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California State Board of Education approves controversial textbooks about Hinduism and Indian society

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Reportedly, the Indian American community had taken a divided stance on the issues related to Indian society, Hinduism, and casteism.

The California State Board of Education (SBE) has approved 10 textbooks and rejected two, after years-long deliberations and consultations about Indian society and Hinduism.

The board has approved several demands raised by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and rejected the claims made by Dalit community.

The Indian American community had taken a divided stance on the issues related to Indian society, religions, and casteism, reported The Hindu.

In its final public hearing, the Department’s State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to approve edits submitted by Hindu American community groups to improve the portrayal of Hinduism and India in 10 textbooks. The board also voted to reject two textbook programs from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Grades K-6 and Grades 6-8) for adversely reflecting on Hinduism and other diverse communities, said a statement issued by HAF.

The HAF had argued for the rejection of textbook drafts submitted by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for adversely reflecting upon Hinduism and failing to include adequate materials about the LGBT community.

The HAF was supported by a group of 38 academics led by Jeffrey D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

“This is truly historic. After many years of civic engagement, Hindu-Americans have started to make themselves heard,” said Shantharam Nekkar of Hindu Education Foundation USA. “We will continue to engage constructively and fight biases and prejudices against Hinduism and India.”

The SBE’s decision came after hearing testimonies and receiving letters from thousands of Hindu American parents, children, educators and community members from across California, including immigrant Hindus from Fiji, Caribbean and India, as well as letters from a broad coalition of more than 75 interfaith and community groups, 17 state and federal elected officials, and 38 leading academics.

The South Asian Histories for All Coalition (SAHFA) had argued that the textbooks had discriminatory content that rewrites South Asian history to be in line with Hindu nationalist fiction.

“The approved textbooks erase the inherent, institutional and ongoing caste oppression of Dalits and religious minorities like Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Sikhs. They also erase the historical and ongoing resistance to Brahmin Hindu violence by Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and others,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, co-founder of SAHFA was quoted as saying by The Hindu.