Don't Replace "India" with "South Asia" in California History Social Science Frameworks
This petition had 25,782 supporters
School students in California will be forced to learn that there was never an "India" unless you act! A small group of South Asia studies faculty recently asked the California Board of Education to change the History Social Science Frameworks (Syllabus) so that the word "India" will be removed and replaced with "South Asia" (read their submissions and other documents here). They believe that India did not exist before 1947 and want a stereotypical and concocted generalization like "South Asia" to be used for almost all discussions of Indian history before 1947. (Note: the picture above is a satirical depiction of how absurd it would be if every country were changed to its mere geographical location - no other country is being changed thus, only India to 'South Asia')
If you thought the California textbooks were problematic, they are going to get far worse now, and they won't be any change for another ten years if you don't act fast! Please sign in support of the open letter to the board initiated by several scholars below. If you are a student, teacher or parent, please do mention that when you sign. Finally, please remember this concerns the future of India and all its people, and please do not be abusive in your comments!
DEAR CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EDUCATION,
You seem to have been taken for a ride! You cannot seriously expect California’s educational system to be respected anywhere in the world if you go ahead with your recent decision to delete all references to “India” in middle school history lessons and replace this word with the geo-politically motivated Cold War era relic of a phrase “South Asia." Would you presume to deny the reality of India’s existence and history, and its deep significance to Indian American students in California, simply because a few misinformed professors of “South Asia Studies” wrote you a letter recommending you re-educate California’s children in this bizarre manner?
We have examined the “South Asia studies” professors’ claim. They want the History-Social Science Frameworks that determine what children are taught in California for the next ten years to remove most references to “India” before 1947 because, they believe, India gained independence from Britain only in 1947, and there was no India before 1947! That, at least, is the conceit of their claim.
If this is indeed correct that “India” is not an accurate term for “India” before 1947, how is it possible that the word "India" has been in usage in some form or another from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans? Did Columbus go searching for “South Asia”? Are the islands of the Caribbean Sea called the “West South Asian-es” instead of the "West Indies"? Were the indigenous peoples of the continents that came to be called the Americas misnamed as “American South Asians”? Was it the British East “South Asia” Company that led colonial trade and exploitation? Was it the "South Asian Ocean" which constituted the center of the world's largest trade network before the rise of modern Europe? Do you write, perhaps, with “South Asian” ink? When you have to choose between Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Indian food do you tell your family and friends, let’s have “East Asian,” “East-East-Asian,” “Middle North American,” and ... “South Asian”?
We hope you recognize that the California Board of Education and the South Asia studies faculty who have misguided you into this bizarre direction are on the threshold of becoming an object of ridicule and pity! The rock solid truth is that has India existed, in some administrative and territorial form or the other, and as a civilizational presence noted by observers and travelers from all around the world, for well over two thousand years of recorded history. The Europeans who ruled over it for the past four hundred years called it, very clearly, “India,” and so did its people. Before they came, there were terms like “Hindustan” and “Bharat,” which hundreds of millions of ordinary people in India use widely to this day (as opposed to "South Asian" which is used by a tiny, elite cult-like complex of academics and activists). We must, therefore, ask: what gives a few professors unable to distinguish between high-theory speculations in the university classroom and the reality lived and fought for by over a billion people, nearly one-sixth of the human race, the right to try and decimate one’s right to one’s own name? Is it not intellectual arrogance?
What is even more absurd and self-contradictory in their recommendations is their suggestion (which is one of the changes you seem to have accepted) that “India” be removed in all references to the past, but then used again in phrases like “ancient Indian religion” – the new phrase being used to replace the term “Hinduism." Is this the kind of logic and rigor that students of California, the high-tech capital of the world, are going to be taught? Are teachers going to be expected to tell their students, "Ok, class, in ancient South Asia (not ancient India), the people practiced the religion of ancient India (not Hinduism)"?
How are the hundreds of Hindu American children who came to Sacramento these last few months to speak of the pain and hurt caused by decades of racism and ignorance in your schoolbooks going to feel now? Can members of your board, or these professors of South Asian studies, stand face to face with these bright young students and debate them? Can any of you explain why you think it is a good idea to erase a whole people’s sense of their own past?
It is time to end the discriminatory treatment that Indian origin and Hindu students have faced in American classrooms. If you accept the logic of the South Asia faculty who want all references to India before 1947 changed to the vague “South Asia” because it was technically “not India” till it declared independence, then you should be prepared to apply the same logic rigorously to all nations mentioned in California’s history textbooks. Do go right ahead and replace all lessons about all nations before they declared independence to some sterile geographical category. So all references to “America” before 1776 could be changed to “Northern Western Hemispherical Landmass” perhaps!
We hope you recognize the complete absurdity, irony and indeed cruelty of what you are about to do. Education and civil rights ought to march hand in hand. Please do not go down in history as the board that stole the right of a billion people to their own name, not in the 21st century, and not in California. We urge you to reject all the changes pushed by the South Asia faculty group that attempt to erase India and Hinduism from California’s schools. Let “India” remain “India” and “Hinduism” remain “Hinduism,” and respect reality at least that much.
Scholars for People
(Updated list April 4, 2016)
Dr. Sanjaya Baru
Director, Institute for Geo-economics and Strategy
Former Media Advisor & Speechwriter for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Vamsee Juluri (media contact)
Professor of Media Studies, University of San Francisco
Yvette Rosser, Ph. D. (media contact)
Independent Researcher & Expert on History Textbooks
Professor of Communication, Columbus State University
Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University
Center for Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi
Economist & Urban Theorist
Author, Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography
V. Anantha Nageswaran
Co-founder, Takshashila Institute & Columnist
American Institute of Vedic Studies
University of Delhi
Author of Rig Veda and the Avesta
Professor Balram Singh
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Professor Bibhu Mohanty
Associate Professor, University of Hawaii
Associate Professor, IIM Kozhikode
Professor of Politics
University of San Francisco
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