SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Diya TV) — More than 100 Hindu-Americans descended upon the state’s capital last Friday to voice outcry over the California Department of Education Instructional Quality Commission’s plans to accept edits to school curriculum, edits that in effect would largely remove references to India and Hinduism, and instead replaced with the terms, ‘South Asia’ and ‘ancient Indian religion.’
The proposed changes could appear in sixth-to-tenth grade textbooks, and begin as early as next year. Many believe implementing those changes would further alienate Indian youth from the history of their native country.
At its core, there seems to be at least three separate views on how to depict & accurately teach California sixth graders about Hinduism & India.
According to the Hindu American Foundation, a Hindu advocacy group, the current textbooks show Hinduism in a negative light, focussing just on the issues of ‘Caste Oppression’. They further clarify that ‘Caste’ is not part of ‘Hinduism’ rather a social construct that, while still a valid issue, doesn’t bear its roots in Hinduism. They also believe, the kids would benefit greatly from learning about other positive references to Hinduism such as Yoga & Meditation. The Hindu American Foundation has been working with the Department of Education and were making incremental progress over the years.
Enter, the South Asia Faculty Group – A group of esteemed scholars with Ph.Ds and decades of research and experience in History, South Asia studies, the Indus Valley civilization, Hinduism and Religious Studies. This group submitted a set of edits that would eliminate mention of “India” & replace with “South Asia”, remove “Hinduism” & replace with “Ancient Indian Religion”. They begin their submissions to the Department of Education with an acknowledgement to the objections by “Hindu nationalist groups”. Diya TV reached out to several members of this group and did not receive any comments on the record, despite repeated request for comment. In their cover letter, they say,
We recommend that “the religion of Ancient India” be used throughout the framework for the 6th grade curriculum, rather than “Hinduism or “the religion of India.” Gods,” “goddesses,” and “deities” should be in lower case throughout, and Brahmin, the name of a group of people, should be capitalized throughout. We wish to clarify that while “Ancient India” is the accepted usage among Indologists, in other fields, pre-modern South Asia is the common term of reference. Since there is no standardized usage across fields, it is difficult for us to recommend a single standard term for use in the curriculum framework. After careful review, we have settled on a context dependent approach for the use of the terms, “Ancient India,’ ‘India,’ ‘Indian subcontinent’ and ‘South Asia,’ as we explain in the edits. The use of terms like “Ancient India” and “India” in the current version of the draft framework, particularly for grades 6 and 7 is at times misleading. Although “Ancient India” is common in the source material, when discussing the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), we believe it will cause less confusion to students to refer to the “Early Civilization of South Asia or “Ancient South Asia” because muchof the Indus Valley is now in modern Pakistan. Conflating “Ancient India” with the modern nation-state of India deprives students from learning about the shared civilizational heritage of India and Pakistan.ii – South Asia Faculty Group
The Uberoi Foundation for Religious studies, gathered a whole set of esteemed scholars of their own from all over the world, with equally robust credentials & experience to rebut the edits suggested by the South Asia Faculty Group. While they agreed with a few of the edits suggested, they found it troubling that the Group wanted to eliminate mention of India, almost entirely.
Thirty-six of the edits serve to eliminate “India” from the narrative or the word “Hinduism” in reference to early Hindu history. Effectively, it is being recommended that the Commission take on the role of cleansing the ethnic identity of California’s Hindu American children of Indian origin, by removing most instances of the word “India” from their textbooks. This is contrary to the State’s Social Content Standards which require the curriculum to “instill in each child a sense of pride in his or her heritage.” Removing “India” and “Hinduism” in key places does the opposite, leaving children of Indian Hindu origin with no recognizable religious, ethnic, or cultural tradition. Are they expected to re-identify themselves by the nebulous and historically and culturally unsupported term “South Asian”? Can we imagine removing the word “America” from these texts when referencing the nation’s early history because it was not yet officially so named? Is ancient Greece going to become “East South Europe” in future texts? – Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies
While so far it seemed just a battle of the academics, at the hearing, several members of the Dalit Community came and spoke out both in favor & in opposition of the mentions & representations of caste. Those in favor of keeping mention of the caste oppression and its association to Hinduism, said that removing mention of it would be akin to wiping away their history. Others who spoke in opposition of the mentions of ‘untouchability’ & caste oppression had a more nuanced argument to make.
The faculty group disagreed with the removal of caste mentions.
it is not acceptable to delete from the curriculum framework, mention of caste or the phenomenon of untouchability. The Rg Veda itself contains evidence of a hierarchically organized society, with an entire group of people outside its pale. – South Asia Faculty Group
Yet, they recommended the deletion of ‘Valmiki’ & ‘Vyasa’ two important figures that according to some, essentially make the argument of how ‘caste’ is a modern problem not rooted in Hinduism.
According to Samir Kalra, it is the opinion of the scholars working with the Hindu American Foundation, “It(caste) is an economic & social structure and even though it did exist in Hindu society, it also existed in Christian society, in Muslim society as well as Sikh Society in India. Caste in itself confuses two very different systems, the ‘Varna’ & ‘Jati’ system. What originally was known as ‘Varna’ & ‘Jati’ was not rigid & hierarchical as came to be known within the caste system”
‘Valmiki’ was a Dalit & a theif, who recognized the ill of his ways and later became a poet and is the author to one of most famous poems that we now know as the ‘Ramayana’. Due to his changed conduct he no longer belonged to the Dalits and changed his varna to become a ‘Brahmin’
Vamsee Juluri is a professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco and has spearheaded a campaign of opposition, penning a letter to the California Board of Education on March 18, which was published online as part of a petition. It called for the board to shoot down the proposed edits by South Asia faculty group, in curriculum and received almost 18,000 signatures in six days. “If this is indeed correct that ‘India’ is not an accurate term for ‘India’ before 1947,” Juluri wrote, “how is it possible that the word ‘India’ has been in usage in some form or another from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans? Did Columbus go searching for ‘South Asia’?”
Juluri’s efforts weren’t singular — numerous public awareness campaigns, including letters from other professors of religion and history, disputed the faculty group’s assertions that the framework should be edited. During the public comment period, the Hindu American Foundation, other Hindu organizations, community members and other non-Hindus relayed their sentiments of inaccuracies in the proposed edits and the last-minute process by which they believed the framework proposal was initially and uniformly accepted, even after prior recommendations from numerous academics were accepted. They opined, too, that the proposed edits would erase their cultural and religious histories from textbooks, and that it would be detrimental to the education of young Indian-Americans.
“Having studied the Vedas, I proudly wear my sacred thread as a symbol of my earnest study and scholarship, as did my mother and foremothers before her,” said 12-year-old Vaidehi Dandekar, a 7th grade student from El Cerrito, Calif. “As a young woman, I am proud that my enthusiasm and achievement in studying the Vedas is simply reflective of the long tradition of scholarship and oral storytelling by women….and men…..in India’s rich history. The accurate portrayal therefore in our classroom, of women in India’s history as leaders, sages, scholars, and often spiritual authority figures for families and communities is incredibly important for all members of my learning environment.”
The commission heard the outcry, and voted to reject some of the proposed changes, though its revised set of recommendations will not be published until two weeks before a May 11 State Board of Education hearing.
David Barclay contributed to this article.
An immigrant community’s gratitude, “serve where we live”
Founder of HC4A wanted to give back to where he lives: Austin. Hundreds of Indian Americans joined to open chapters across the US and raise over a million dollars for the cause.
AUSTIN, Texas (Diya TV) — Indian Americans are the most educated and most affluent immigrant community in the United States. A recent survey conducted by Dalberg & Indiaspora shows that Indian Americans have the potential to give over 3 billion dollars annually. Harish Kotecha, founder of HC4A (Hindu Charities for America), came here with his family in 1972 when the dictator of Uganda gave all Indians a notice of 90 days to leave the country. His many successes in this country motivated him to build an organization that encourages philanthropy in the Indian American community with the motto ‘serve where we live.’
Organizations such as Akshaya Patra, Pratham USA, have raised millions of dollars over years within the US to to support causes in India and make a real difference. Stretching the dollar and making an enormous impact in the lives of millions of children in India. And even though Kotecha is well aware that a dollar remitted to India can create a big difference to a developing economy versus the US, he believes its importat to give back to the community we live in.
“There is poverty here too. I thought it would be so great if the Indian community worked as one to serve those in need in the US,” says Kotecha. Hundreds of Indian Americans have been inspired to raise over a million dollars since the inception of HC4A in 2010. This is a small amount compared to nearly a half million raised in one night at the annual gala for the organizations funding education in India.
The HC4A mission is to ‘bridge income disparities through education.’ Two salient events raise funds for these endeavors: the HC4A Gala and Bollywood Meets Borscht Belt (BMBB). The Jewish community helps organize the BMBB event; leading Bollywood dance schools in Austin like Monsoon Dance and Agni lend the glitz and glamor to a high spirited night.
Schoolsupplies, backpack programs, and scholarships form the pillars of education-based giving for the volunteers at HC4A.
According to Dalberg, Education ranked at 61% as a passion cause for Indian American donors, followed by healthcare & Gender equality. “The Indian community is very successful, and we all came for one purpose, education, that was our driving factor. We know the struggle, so we are ready to support the cause for education,” says Vaishali Tendolkar, Secretary of HC4A.
Kotecha says that several Muslims and Jews fundraise and help organize events for HC4A. For him, the success of HC4A is the fact that people from all faiths and backgrounds come together to help the community they live in.
In 2017, Harish Kotecha was honored with the President’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” As this model worked in Austin, Kotecha and his team worked on expanding HC4A’s presence to Southern California, Houston, and Dallas.
Nidhi Trehan, a sociologist, and a chapter leader for HC4A in Houston says, “If we reduce inequality here in the US, we will be working to reduce it globally.”
“HC4A is asking us, that is Indian Americans, to reach out to other communities and give them a helping hand. We actually owe it to the pioneers that fought for civil rights in this country, to be in the position of privilege we are in today,” she added. Led by Sashi Konidena, President of the Houston chapter raised over $12,000 this past year.
The Southern California chapter began in late 2019 and has already presented $5000 to the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). Close to 50% of the students enrolled in the LACCD fall below the poverty line.
Giving back is a metric of success for any individual or community, and it’s a great reinforcement of an immigrant population’s gratitude.
Karthik Pichai, a serial entrepreneur, helped start the Dallas chapter in 2019 and has already raised $10,000 for Dallas Community College. He is rallying successful entrepreneurs not just to give, but also potentially train the students in their tech companies. “I want to bring together affluent entrepreneurs with shared values. Along with our Indian American kids, we can set an example saying that we care about our local community and want to give back,” he says.
Teri Benge, who was pursuing a degree in hospitality management at ACC, while keeping a full-time job, writes in her thank you note to HC4A that, “I will always remember this gesture of kindness and will one day, pay this forward by helping students achieve their goals, just as you have helped me.”
As HC4A volunteers celebrate 10 years of relentless hard work, at the Asian American Resource Center, Austin, none are ready to just sit on their laurels. They laugh and cheer on as they see a 2030 vision board of Shahrukh Khan and Jennifer Lopez coming for the Gala night celebrations and a fundraising goal of a 100 million dollars.
2019 was the biggest year for HC4A as they were successful in establishing an irrevocable endowment fund for scholarships. This year about $150,000 in fellowships will go to students of various ethnic communities. To Kotecha its important that the work continue beyond him, “If us go away, the charity goes away, the fund will still be there. Legacy of the charity and donors will remain,”
OPINION: 11 things you might have missed about this years OSCARS
I’ve watched darned near every one of The Academy Awards since the early 1980s. Here goes.
1. BROADCAST: Compared to most Oscars broadcasts this millennium, this one was “pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.” Of course, it runs long. By the time Billie Eilish finished singing “Yesterday,” it was practically yesterday when the ceremony began. Her rendition of the world’s most covered song ever was decent. It’s hard for that song not to sound good. And by reaching back to 1965, she more than made up for not knowing who Van Halen is… something far more understandable than it seems at first glance. (Subject of a future post.) Pretty cool that Tom Hanks announced the new Academy Museum at Fairfax and Wilshire, though that intersection rings ominously to us hip-hop heads. #RestInPeaceToMyMFBiggieSmalls
2. DIVERSITY: Perhaps it cannot be stated enough that when society swings too far one way, the response to the shift isn’t great, either. Not to kick things off with politics (since movie stars never include that in their speeches) but one of the most insightful lines I read in the last year is that Donald J. Trump has made everything worse. The Republican Party is in bad shape, but so are the Democrats, since they’ve collectively chosen to veer so far left to counterbalance the swing to the right. Similarly, when the Academy nominates almost all white people, Oscar Night itself feels it must overcompensate by giving people non-award stage time. It’s good that there’s diversity up there, but then you end up with weird, inane choices like Janelle Monáe’s opening number. I’ve long enjoyed her acting and her singing; I’ve heard first-hand that she’s incredible live and I can hardly take my eyes off of her because she’s so beautiful. But showcasing a relatively obscure film… dressing people up like Jokers and as soldiers… awkwardly putting (mostly white) people on the spot to sing along… this was just strange. Let’s showcase women of color for their talents onscreen so we don’t have to put us all in this uncomfortable position, including the anxiety I’ll now feel for critiquing (not even criticizing) a WoC.
3. GLUE: Bring back a host. Even if one host did the first half and another the second or two people co-host, having that anchor is key. Sure, they largely disappear after their opening monologues, but they’re the through-line. This procession of one person’s introducing the next who sometimes even introduces a NEXT made for a weird chain of events. Beyond the functional value, there’s a strong case to be made for jokes. We can evaluate them immediately. I think a lot of us had no idea what to make of Monáe’s opening. Most people just go, “OK, I guess that was good.” But with comedy, at least you know where you stand.
4. NOSTALGIA: The longevity of stars who made their debuts as far back as the ’80s is incredible. Brad Pitt’s speech was a nice romp down Memory Lane to remind us of how lucky we are to have these people in our lives. Or at least on our screens. I don’t feel the same about most actors who’ve debuted post-2000. Although I loved Marilyn Manson as lead actor in Marriage Story.
5. SINGING, PART I: I looked up whether this was the worst year for Best Original Song. Maybe there was an exception in there, but collectively, they were atrocious. Even Elton John’s was so boring. And don’t get me started on Randy Newman. Once upon a time, he served a purpose. His voice is etched into my memory from many eighties movies but this man did not need to continue lulling us to sleep in yet another decade.
6. SINGING, PART II: The Oscars and Emmys face a unique challenge: they’re rewarding recorded acting, whereas the Tonys and the Grammys reward live performance. You can’t exactly make actors go up and act out a scene… though actually, I would like to see that. So, Elton and Randy notwithstanding, keep the live performances AND keep at least two montages: In Memoriam and some kind of themed glance-back. We movie-goers are suckers for nostalgia and investing a few minutes in this provides a substantial emotional ROI. (Remember when I talked about nostalgia…?)
7. SHADY AFTERMATH: Eminem killed it. I found all of the snarky online dialogue infuriating. Indeed, the fast news cycle has ruined things. You used to read Oscars reviews all week, but if you don’t put out your thoughts within 24 hours, the world has moved on. There may be some upsides to that (though the lack of mentions of Australia show another downside), but one clear negative is that people go for the quick kill instead of even a shred of circumspection. It took me a long time to get into Eminem — I loathed him when he first debuted in 1999 — but then he quickly became one of my favorite all-time musicians. I’d still say JAY-Z is the greatest (even if the best is a Biggie/2Pac tossup) but Eminem is a close second. #TossItUp So, given that the man has more fame and success than most of the actors in that hall, yes, I think he’s the kind of evergreen personality we’re lucky to see anywhere, anytime… even if it is random. But it’s not random. He dropped a new album last week and became the sixth artist in history to debut 10 albums at #1. Dude’s a legend — and his performance was arguably the highlight of the evening. If you read the reviews, the Fake News would have you believe he bombed. In fact, most people of all ages, races, and genders were bobbing their heads and many were singing along to “Lose Yourself,” arguably the song of the 2000s. Again, it seems easy to throw shade at a straight white man… why is HE here? Well, why the hell was Blac Chyna there? Sure, she was on the Red Carpet and not onstage, but all she did was marry and divorce a Kardashian. The reaction to that? “You go, girl. Get it.” No. Divorcees of any gender shouldn’t be punished but that doesn’t mean we need to reward it, either. Sure, Eminem used the Other F-Word far too much early in his career, but he reconciled with Elton John (whose song from last night I do NOT want to hear 18 years from now). Joaquin Phoenix hit the nail on the head when he said that we’re at our best not when we cancel each other but when we help each other grow. Like how Janelle Monáe makes me grow.
8. PAIR: “I’m seeing Red.” — Rudolph. Give it up for Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Not sure why Wiig’s comedy career hasn’t continued to skyrocket. Bridesmaids is arguably the last great comedic movie; she and Rudolph both killed it in that as well as last night. Granted, they’ve worked together much more than Rock & Martin, but they had comedic chemistry in all the ways the men didn’t.
9. LAMESAUCE: Shame on whoever’s decision it was to include the line, “All women are superheroes!” I turned to Harsha, winced, and said, “Dude, that is SO patronizing.” Lo and behold, I read this online: “… immediately after making Brie Larson, Sigourney Weaver, and Gal Gadot stand onstage and say things like, ‘All women are superheroes!’ All women should not be forced to participate in pandering, infantilizing bullish!t!” I don’t know who forced whom and don’t know if it’s infantilizing, but it’s pandering… and patronizing… and demeaning. And it’s not true. No group of people is a bunch of superheroes. Not women, not men, not straight, not gay, not trans, not cis, not whites, not Indians, not Eskimos. Well, except the Justice League. And the people next to me on the plane who sit for six hours without getting up to go to the bathroom. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? They’re superheroes. Offer up something empowering like, “All women who go out there everyday and work and try to make this world a better place — whether you’re a bus driver or a Hollywood actor — even when you’re not being recognized and you have to work twice as hard as a man… you’re superheroes and we see you.” Maybe I didn’t nail the wording, and in typical Rajiv fashion, it’s longer, but at least make sure what you’re saying is true.
10. BROWN TOWN: South Asians performances weren’t featured onscreen, either, but it was dope to see Utkarsh Ambudkar’s freestyling. Dude once took a dump at my house. For more on that and more of his freestyling (including cutting me up pretty well), check out WatchRajiv.com. Fitting coincidence that Mindy Kaling handed out the award for Hair Love. Moments earlier, Chris Rock had appeared to “not-host”; it was his documentary, Good Hair, that told the world most black women’s extensions come from India. Dope to see some Ohio representation, too, with American Factory. OH-!
11. ENDING: Congratulations to Parasite! Loved 1917 (thought it would win) but Bong Joon-ho is this year’s Roberto Benigni. And that Asian auntie… my wife: “This is like having your Mom onstage.” What a way for the Oscars to remain relevant, address #OscarsSoWhite, and surprise us all… 92 years in. I heard Koreatown was going off last night… I can’t even imagine the parking situation. (No, that’s not an Asian joke… it’s a local LA joke.) In conclusion, we had no host but we did have a Parasite. A little biology humor for you.
And… just as I was about to hit Post, a news notification told me this year’s ratings fell to a record low. “That’s Life.” — Joker
Rajiv Satyal is a comedian and claims to be the world’s best movie quoter. He resides in Los Angeles.
By 52-48 Vote, Senate acquits President Trump
WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Along party lines as expected, President Trump was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate 52 to 48 on the two articles of impeachment brought forth by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. An intriguing footnote to this partisan battle is that former Republican Presidential nominee and current Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the only member of the GOP to vote to convict Trump, the first Senator in American history ever to vote to remove a President in his own party.
59 year old Munir Hawara received 11 years and eight months in prison for hiring two people to set fires at a competing liquor store owned by Jaljit Singh Rana in Riverside, California. The two men hired to do the job, Willis Simmons and Randy Ramirez are already serving a prison sentence for throwing molotov cocktails into the store.
Tennis standout Rajeev Ram continues his stellar play, winning the Australian Open Doubles Title with his partner Joe Salisbury.
Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.
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