Groups in CA seeking textbook revisions in the way India is presented

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A kind of Hindu civil war that wasn't always civil erupted in a Sacramento hearing room Monday over what California middle school students should be taught about ancient India.

An emotional four-hour hearing ended with a few angry members of the overflow audience shouting at a subcommittee of the state Board of Education after it rejected changes they sought in six new social studies textbooks for California middle school students. A security guard eventually cleared the room and ordered the crowd of almost 200 out of the building. "Learning about Hinduism in my sixth-grade class left me feeling ashamed and angry," Sameera Mokkarala, a sophomore at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, one of several dozen speakers, said during the hearing. "All that was talked about was the caste system, polytheism and sati." (Sati is the long-banned burning of widows on a husband's funeral pyre.)

The Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education Foundation are seeking to remove or soften references to the untouchable caste and the subordinate status of women in India more than 2,000 years ago, among other elements that the groups view as demeaning to their religion and humiliating to Hindu schoolchildren in California.

They also object to the theory that Indian development was heavily influenced by an Aryan invasion and to portrayals of Hinduism as polytheistic.

"I am appalled by the selective amnesia and fake history that is being advocated," Laju Shah, who teaches sixth- and seventh-grade social studies in San Francisco Unified School District, said of the changes the foundations sought.

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