American Right-Wing Hindus Defeated in California Textbook Battle

Indian RSS-backed Hindutva outfits have suffered a major setback in a decade-long war to insert their version of South Asian history in California textbooks, according to media reports.

Whitewash Of Indian History: 

After recent successes in India,  the right-wing Hindu groups are now attempting to whitewash Indian history taught in the United States. They want to see California textbooks (1) deny India's history of caste-based oppression, (2) reject separate Sikh identity,  and (3) claim India's monopoly over the Indus Valley Civilization which now belongs to areas located in Pakistan.

Akhand Bharat Map in Indian Textbooks

The latest battle saw South Asian Faculty Group that includes scholars from Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University and UCLA, among others, arrayed against Hindutva advocates like  Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies and the Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF).

South Asia Faculty Group has called for "India" be replaced with "South Asia" in some places because the Indus Valley Civilization sites are now located in Pakistan, according to Los Angeles Times.

Opposition to the right-wing Hindu groups also came from  American Dalit-led Ambedkar Association of California,  Sikh Coalition,  Indian Muslim Council, Alliance for Justice and Accountability and the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action.  Shri Ravidassia gurdwaras (places of worship) from Rio Linda, Sacramento, Fremont and Yuba City, California, also opposed the changes.

Defending the Indian caste system, DCF leader, Shiva Bajpai, calls the caste system “beneficial.” “In every society some people are at the bottom of the economic scale,” he wrote in a paper submitted to the California textbook board. “Other societies solved this problem by enslaving people; [t]he caste system actually offered many advantages.”

Non-Hindu Groups' Opposition: 

"This is not just a California issue,” says Harjit Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s community development manager. “What happens in California will set a precedent for other states to follow. The accuracy of our history is at stake for the entire nation."

Thenmozhi Soundarajan, an organizer with the Ambedkar Association of California and Dalit History Month who opposes the changes said, "They (Hindutva groups) have already won in Virginia and Texas. A win in California would mean a change to all textbooks.”

Hindu Nationalists' Global Power: 

Right-wing Hindu groups are now increasingly flexing their muscles around the world, including the United States.

India's top Hindu Nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has gone global with shakhas (branches) in 39 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and several Islamic middle eastern nations, according to Indian media reports.

In the United States alone, the RSS has 146 active chapters spread over all 50 states, according to Satish Modh who has been associated with RSS work abroad for over 25 years.

While shakhas in India take place in open public spaces, most shakhas meet on university campuses on hired parking lots in the US, says Modh.  Most overseas shakhas are held once a week. In London, they are held twice a week. The UK has 84 shakhas.

RSS in US:

A US report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Gro... disclosed the following findings regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

 a. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

b. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

c. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.

Summary: 

While the right-wing Hindu groups have lost this battle to alter textbooks in the United States, it is unlikely that the RSS-affiliated groups will give up this fight for long. But, for now, California’s State Board of Education is scheduled to meet on May 29, 2016 when it is expected to ratify the South Asian Faculty Group's changes opposed by Hindutva outfits.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Dalit Victims of Indian Apartheid

Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Global Power of Hindutva

Indus Valley Civilization

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Comment by Riaz Haq on April 20, 2016 at 8:36am
#India-born #British politician Lord Meghnad Desai says Koh-e-noor belongs to #Pakistan. http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/?p=512993 via @ePakistanToday
 
The Koh-e-Noor saga taken another interesting turn on Monday as Indian-born British politician said the coveted diamond actually belonged to Pakistan.
 
“If Koh-e-noor belongs to anybody, it belongs to Pakistan,” Lord Meghnad Desai said while speaking to India Today.
 
Referring to the 19th-century Sikh king Ranjit Singh, who had given the stone to the British, Lord Desai reasoned that since Singh’s seat was in Lahore, the diamond should go to Pakistan.
 
“Because his territory was mainly in, what is now Pakistan – in Lahore there is a Ranjit Singh museum – it will go back to wherever the Punjab kingdom had its seat and his seat was in Lahore. So I think if it belongs to anybody, it belongs to Pakistan,” he said.
 
Indian government said Tuesday that it will make all possible efforts to get back the Koh-e-Noor Diamond from Britain despite comments by New Delhi’s solicitor general that the priceless jewel should stay with the former colonial ruler.
 
India has repeatedly demanded that Britain return the 105-carat diamond, which was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 and today sits on display as part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
 
Read more: India backtracks, says will now try to reclaim Koh-i-Noor from UK
 
India’s solicitor general surprised many on Monday when he told the Supreme Court that his country should forgo its claims to the jewel because it was given to Britain as a gift by an Indian king in 1851, rather than stolen as many Indians today believe.
 
The ministry said the stone was a “valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was determined to get it back.
 
A lawyer in Pakistan last year filed a court petition calling for the stone’s return.
 
The Koh-e-Noor is set in the crown worn by Queen Elizabeth, the mother of the reigning monarch, at the coronation of her husband George VI in 1937, and was placed on her coffin at her funeral in 2002.
 
The Duchess of Cambridge, who last week visited India with her husband, Prince William, will wear the crown on official occasions when she becomes queen consort. William is second in line to the British throne.
Comment by Riaz Haq on April 29, 2016 at 5:00pm

Only 27% of Pakistanis identify themselves as Pakistanis first while 51% of Indians see themselves as Indians first. On the other hand, 43% of Pakistanis (vs 17% of Indians) say their religious identity comes first.

Three countries stand out in the way their populations think about self-identity. Spaniards are by far the most likely to identify with world citizenship (54%). For 56 per cent of Indonesians, belonging to their local community is the strongest defining identity. And for Pakistanis, a strong plurality (43%) identify first as a member of their religion.

The poll, conducted by GlobeScan among more than 20,000 people worldwide between December 2015 and April 2016, is being released as part of the BBC World Service Identity Season—a Spring season of broadcasts on the World Service’s 27 language services exploring stories about how people identify themselves around the world.

Among all 18 countries where this question was asked in 2016, the poll suggests more than half (51%) see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country, against 43 per cent who identify nationally. This is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that there is a global majority who leans this way, and the results in 2016 are driven by strong increases since 2015 in non-OECD countries including Nigeria (73%, up 13 points), China (71%, up 14 points), Peru (70%, up 27 points), and India (67%, up 13 points).


http://www.globescan.com/news-and-analysis/press-releases/press-rel...

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 24, 2016 at 6:58pm

The hysteria over Bollywood’s baby Taimur shows that critics just don’t understand India’s medieval history by Shoaib Daniyal

http://qz.com/870136/the-hysteria-over-bollywoods-baby-taimur-shows...

Historical narratives are tricky things to construct, especially when people want to superimpose moral lessons on them. Who is a hero and who isn’t is extremely subjective and even more so when one goes as far back in time as the 14th century. The past truly is a different country and to make it fit modern standards of morality a fair bit of invention needs to be indulged in.

Let’s take a force that is near-universally seen as the good guys in popular Indian history: the Marathas. The Marathas were successful towards the end of the Mughal period, building up a confederation over large parts of the subcontinent. Of course, this was done through war and conquest, and in the chaos of the Mughal twilight, contemporary accounts of the Marathas are often rather negative, cutting across what we would today see as “Hindu” and “Muslim” sources.
In the 18th century, the Marathas invaded Bengal, killing, by one account, four lakh Bengalis. Repeated raids and conquests of Gujarat were also, as almost everything in medieval India, a rather violent affair. In another case, Maratha armies raided a thousand-year old Hindu temple to teach Mysore sultan Tipu Sultan–who was its patron–a lesson. The Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha state enforced untouchability so brutally that BR Ambedkar actually saw their defeat at the hands of the British to be a blessing.
Contemporary accounts of the Marathas in Bengal are obviously far from flattering. Similarly, as late as 1895, there were strong objections in Gujarat to the plans of Bal Gangadhar Tilak to institute a Shivaji festival across India, with the Deshi Mitra newspaper of Surat disparaging it as a “flare up of local [Marathi] patriotism”.
India’s medieval period did not have the sort of nationalisms and community mobilisation that modern India would see under the Raj. As newspapers and technology knit the people of India together, a Hindu consciousness would revise the image of the Marathas as “Hindu.” Calcutta city’s intelligentsia at the time, in fact, celebrated a Shivaji festival and the city still has statues of Shivaji. Gujarat, where Hindutva has been a powerful political force for decades now, has adopted Shivaji with even more gusto, building statues in cities like Surat, which, ironically, were sacked by the Maratha chief early on in his career. This confusion is nothing new. Today, Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan see themselves as inheritors of the Mughals but in 1857 signed up enthusiastically for the East India Company’s armies to defeat the Mughal-led revolt against the Raj.
That which we call a rose

Naturally, then, the name Shivaji or Bhaskar–a Bhaskar Pandit led the Maratha raids on Bengal–are hardly taboo in modern India, given this modern narrative of the Marathas.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 24, 2016 at 7:02pm

Khilnani Book: #India was "fragmented into kingdoms, savaged by #caste divisions, mired in poverty" http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/india-in-pieces … via @newyorker

Last year, a professor at the Indian Science Congress, in Mumbai, claimed that India possessed airplanes seven thousand years ago. He isn’t alone in such beliefs. When a certain swathe of India’s population considers the country’s ancient past, it doesn’t see a country fragmented into kingdoms, savaged by caste divisions, and mired in poverty; rather, what’s envisioned is a vast, unified Hindu empire stretching from Kashmir to the Indian tip at Kanyakumari. This imagined entity brims with characters from Indian epics and spits out grand inventions that would put scientists in the twenty-first century to shame—not only airplanes but cars, plastic surgery, and stem-cell research. What these Indians see, in other words, is an India that was once greater than any other nation on earth, and which has since fallen into a cruddy, postcolonial despair. Muslim and British invaders, they insist, have sapped the subcontinent’s energies over the past millennium.

This is a major strand of the nativist philosophy espoused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the flotilla of parties and social organizations that escorted him to power, in 2014. It is, in the rippling and echoing way of world events, in step with archaic right-wing movements everywhere—Make India Great Again would be a suitable slogan—and it is untroubled by facts. In the past year, right-wing mobs have lynched and beaten Muslims and Dalits (the former untouchables, who have often refused to be co-opted by upper-class-dominated Hindu nationalism) in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand for allegedly eating beef, a crime that these nationalists cannot condone after a millennium of their religion’s supposed persecution. (Hinduism has always been the majority religion on the subcontinent.) Dormant laws in Indian states banning cow-slaughter and beef consumption are now being enforced. In January, a Dalit Ph.D. student at Hyderabad University hanged himself from the ceiling fan in his room after right-wing groups bore down on him for his activism. Elsewhere, emboldened nationalist groups have intimidated fiction writers, scholars, and publishers into silence for wounding religious sentiments. Student protests are branded “anti-national” and slapped with sedition charges.

In India, right now, the past is violently alive, and it is being bandied about like a blunt instrument, striking down those who try to speak sense to the present or who try to point out that this past is itself a fiction.

One of the intellectuals involved in calling the right’s bluff is the Indian scholar Sunil Khilnani, who has just published an incisive work of popular history, “Incarnations: India in Fifty Lives.” Where the opposition is clamorous, the book is calm; where the opposition flexes its Vedic muscles, the book is undercutting, irreverent, and impish. It attempts to show, through prodigious but lightly worn scholarship, how complex and heterodox the Indian past was, and how it has been, and continues to be, constructed.

Khilnani begins with the Buddha, who lived around 500 B.C.E., and is thus, Khilnani writes, the “first individual personality we can recognize in the subcontinent’s history,” as well as an apostle of neutrality and nonviolence. The Buddha’s religion has receded in India, except as a balm to the Dalits, who escaped into it, and as a self-help tool for a sliver of the upper classes, who have embraced it the way that some people in the West do. Buddha prefigures many of the themes in the book. A sheltered man, he is moved by his first encounter with suffering, and leaves behind his wealthy family to wander India in the thrall of slowly budding new ideas. He is serene and centered amid violence. He is open-minded and against sects in a Brahmin-dominated society. He calls for a total reinvention of Hinduism—one that becomes its own religion..... 

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 24, 2016 at 7:20pm

Stanford scholar Audrey Truschke on #Muslim rule in #India: #Mughal rulers were not hostile to #Hindus https://shar.es/1YGNDz via @Stanford

Truschke, one of the few living scholars with competence in both Sanskrit and Persian, is the first scholar to study texts from both languages in exploring the courtly life of the Mughals. The Mughals ruled a great swath of the Indian subcontinent from the early 16th to the mid-18th centuries, building great monuments like the Taj Mahal.

Over several months in Pakistan and 10 months in India, Truschke traveled to more than two dozen archives in search of manuscripts. She was able to analyze the Mughal elite's diverse interactions with Sanskrit intellectuals in a way not previously done.

She has accessed, for example, six histories that follow Jain monks at the Mughal court as they accompanied Mughal kings on expeditions, engaged in philosophical and religious debates, and lived under the empire's rule. These works collectively run to several thousand pages, and none have been translated into English.

Truschke found that high-level contact between learned Muslims and Hindus was marked by collaborative encounters across linguistic and religious lines.

She said her research overturns the assumption that the Mughals were hostile to traditional Indian literature or knowledge systems. In fact, her findings reveal how Mughals supported and engaged with Indian thinkers and ideas.

Early modern-era Muslims were in fact "deeply interested in traditional Indian learning, which is largely housed in Sanskrit," says Truschke, who is teaching religion courses at Stanford through 2016 in association with her fellowship.

Hybrid political identity
Truschke's book focuses on histories and poetry detailing interactions among Mughal elites and intellectuals of the Brahmin (Hindu) and Jain religious groups, particularly during the height of Mughal power from 1560 through 1650.

As Truschke discovered, the Mughal courts in fact sought to engage with Indian culture. They created Persian translations of Sanskrit works, especially those they perceived as histories, such as the two great Sanskrit epics.

For their part, upper-caste Hindus known as Brahmins and members of the Jain tradition – one of India's most ancient religions – became influential members of the Mughal court, composed Sanskrit works for Mughal readers and wrote about their imperial experiences.

"The Mughals held onto power in part through force, just like any other empire," Truschke acknowledges, "but you have to be careful about attributing that aggression to religious motivations." The empire her research uncovers was not intent on turning India into an Islamic state.

"The Mughal elite poured immense energy into drawing Sanskrit thinkers to their courts, adopting and adapting Sanskrit-based practices, translating dozens of Sanskrit texts into Persian and composing Persian accounts of Indian philosophy."

Such study of Hindu histories, philosophies and religious stories helped the Persian-speaking imperialists forge a new hybrid political identity, she asserts.

Truschke is working on her next book, a study of Sanskrit histories of Islamic dynasties in India more broadly.

Indian history, especially during Islamic rule, she says, is very much alive and debated today. Moreover, a deliberate misreading of this past "undergirds the actions of the modern Indian nation-state," she asserts.

And at a time of conflict between the Indian state and its Muslim population, Truschke says, "It's invaluable to have a more informed understanding of that history and the deep mutual interest of early modern Hindus and Muslims in one another's traditions."

- See more at: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/september/sanskrit-mughal-empire-090915.html#sthash.... 

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 14, 2017 at 7:36am

BBC News - #India investigates 'sexist' #textbook describing female body: 36"-24"-36" best shape. #education

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39598679#

The Indian minister in charge of education has ordered an investigation into a textbook that described the "best" female figure as 36"-24"-36".
Prakash Javadekar told reporters he strongly condemned the "sexist" book and had asked for "appropriate action".
Snapshots of the offending text were widely circulated on social media.
The book, printed by a private publisher, was taught in some schools which follow India's Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus.
In addition to listing the ideal body proportions of a woman, the book went on to say that "the bones of hips of females are wider and their knees are slightly apart. Due to this shape, females are not able to run properly".
CBSE officials say they are unable to monitor privately published textbooks.
The board recommends only textbooks published by India's National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and said it was up to schools to exercise caution when choosing privately published textbooks to teach.
Textbook says 'ugliness' causes dowry
Five bizarre 'lessons' in Indian textbooks
Mr Javadekar said that schools had been asked to stop teaching the book with immediate effect. The Delhi-based publisher also said in a statement that it had "stopped the printing, selling and distribution of the revised book with immediate effect".
Controversies over Indian textbooks are not uncommon.
In February an animal rights row had erupted over a textbook which told children how to suffocate kittens.
A book in the western state of Gujarat made headlines in 2014 for claiming that Japan had dropped nuclear bombs on the US during the Second World War.
A row erupted in Maharashtra state over a textbook that said "ugly" and "handicapped" brides had led to a rise in dowries being claimed by groom's family.
Carnivores have also been a target for bile.
In 2012, a national text for 11-year-old students was discovered that said people who ate meat, "easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes".

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 3, 2017 at 10:30am

#Muslim #Mosque Shown As Noise Pollutant In #India's Class 6 Textbook. Class 9 Textbook Refers to Jesus as "Demon".

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/mosque-in-class-6-textbook-shown-as-...

A science textbook prescribed for Class 6 in certain schools under ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) board has identified a "mosque" as a source of noise pollution, sparking a row.

An illustration on the chapter on pollution shows a train, car, plane and a mosque with symbols depicting loud sound. A man in the foreground is seen grimacing and covering his ears.

The ICSE says the board did not publish or prescribe these textbooks, and it is up to the schools to deal with the issue. "If any book with objectionable content is being taught at certain schools, it is for schools and publisher to ensure such a thing does not happen," news agency Press Trust of India quoted Gerry Arathoon, chief executive and secretary of the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, as saying.

After social media users launched an online petition, demanding the book be withdrawn, the publisher acknowledged the mistake and apologised. He has also assured that the illustration will be removed in subsequent editions.


Over the last few months, content considered objectionable made its way to several textbooks, raising concerns about what students are being exposed to. Last month, controversy started after a Class 9 Hindi textbook was found to refer to Jesus Christ as a demon.

In April, a Class 12 textbook on physical education suggested feminine proportions of 36-24-36 as being ideal. A Class 4 Environmental Studies textbook, while educating students on the importance of breathing, gave a practical example that shows how children can suffocate a cat to death. Another book said meat-eaters cheat, lie and commit sex crimes.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2017 at 9:37am

In the version of history found in #India's new textbooks, #China lost 1962 and #Gandhi wasn't murdered. #BJP Quartz

https://qz.com/1054692/in-the-version-of-history-found-in-indias-ne...

Long before the terms post-truth and alt-facts gained currency in the west, Indians were getting mass mails and text messages that often mixed myth with half-truths to glorify their past. It could be something as simple and patently false as the United Nations declaring India’s national anthem as the world’s best. Or bizarre achievements of ancient Indians.
Over the past few years, such trickery gained political legitimacy as senior leaders indulged in it using photoshopped images and administrative claims.
Now, with the full blessings of the powers that be, the phenomenon is seeping into Indian school textbooks, especially those used to teach history. For long a hotly-contested field among ideological rivals of the left, right, and centre of Indian politics, these textbooks have begun to peddle outright lies.
It may be still a trickle, but here is a glimpse of the false history that millions of Indian school students will be learning now on.
The 1962 war

In the second half of 1962, a brief war with China along the Himalayas left India with a bloody nose. Despite individual acts of valour, India lost 4,000 soldiers. Though the country amply regained its military standing in subsequent standoffs with China, 1962 left a deep scar on the national psyche—a scar it has tried to efface ever since.
A section of Indians may have finally found a solution: Just lie.
A Sanskrit-language textbook meant for Class 8 students in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) now says India won the war. “What famously came to be known as Sino-India war of 1962 was won by India against China,” The Times of India newspaper quoted the book, Sukritika, volume-3, on Aug. 10.
Published by the Lucknow-based Kriti Prakashan, the textbook is being used in several MP schools affiliated to the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) of the government of India. The state itself is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which Indian prime minister Narendra Modi belongs.
Defeating the great Mughals

The Mughals have always been a thorn in the side of India’s Hindu extremists. The dynasty, which ruled a major part of India between 1526 and 1857, is viewed as the symbol of “Hindu slavery” and Islamic overlordship. This despite the fact that most of these monarchs were motivated by temporal interests rather than religious ones.
So anything or anyone that stands up to Mughal power naturally becomes a figurehead for Hindutva, or Hindu nationalists. This includes Maratha king Shivaji Bhonsle, better known as Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Lachit Borphukan, a commander of the Assam kings of India’s northeast. The multi-religious nature of their warring armies is but a footnote almost always.
One of the most famous symbols of such resistance was Pratap Singh, a Rajput chieftain from the desert region of India’s west. Popularly referred to as Maharana Pratap, this king was a contemporary of the greatest of Mughal emperors, Akbar. The two were at loggerheads as the Pratap refused to become Akbar’s vassal even as other Rajput princes did.
Following eight failed diplomatic missions, their two forces met in 1576 at the battle of Haldighati in present day Rajasthan. The superior Mughal military roundly defeated the Rajput forces but the legends of Maharana Pratap and the Haldighati battle lived on.
Now for the twist: The Rajasthan government wants us to believe it was Maharana Pratap who won that battle.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 22, 2018 at 7:40pm

#India’s #education minister assails #Darwin's theory of #evolution, calls for #curricula overhaul to change #science #textbooks

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/india-s-education-minister-a...


A new front has opened in the war on science in India. On Friday, India’s minister for higher education, Satyapal Singh, took aim at the theory of evolution. Calling himself “a responsible man of science,” Singh, a chemist, suggested that Darwin’s theory is “scientifically wrong” and “needs to change” in school and university curricula. In remarks on the sidelines of a conference in Aurangabad, in central India, Singh further noted that “nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, have said they saw an ape turning into a man.”

Top scientists have condemned Singh’s remarks. They “seem to be aimed at politically polarizing science and scientists, and that is the real danger we must guard against,” says Raghavendra Gadagkar, immediate past president of the Indian National Science Academy and an ecologist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Yesterday, India’s three science academies released a statement endorsed by more than 2000 scientists, declaring that “it would be a retrograde step to remove the teaching of the theory of evolution from school and college curricula or to dilute this by offering nonscientific explanations or myths.”

Singh is not the only voice in India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) espousing antiscience views. The government took heat last year over an effort to validate panchagavya, a folk remedy based on cow dung, as a cure-all, and in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the world’s first plastic surgery was performed in India when the Hindu deity Ganesh was created with a human body and an elephant head. “The BJP is the fountainhead of scientific nonsense,” says opposition politician Jairam Ramesh, a mechanical engineer by training.

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