Indian History Takes Center Stage in US Textbook Controversy

January 24, 2006

Source: CBS News/The Christian Science Monitor


On January 24, 2006 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "In the halls of Sacramento, a special commission is rewriting Indian history: debating whether Aryan invaders conquered the subcontinent, whether Brahman priests had more rights than untouchables, and even whether ancient Indians ate beef. That this seemingly arcane Indian debate has spilled over into California's board of education is a sign of the growing political muscle of Indian immigrants and the rising American interest in Asia. The foes — who include established historians and Hindu nationalist revisionists — are familiar to each other in India. But America may increasingly become their new battlefield as other U.S. states follow California in rewriting their own textbooks to bone up on Asian history. At stake, say scholars who include some of the most elite historians on India, may be a truthful picture of one of the world's emerging powers — one arrived at by academic standards of proof rather than assertions of national or religious pride... Instigating the California debate were two U.S.-based Hindu groups with long ties to Hindu nationalist parties in India. One, the Vedic Foundation... The other, the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), was founded in 2004 by a branch of the right-wing Indian group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This year, as California's board of education commissioned and put up for review textbooks to be used in its 6th-grade classrooms, these two groups came forward with demands for substantial changes."