Can you imagine the audacity of some California academicians connected to South Asia Studies asking the California Board of Education to rename India as South Asia for the benefit of school students in California? This group of professors, including Sheldon Pollock, Robert Goldman, Lawrence Cohen and Kamala Visweswaran, under the name of South Asia Faculty Group, had written to the Department of Education, California, suggesting that most references to India before 1947 be replaced with “South Asia.” Why? They believe India as a country was born only after it gained independence from Britain. There was no India before that?
According to Rediff.Com, Ms. Visweswaran is the queen of petitions, a petitionista par excellence. In February 2016, she petitioned for the erasure of references to India in California textbooks, to be replaced by ‘South Asia.’
These experts didn’t know that as a country India had existed for entries before 1947. It was known as Bharat in ancient texts. For example, the Ramayana lists the names of states (of Bharat) represented by suitors who came to Seeta swayamwar. The Mahabharata also lists names of states that sent suitors for Damayanti swayamwar. Are we changing the names of the ancient states in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and elsewhere because today’s students cannot match them with their modern names like Bihar, Odisha, Assam or Bengal?
The group’s recommendations calling for change of names triggered a countrywide agitation by Hindu students. The unrest, says The Times of India in an editorial, is a reflection of the transformation in California’s population, where Asians, including South Asians, are the fastest growing demographic. It is an attempt to erase a billion people’s sense of their past. Once accepted, these changes in middle school history lessons will remain in force for ten years.
Earlier this week a petition by a group named Scholars for People and signed by over 18,000 people had asked the commission “Would you presume to deny the reality of India’s existence and history, and its deep significance to Indian American students in California, simply because a few misinformed professors of ‘South Asia Studies’ wrote you a letter recommending that you re-educate California’s children in this bizarre manner?”
A large number of students and parents testified at the public hearing of the commission held at Sacramento on March 24th seeking the rejection of these changes. “India is not just a landmass but a living civilization. By removing the mention of India as a civilization, my identity as an Indian-American is sought to be erased,” Vidhia Shetty, a student studying in 9th grade in San Ramon, said during her testimony at the Department of Education.
In response to student discontent, the California Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission called off the plan. No. There is a rider. According to Bill Honig, chairman of the subjects matter committee of the commission, the board has rejected the suggestion to rename India but agreed that the term India to be followed by the words ‘South Asia’ in parenthesis.
The students also declared that the suggestions that Vedas belong to “ancient Indian religions” and not to Hinduism amounted to stripping them of their Hindu identity. “If Vedas do not belong to the Hindus, who do they belong to?” a 10th grader from Fremont sought to know.
This itch of the California clique to interfere in the affairs of other countries and cultures arises from a conviction that the white man should lead the world. In the seventies the US media were full of exhortations to US politicians to lead the world. The hundreds of American military interventions are a necessary corollary of this conviction.
Witness the spectacle of American institutions issuing certificates to other countries in the areas of press freedom (Freedom House), economic stability (Standard and Poor’s), religious freedom (US Commission for International Religious Freedom). Who is anybody to divide the world into Far East, Near East; South East etc? East of what?
I am reminded of the days of colonizing hordes that renamed everything on earth because they had a gun in their hands and the natives didn’t. Bharat becomes India, Chennapatnam becomes Madras, Srikakulam becomes Chicacole, Sri Lanka becomes Ceylon, Kambuja becomes Cambodia. The great brown sahibs shed tears when the people of Chennapatnam chose to call it the name by which they had known it until a white hooligan stepped on its soil and changed the name people had given it. Will the name alter the climate of Madras, asked Shashi Tharoorr. Bombay intellectuals protested because changing the name of Bombay will confuse foreigners and destroy its character as a cosmopolitan city.
If American institutions try to redraw the picture of India, they have their collaborators in India too passing off as historians. The tragedy is that these men and women are very learned and sought after by foreign media and campuses. American campuses are teeming with anti-Hindu specialists. Young American students, including students of Indian (South Asian?) origin, get their picture of India from professors indoctrinated against Hinduism.
There is opposition to the teaching and practice of millennia-old Ayurveda. They equate Ayurveda with urine therapy, In contrast to hundreds of Yoga schools in the US; there is opposition to it because it is rooted in Hindu religion. Parents opposed to the programme say the classes will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion and are not just for exercise. The hand of the church behind this defamation is conspicuous. The revival of dot buster movement is not a happy augury. We also know the names of Indian missionaries who shuttle between India and the US and why.