February 21, 2006
Ms. Glee Johnson, President
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, California 95814
Ms. Ruth Green, Mr. Jonathan Williams, Mr. Joe Nunez, and Mr. Ken Noonan, Members, History-Social Science Committee Mr. Roger Magyar, Executive Director, and Mr. Tom Adams, Director, Curriculum Framework and Instructional Resources Division
Subject: History-Social Science Committee Meeting on February 27, 2006 to Finalize Edits to Ancient Indian History and Hinduism in Proposed New Grade 6 Text Books
Dear Ms. Johnson and Members of the History-Social Science Committee,
We at the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) are writing to urge the California Stat Board of Education to take a principled position against the changes sought by sectarian organizations like the Vedic Foundation (VF), Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) to middle-school textbooks in California. While we recognize the immediate issue is with the changes sought by the VF and the HEF, we also wish to put on record our acknowledgment that all aspects of these textbooks that reflect bigoted and supremacist ideologies must be addressed and corrected with the guidance of experts in the relevant fields of historical research. We stand in full solidarity with Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and urge that all secular and anti-supremacist citizens of California come together to support their efforts.
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.1
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 the form of a report titled Foreign Exchange of Hate - IDRF and the American funding of Hindutva
, and resulted in several major corporations, including Cisco Systems, revamping their charitable giving policies.
We will be glad to provide a detailed breakdown of the different ways in which the connections between HEF/VF and the Sangh Parivar can be demonstrated. 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. 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.
A strategy of deception is being deployed by the HAF and HEF in that they are exploiting the multicultural context of U.S. education to turn a handful of factual inaccuracies in California middle-school textbooks into a push for Hindutva-inspired edits. As much as these organizations have tried to mask their supremacist affiliations, it is very easy to see through their charade. The Sangh's interventions in California are part of its diversification strategy. While fronts of the Sangh have established a foothold in the Indo-American community by masquerading as religious/cultural/service organizations, the academic community has by-and-large treated the Sangh with the contempt it deserves. Over the last three years, the Sangh has made concerted efforts to gain respectability in academia, funding conferences, organizing lectures, etc., including a speaking tour by the RSS spokesperson from India, Ram Madhav, in the Fall of 2004. In response to the firestorm of protest that erupted at universities playing host to such peddlers of hate, Sangh organizations in the U.S. invoked arguments of 'academic freedom' and 'free speech!' When the State Department revoked the visa of Narendra Modi, the man known as the 'butcher of Gujarat,' on the grounds that his administration had persecuted religious minorities and was likely behind the mass murders of Muslims in Gujarat, the HAF was the first organization to jump up to 'defend' Mr. Modi's right to travel freely! It is interesting to note that the Sangh outfits in the U.S. dubbed everybody protesting the visits of Ram Madhav and Narendra Modi as 'anti-Hindu' and 'anti-Indian' - the HAF went so far as to condemn the Congressional resolution against Mr. Modi's visit as "Hinduphobic." Similarly in the case of the California textbook controversy, Sangh activists in the U.S. have once again sought to conflate Hinduism with Hindutva and launched vicious ad hominem attacks to muzzle opposition.
As numerous academics and community groups have observed, the Sangh's interventions in the textbook controversy reflect familiar conceits - most notably, they are attempts to erase the distinct history of the Indus Valley Civilization by asserting the relative antiquity of the Vedas and claiming that Indo-Aryans are indigenous to India (a position that flies in the face of a rich body of evidence to the contrary), erase Dalits from the ancient past while removing negative references to the caste system, and whitewash the unequal rights of women by calling these "different duties." The Sangh's claim that its suggested edits are meant to enhance the self-esteem of young children is irresponsible, for how can children learn to recognize and act upon oppressive anddiscriminatory practices in the present if the past histories of these practices are erased and whitewashed? Clearly the Sangh effort is an opportunistic one to push for curricular changes using the relatively few and minor problems in content as a Trojan horse. It is significant that their current efforts come at a time when the RSS's efforts to rewrite India's school textbooks have all but crumbled. Failure in India has led them to intensify efforts in the U.S. with the goal being to use any successes in the U.S. as a battering ram to open up the issue again in India. We strongly urge the California Department of Education to see through this faÃ§ade and resist any attempts to mythologize history, especially when the proponents happen to be demonstrably tied to virulently supremacist anti-minority agendas.
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
Hindutva is a political ideology that advocates use of violence, confuses nationality with culture and religion, is supremacist and exclusionary.