The California School Text Book Review and Image of India Abroad

(Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 1:35 AM)

It’s the holiday season…and as a single student living alone… with nothing better to do…I return again to my blog..

This morning I was browsing through the news..and something far removed from India but maybe affecting the Majority population caught my eye. It was an interview with Ms.Suhag A Shukla, legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation, in rediff.com which led me to search for more about the issue.

The California School Text Book Review and Image of India abroad.

The Indian Diaspora living in U.S should be aware what this topic is going to be about. For the others..a brief introduction…

(I do not live in the U.S of A…so what info. I have is from the WWW)

The California School system teaches religion to its pupils…with Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism in sixth grade and Islam in seventh. There is a revision of the text books every six years. During all the previous process’, religious groups and people belonging to the respective community, with the exception of Hinduism, have been allowed to monitor and propose changes. This year after wide-spread complaints from the Hindu community especially the parents of Hindu children, the Vedic Foundation and Hindu American Foundation were involved in the process. Around 170 corrections were suggested. However, it was not a smooth sailing to make these changes being incorporated in the text books. Dr. Michael Witzel, Professor at the Harvard University, a known critic of Hindu culture and generally well-known for his Anti-India stance, took it upon himself to oppose the recommended changes. He dashed off a letter, with the support of few of his cronies, to the commission to reconsider the changes. However, after a short delay involving the setting up of review committee, due to the hard and diligent work of the Vedic and Hindu American foundations, all the changes were accepted with only minor revisions. A small victory for the Hindu community of the U.S. A feat that has to be applauded because of the fact that majority of the spade work was being done by the second generation Hindus in the U.S.

Many might feel that this is too trivial an issue to be blown to such an extent. I do agree that Indians in general like to blow up issues and try to make issues out of non-issues. However in this case, I beg to differ. Because what we are dealing with here is the kind of education being imparted to the children of the most developed economy. We have already seen the influence of teaching on the mind of young people with respect to the education being imparted by a handful of rogue Madrassas. The July 7 London bombings in London were the direct result of this. Showing one religion in good light by casting a dark shadow on another will lead to deep imbibed prejudices. And not to forget that outside of India, Hindus are a minority community.

One thing which struck me as a person living abroad (in Europe) is the lack of knowledge people have about India and Hinduism in particular. The common questions which pops up at me during any conversation with my colleagues about India is the caste system, the high number of Gods we worship and (thank God) the software industry.

So now lets consider some of the things which were being taught to the children of California…

A depiction of India being a caste ridden society with women having second class citizenship.

A chapter named “Where is the beef?”.

The scriptures of Bible and Koran were being quoted as facts..while those of Jews and Hindus as myths.

All the deities being described as statues. Referring to Hindu Gods with ‘g’ contrary to other Gods being referred with ‘G’.

Also..”Hindi is written with the Arabic alphabet, which uses 18 letters that stand for sounds” (for God’s sake…atleast get your facts right)

The highly sarcastic ‘The monkey king Hanuman loved Rama so much that it is said that he is present every time the Ramayana is told. So look around, see any monkeys?’ ………………..among others

So..one does not have to look far to find out the reason for the kind of image India and Hindus forms. Indiana Jones… his form of Kali and Monkey Eating Indians (people have sick imagination) …has made things worse.

India is the home to all major religions of the world. In fact the oldest Jewish community outside of Israel exists in India (more than 2000 years old) and have not experienced any form of anti-Semitism till date. Christianity came in 52 AD.The Zoroastrians arrived in 7th century AD to India fleeing religious persecution by Arabs and found safe haven. Islam came in 12th – 13th century AD. The recent arrivals have been the Bahai community fleeing Iran. Even religions which challenged the social norms of Hinduism like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were all allowed to be developed and practiced freely. All these communities have lived and prospered in India. As one historian had pointed out “it was because of the fact that Hinduism was the major religion in India were other religions allowed to prosper”. Indians and particularly Hindus would be the first to acknowledge about the social evils that have and, to some extent, are still plaguing the country. But to ignore the greatness to highlight the evil is something no self righteous Hindu would accept. It would be like teaching Christianity and Islam during their most violent and brutal periods.The fact is that this is not about the way the Hindu religion was being projected..it was the manner in which a country and its majority people were being projected. This plain fact should make all Indians, irrespective of their religion, to stand up and take notice.This action taken by the Hindu community of California is indeed a small but significant step. But more things need to be done to bring into place a system where India and Hinduism is fairly represented in schools abroad.

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Moral Policing in India

(Posted on Wednesday, December 28, 2005 8:10 PM)

This is my first blog entry here…so..here begins..

Well…firstly..I would like to welcome all of those..who by some quirk stroke of fate or ill-fate (depending on ones views) landed up to read my blog….

In my first blog..I would like to reflect on few of the news items I read recently from India…and it involves a taliban like “moral policing”.

Meerut…”operation romeo(majnu)”..A few innocent couples are picked up by the police for sitting togeather in a park..and beaten repeatedly in front of camera.

Luckily.. right actions were taken..protests held….issue raised in parliament..the police suspended.

So it seems everything was sorted out as it should be in a democratic country .

Or was it? or does the problem run deeper?

Lets take a trip down memory lane..but in the recent past.

1. A minor is raped by a policeman in the metropolitan city of  Mumbai. The policeman is apprehended (and somehow..it seems..is out on bail now). But…there is a political organisation (I think many would know which one)…which comes out speaking jargon about the kind of dresses females should wear. And by some unknown string of logic…connecting the dresses worn to the criminal mentality.

2. Anna University in Madras..recently banned the wearing of t-shirts and jeans by girls saying that it distracts studies. hmm..only of the queer mind..I think. (The VC should really get himself examined)

3. Khushboo and Sania Mirza are attacked by political organisations across the spectrum for speaking about safe sex publicly. Amazing…considering we have the second largest Aids population.

4. A hotel is raided in Chennai because of couples dancing togeather. hmm..Marriages may be next..beware (will they arrest the bride and groom for holding hands).

5. Bar Dancers are banned in Mumbai.

All the above may seem unconnected to each other but if we examine it close..we see the underlying “Moral Policing” involved. There are many such incidents in the recent past involving many states.

So..why is it that in recent times this “Moral Policing” is on the rise?

Why is it that in this age..where the late Kalpana Chawla could co-inhibit a space shuttle with male collegues..is the wearing of T-shirts and Jeans offensive?  When was the law changed to include dancing as an offense? How come we can accept a female as defacto prime minister..but turn against them when they talk about reducing Aids by adopting safer sex in this country?

But..the most important fact remains..why are all these charges and tirades being directed against women? And why are the women organisations keeping mum on this issue and not going to court or staging massive protests?

The answer according to me is simple…

India is changing fast. And it is changing at a faster rate socially. However the change is not even along the spectra of society. The younger lot, who give a damn about politics, have discovered new independence in terms of wealth and opportunity. And the older lot and the ones left behind, who are active politically, have not been able to digest the rapid changes.

The female, who till now had the role of housemaker, has discovered new found financial independence and many young girls have started to believe and realise that they can be as independent as a man. Thus the young girl of today instead of helping out in kitchen prefers to go for a  “cool evening” out with friends without time restrictions, a domain held previously only by the boys of the home. With the advent of internet and TV, she has discovered doors which probably she never knew existed.

The male of the society, previously the keeper of social and economic duties, is being ruffeled. He, who for such a long time, could script the story and direct the proceedings is suddenly finding himself alone. He is keen to hold onto this bastion. The other females of the society who feel deprived of this change are not willing to let others enjoy this new found independence and are desperate to bring them into the structure in which they had for long suffered.

However, the thorn which probably pricks the most is the new found sexual independence enjoyed by the young breed of girls . The fact that they can choose and have the ability, knowledge and resources to charter their way of life is a bitter pill for the old zealots to follow. The sexual independence and dominance, once the sole purview of the male (and primarily responsible for India heading towards being the “AIDS” capital of the world), is being challenged. That this is affront to his malehood is being projected by him as an affront to social customs (w.r.t. the Tamil culture issue raised during Khushboo debate.Note:Tamil Nadu has the second highest incidence of Aids in India). And the womenhood, eager to deprive the young, are following him blindly. Thus leading to the “Moral Policing” of the youth.

Its a sad fact that the people who are politically active belong to the category who have refused to accept these changes and want things to remain as they are either because of fear of losing the dominance (males) or because of jealous intentions (females). The younger lot who are living these changes and are probably the most productive of Indians, contributing to its economic upheaval, are disgusted with politics and want to have no part of it. The fact that exciting opportunities exist beyond the borders of India also makes them lax in regard to taking action against the “lack of freedom” in the so-called “democratic” India.

And all this contributes to the victories of the old gaurd hellbent on resisting changes and imposing so-called “Moral Policing”.

But that does not mean that the old gaurd would be winning forever. As seen in the Meerut incident the young people were out on the streets which forced the authorities to take action. Its only a matter of time before a change of guard happens. The wait is on for the straw which would break the camels back. I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

 

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