Navya Shastra Calls for Broader Representation of Hindus, Including Dalits, in California Textbooks

January 26, 2006

Source: Religions News Service

On January 26, 2006 a Religions News Service Press Release stated, "Navya Shastra, the international Hindu reform organization, has called for a broader representation of Hindu traditions and a fairer treatment of Dalits in California textbooks. The current version of the school textbooks equates Hinduism with a monolithic reading of the Vedic tradition, which has historically been interpreted in many ways. In addition, Hinduism is comprised of several strands that might appropriately be described as non-Vedic, such as Vira Shaivism, Tantra and tribal traditions. By equating Hinduism with the Vedic tradition, the California school board would be endorsing a narrow formulation of a multifaceted and inclusive faith tradition, the vast majority of whose adherents have never read or recited Vedic texts, though they might proclaim nominal allegiance to them. Navya Shastra recognizes that activists are currently limited to proposing edits to existing texts, but we feel that we must protest the constraint, because the Hinduism sections are extremely poor to begin with... Navya Shastra strongly suggests that future textbooks be written with the consultation of scholars who have also had an experiential understanding of the religion. Navya Shastra is also dismayed that the school board is considering redacting out any mention of Dalits... The term Dalit is increasingly considered an empowering symbol of unity among a section of the former untouchables, including those who still retain their Hindu affiliation, and eliding their identity must be viewed as an act of upper-caste hegemony."