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Years long advocacy for reform & equity in California Textbooks for Hindu, Indian & South Asian history concludes with the approval of the new framework

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Diya TV) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Thursday that the State Board of Education approve the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which will update and upgrade history and social science instruction in California.

Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation also announced Thursday that important progress had been made in the effort to ensure that Hinduism and India are presented equitably and accurately in the aforementioned framework.

“This is a big win for our students,” Torlakson said in a statement. “This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science. It will give our students access to the latest historical research and help them learn about the diversity of our state and the contributions of people and groups who may not have received the appropriate recognition in the past.”

Approved after a nearly two-year long process, the framework, with the input from multiple Hindu American community groups, parents and schoolchildren, now incorporates prominent mention of Hinduism’s pluralistic ethos, Hindu sages of diverse backgrounds, and the importance of the Bhakti movement.

“People are passionate about the way they are portrayed in history,” Torlakson’s statement added. “We are glad so many people and groups participated in our lengthy public comment and review process.”

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom presented the Board with a letter on July 11, urging them to adopt a framework that would “accurately portray the unique contribution of California’s diverse communities.” Newsom applauded the Board’s efforts to reinsert specific references to India in the framework, however, added that replacing references to Hinduism still left much to be desired.

“The framework still replaces references to ‘Hinduism’ with broader and ahistorical terms, effectively erasing thousands of years of historical and cultural heritage, and diminishing the religion’s worthy contributions” Newsom wrote in his letter. “Moreover, history, no matter how painful, should be documented; however, negative social structures should not be discussed as inherit beliefs of Hinduism,” he added.

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, sent a letter to the Board as well. She applauded the efforts of the Instructional Quality Commission, just as Newsom had, but urged the Board to ensure the additional concerns of the Hindu-American community were addressed.

“As the first and only serving Hindu American Member of Congress, I have worked actively throughout my many years of service to promote diversity, equality, and pluralism,” she wrote. “I firmly believe in the significance of creating an education system and textbooks that uphold these important American values.”

Hindu American Foundation’s senior director and Human Rights Fellow Samir Kalra voiced public disappointment after the Board could not be swayed to hear those additional changes requested by Hindus.

“The Board showed much sensitivity to activists representing Islam and Muslims, by adjusting the frameworks slightly to show the religion in a more positive light,” Kalra said, adding however that the same sentiment was paid to the further discussion of additional changes for Hindus. “We only wish they had shown the same empathy when discussing further changes on the presentation of Hinduism,” Kalra said.

Contrary to their opponents assertions, the HAF maintains that they have always acknowledged the existence of caste and caste based discrimination throughout the Indian subcontinent, and their submissions throughout the process reflected this fact.

“Our edits only sought context, separating the social evil from the eternal teachings of ancient and contemporary Hindu spiritual leaders,” Kalra continued. Still, Kalra was satisfied that such blatantly false conflations comparing caste to slavery, or the varna system as a ‘caste pyramid’ remained discarded.

South Asians Histories for All, a multi-faith and inter-caste coalition of eight religions and 25 organizations across the state and country shared in the celebration of what they referred to as “significant improvements to California’s new history and social science textbook curriculum, despite significant opposition from (Hindu fundamentalist groups).”

“We made great progress,” said Barbara McGraw, convener of the Social Sciences and Religion Faculty Group. “We have a long way to go. But we are on our way to a bright future for a more equitable representation of Hinduism in California textbooks.”

The Hindu American Foundation and South Asian Histories for All have seemingly disagreed on issue of caste — however both sides met with Diya TV for an exclusive conversation at the state capitol moments before the hearing in May and even though they came to an agreement, the issue of caste still remains a point of contention between the two groups. 

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The Hindu American Foundation believes the discussion of caste should not be a defining characteristic of Hinduism, and that it should be proportionate to how other elements of Hindu and Indian culture are represented. In addition, HAF demonstrated ‘Hinduism’ was singled out and treated unfairly and has not been dealt with equity, sighting images from current textbooks, showcasing how each religion from Judaism, Christianity to Islam are shown in positive light allowing students to feel proud of their roots. Classical artwork with images of families celebrating and sharing a meal over a religious holiday, in contrast, the images representing Hinduism show an impoverished Indian woman collecting trash and a priest looking away angrily.

This campaign launched by the Hindu American Foundation seemed strike a cord with members of CDE who were disturbed to see these images and said “this should never have been published”

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South Asian Histories for All however, believe that as Hindu Americans, there is an element of importance to be educated of all stories and cultures of South Asia. Some of that culture — the 200 million people who make up the Dalit population — are being erased from textbooks because of the HAF’s proposed edits, the organization said.

Leaders from both the Hindu American Foundation and the South Asian Histories for All organizations plan to take next steps in shifting their focus towards the development and review of the new textbooks. This is being done to ensure that the agreed upon framework is represented completely and entirely. Both organizations have planned efforts that will seek to further educate California’s teachers to bridge the remaining gap in Hindu understanding and the adopted frameworks.

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FTX’s Nishad Singh got $543 million loan

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More fallout from the FTX cryptocurrency platform collapse. Court documents show its affiliate Alameda Research loaned executives like Sam Bankman Fried $1 billion and more than $500 million to Indian American Nishad Singh, FTX’s top engineer. FTX’s interim CEO says never in his career has he seen such complete failure of corporate controls and a complete absence of trustworthy financial information. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was unable to come up with customer funds.

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after her conviction in January for defrauding investors while running the failed blood testing start up Theranos.In her trial, Holmes alleged she was in the midst of a decade-long abusive relationship with her then-boyfriend and Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The Indian American was also found guilty for his role in this fraud and will be sentenced later.

Starting next month, India will assume the G20 presidency for a year and chair more than 200 meetings, leading the way for global economic growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country’s leadership here will be inclusive, ambitious, and decisive.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arvind Venkat & Tarik Khan win Pennsylvania State seats

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WASHINGTON D.C. (Diya TV) – Looking back at the midterm elections, Arvind Venkat and Tarik Khan made history as the first South Asian Americans elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Advocacy group Indian American Impact played a major role on the ground, saying it trained and mobilized 200 volunteers to go door-to-door, to engage voters and provide info they needed to elect new leadership.

After 35 years, the Nancy Pelosi era is officially coming to an end. The speaker from San Francisco announced she’s bowing out of leadership, but will retain her House seat. The midterms cost Pelosi’s Democratic party the House and effectively ended her speakership.

Two former Indian American executives at Meta Platforms will launch a new non fungible token start up for creators. Kirthiga Reddy and Saurabh Doshi have raised more than $8 million for their new company called Virtualness. But they are facing headwinds as the FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse is putting pressure on the entire industry.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Meet FTX insider Nishad Singh

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The controversy around failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues to captivate the world. Part of the scrutiny is now on the people involved, including Indian American Nishad Singh. According to new reports, this techie was part of FTX’s inner circle, which lived together and ran the cryptocurrency empire from the Bahamas. The software engineer was also reportedly aware that FTX secretly transferred customer funds worth billions of dollars to its sister firm Alameda Research. Currently, no one is facing any criminal charges. Diya TV featured Singh more than a decade ago for running ultra marathons as a 17 year old getting ready for college. 

Former President Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president in 2024, marking his third bid for the White House. Trump had been hinting at this announcement for months, as the embattled former president faces multiple criminal and civil litigations and as his party is grappling with a worse than expected showing in the midterm elections. 

At the G20 Summit in Bali, world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden are coming together to condemn the rising threat of nuclear weapons as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to raise tension and anxiety around the world.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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