE
“allowing all these chura-chamars to speak” (chura-chamar, literally
scavenger-cobbler, is one of the derogatory terms commonly used by
upper-caste Hindus to insult Dalits and lower castes). But the
HAF/HEF/VF members weren’t just fulminating in private, their arrogance
and hate of Dalits and lower castes overrode the warnings to be cautious
being whispered to them by the senior handlers that the RSS had sent
along. Among the comments made by HAF/HEF/VF members is included this
choice gem: “If Dalits are so oppressed in India, how did some of them
come to America?” As testimonies from Dalits who have made California
their home continued, Gaurang Desai of HSS, the U.S. analogue of the
RSS, got very agitated and screamed at the Board members that he once
cleaned his own toilet and did not feel oppressed, so Dalits who are
forced in India to carry human waste on their heads cannot claim to be
oppressed either!

The SBE heard testimonies from many individuals, from representatives of
several groups – including the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North
America (FeTNA), Friends of South Asia (FOSA), and Coalition Against
Communalism (CAC) – and most importantly, from members of local Dalit
communities. All of these people expressed their strong opposition to
the brazen attempts by HAF, HEF and VF to infuse Hindutva ideology into
school textbooks in California.

Numerous scholars and academics – including some of the most renowned and
respected members of the faculty from the various campuses of the
University of California system – also testified and presented their views
on why the Board must overturn the distortions introduced by the HEF/VF/HAF.

These testimonies should finally put to rest not only the notion that
the HAF/HEF/VF represent all, or even a plurality of Hindus, but also
that the Hindutva forces have any scholarly credibility. As Girish
Agrawal, a member of the CSFH collective noted with amusement, “despite
the couple of hundred people that the Sangh Parivar had bused and flown
in from around the United States, they could not produce a single
scholar to back their pseudo-history.” Girish Agrawal also commended all
the commentators opposing the Hindutva changes for speaking forcefully
and eloquently, and especially for staying calm in the face of the
thuggish behavior of the HAF/HEF/VF members and supporters: “All in all,
I think the HAF/HEF/VF showed their true colors today and it would be
hard for them to live down their own boorish behavior and the exposure
of their complete lack of concern for anything beyond their narrow
agenda of hate.”

Commenting on the textbook issue, CSFH collective member Ra Ravishankar
said: “The Sangh’s claim that its suggested edits are meant to enhance
the self-esteem of young children is first irresponsible, for how can
children learn to recognize and act upon oppressive and discriminatory
practices in the present if the past histories of these practices are
erased and whitewashed? And second, it is a lie because the edits that
the Sangh is fighting so hard to retain are not the ones their
ideologues spout as examples in every forum. Most of those edits were
minor corrections that are not disputed by anybody. Clearly, the Sangh
effort is an opportunistic one to use the relatively few and minor
problems in content as a Trojan horse to bring in the supremacist
political ideology of the Hindutva movement.” CSFH applauds the
California Department of Education for seeing through the HAF/HEF/VF’s
façade and rejecting their attempts to mythologize history. The Board is
now fully aware that the HAF/HEF/VF are tied to virulently supremacist
anti-minority agendas.

The CSFH has fought a protracted battle against the neo-fascist Hindutva
movement in the United States since 2002, and we have a deep
understanding of how the Hindutva movement operates globally. We are a
small volunteer collective of academics and professionals who came
together in 2002 after the “Gujarat Pogrom” where more than two thousand
Indian Muslims were killed by organized paramilitary mobs of the
Hindutva movement in India (the RSS and the Sangh Parivar, as the family
of RSS organizations are collectively known). We set for ourselves the
task of investigating and reporting the massive movement of funds from
the U.S. to the various arms of the Hindutva movement in India – funds
which are used to support the Sangh’s violent, anti-minority activities
in India. The results of our investigation were published in a report
titled Foreign Exchange of Hate – IDRF and the American funding of
Hindutva [2], and resulted in several major corporations, including
Cisco Systems, revamping their charitable giving policies.

The following paragraph is a synopsis of the connections between HEF/HAF
and the Sangh Parivar. We will be glad to provide more detail.

Briefly, the HEF is a creation of the HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh), the
U.S. arm of the RSS, and its board of advisors includes several senior
Hindutva leaders and ideologues. The HAF is a creation of the VHP of
America. The VHP is the militant religious arm of the RSS. HAF’s
president and founder, Mihir Meghani, is a former governing council
member of the VHP of America. That their current interventions have
nothing to do with minority rights should be obvious from the fact that
Meghani’s HAF and the HEF are avowed opponents of the rights of
religious and ethnic minorities in India. As CSFH collective member Raja
Swamy noted: “The same U.S.-based Sangh Parivar organizations and
individuals who have spent the past four years ‘defending’ the
butchering of 2,000 men, women and children in Gujarat, have now come
out in defense of the HEF and HAF.”


[1] Golwalkar had explicitly endorsed Hitler’s campaign against the Jews
in Germany by calling it a form of “race pride”” India should emulate.
He lays bare his casteism in his praise of Manu as the “first and
greatest lawgiver of the world [who] lays down in his code, directing
all the peoples of the world to go to Hindusthan [sic] to learn their
duties at the holy feet of ‘eldest born’ Brahmins of this land.” A
random selection of the ‘wisdom’ found in the Manusmriti on caste is as

  • Serving Brahmins alone is recommended as the best innate activity of a
    Shudra; for whatever he does other than this bears no fruit for him
    (123, Chapter X).
  • They should give him (Shudra) the leftovers of their food, their old
    clothes, the spoiled parts of their grain, and their worn-out household
    utensils” (125, Chapter X).
  • A servant (Shudra) should not amass wealth, even if he has the
    ability, for a servant (Shudra) who has amassed wealth annoys priests”
    (129, Chapter X).

[2] See

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