The Global Social Network
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.
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).
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.
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.