December 23, 2005

American conspiracy against Hinduism!


As an unknown heathen with my racial and cultural memories going back to the dawn of history, I am rather amused by the manner in which the California Education Department has recently permitted some known anti-Hindu baiters like Michael Witzel, professor of Sanskrit, Harvard University, and some of his chosen suspects to
intrude into (if not lurking house trespass!) the textbook selection, evaluation and reform process, in gross violation of established norms of decorum and decency.

Consequently, the Curriculum Commission in California has
agreed to incorporate the changes proposed by the representatives of the Christian, the Jewish and the Muslim groups. But very unfortunately, the changes proposed by Hindu groups, originally agreed for suitable incorporation in the textbooks, are now being posted for re-review by an organised coterie of Hindu-baiting

I understand that the California Curriculum Committee was
approached in September by concerned American citizens on the issue of social studies' textbooks being considered for Class VI to VIII. Practitioners of different religious traditions complained that several passages included in these textbooks needed extensive revision or editing, as they contained either negative or incorrect observations or comments about the religious beliefs and practices of the Jews, the Muslims, and the Hindus.

It was alleged that some of the contents were downright
racist and had the potential to create xenophobic or sensational images in the minds of adolescent students. It was feared that it would definitely have a deranging and negative impact on the self- respect and consequently the self-identity of the Jewish-American, the Hindu-American, and the Muslim-American children.

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS) showed great
sensitivity towards the issues raised by the Jewish, Islamic and Christian groups. The institute submitted several corrections and suggestions to ensure that sections on Judaism reflected Jewish understanding of the faith and did not fan anti-Semitism.

The Council on Islamic Education (CIE) came up with a
proposal for alternative language for certain sections on Islam, and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) and the Vedic Foundation (VF) gave their considered inputs on Hindu dharma for suitable incorporation. The Curriculum Commission and Content Review Panel (CRP) informed the California State Board of Education (SBE), and on 8 November 2005, the ad hoc committee had approved 499 out of 684 proposed changes.

Many textual changes approved by the ad hoc committee were really in the nature of the routine rectification of obvious factual errors, such as the claim that 'Hindi is written with the Arabic alphabet, which uses 18 letters that stand for sounds,' when everyone knows that Hindi is written in the Devanagari script and has 52 characters.

The Jewish and the Hindu groups objected to their scriptures being described as 'stories,' which suggested 'that the events described are fictitious.' Making out a case for more respectful terminology when describing Hindu dharma, the Hindu Education Foundation said that a textbook reference to 'Gods and Goddesses from popular Hindu stories,' should be changed to 'various forms of
God from Hindu scriptures'.

What is most shocking and scandalous is that several
passages in the textbooks trivialised and ridiculed Hindu beliefs.

For example, one passage said: 'The monkey king Hanuman loved Rama so much that it is said that he is present every time the Ramayana is told. So look around, see any monkeys?' Hindus sought subtle but pertinent corrections, such as replacing subject headings like 'Hindu Beliefs About Multiple Gods' with the more accurate phrasing 'Hindu Beliefs About Various Forms of God'.

Professor Witzel of Harvard University is a great champion of the Aryan Invasion Theory of India. He succeeded in persuading the authorities to incorporate this as an inviolable fact in the textbooks. It should not be forgotten that the Aryan Invasion Theory of India was manufactured, marketed and sold as a common colonial
product during the days of British Raj and which was later lapped up by all the European historians, the highly Anglicised Indian historians and the so-called 'secular' historians belonging to the moribund leftist groups in India. The Hindu Education Foundation
requested the Californian Authorities to take note of the
overwhelming evidence available today against the Aryan Invasion Theory so as to make the presentation in the textbooks more reasonable, balanced and in accord with different shades of expert academic opinion.

There is no doubt whatsoever that all the changes proposed by the Hindu groups and Hindu organisations were fair, reasonable and legitimate. The education policy in any civilised country should take due note of the time-honoured core teachings of the religion and culture of minority groups so as to be in full tune with the
established traditions of the respective faiths, instilling a just pride in every child regarding his or her own cultural and spiritual heritage.

While all these exercises to correct such obvious errors or distortions or anomalies were being undertaken by the Californian Educational Authorities, Prof Michael Witzel of Harvard's Sanskrit Department wrote to the California State Board of Education on 8 November 2005, objecting to the accommodation of the sensitivities and sensibilities of the Hindus.

Prof Witzel and his colleague Steve Farmer collected
signatures from over 50 scholars around the world, including worthies like Prof Romila Thapar (India) and Prof Stanley Wolpert, without caring to apply their minds to the proposed changes. I am totally convinced that Witzel exclusively targeted Hindu-Americans, and that he has only a political agenda of the most despicable kind.

Not withstanding all this politically engineered
controversies, it is a matter for great satisfaction that on 4 December 2005, the California School Board accepted many changes desired by the Hindu community in Grade VI textbooks on topics dealing with India and Hindu dharma. The corrections were vetted by an ad hoc committee including renowned Indologist Dr Shiva G Bajpai,
whose indological services were hired by the Commission. But very unfortunately, the Witzel intervention has led the Commission to appoint Witzel, Wolpert and others as experts for a post-review process (Content Review Panel). This is just like the accused being permitted to sit in judgement upon their own antecedents and conduct.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has lodged a strong
protest against the grossly discriminatory, unfair, illegal and unequal treatment accorded to the Hindus vis-à-vis other faith communities by the California State Board of Education, by permitting in the last minute, a mischievously planned post-process move by Witzel to undermine and circumvent the considered recommendations of the 'ad hoc committee' and the review process
established by the Commission itself for the resolution of errors in textbooks.

I have also come to understand that during the deliberations on the textbooks by the California State Board of Education, Commissioner Munger, who identified himself as an Episcopalian, was the only Board member who advocated accepting the views of the Witzel panel. Commissioner Metzenburg said the Hindus should be able
to recognise their own religion when they read these textbooks. Metzenberg objected to the 'insensitive' approach of the Witzel panel to the whole issue. When Witzel panel was asked to rectify the statement that 'the Ramayana was written later than the Mahabharata,
Witzel commented in a contemptuous way: 'Who in Sixth Grade cares which epic was 'written' first?' Metzenberg retorted that 'it mattered to Hindus'.

The Jews in California requested the authorities to remove the references that portrayed Christianity as an 'improvement' upon Judaism, or a 'replacement' for Judaism. Likewise, the Hindus have noticed that Buddhism and Jainism have been presented as 'improvements' over their dharma. The Hindu Organisations have taken up this matter with the concerned authorities, pointing out
that this amounts to violation of Education Code Section 600 44(a) and Subsection (b), which states that all students should 'become aware and accept the religious diversity while being allowed to remain secure in any religious beliefs they may already have.'

It is very clear from all this that while matters relating to Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been reviewed by experts within those faith traditions, the California Department of Education has followed a policy of positive discrimination against the Hindus in general and American Hindus in particular by requisitioning the services of non-Hindu academics who are neither experts in Indian History or Hindu dharma, nor practicing Hindus. I won't be surprised if the anti-Hindu UPA Government in New Delhi resorts to the political expedient of sending a specially chosen team of so-called 'secular' academicians headed by the likes of Romila Thapar and a few other Communists to California for completing the work started by professor Witzel & Co.

I would appeal to Hindus all over the world to unite against this American conspiracy against us, drawing inspiration from the fiery words of Swami Vivekananda: 'Let us have muscles of iron and nerves of steel. Arise! Awake! And Stop Not Till The Goal Is Reached!'

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

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