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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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Pastor challenges yoga, Hinduism for having ‘demonic’ roots

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Diya TV) — A Missouri pastor criticized yoga for its ‘demonic intent’ because of Hinduism influences. John Lindell of the James River Church in Ozark, Mo., which serves over 10,000 people in its congregation, warned Christians to not partake in the activity.

“They were designed, they were created with demonic intent, to open you up to demonic power because Hinduism is demonic,” Lindell said during a sermon on Oct. 28 according to the Springfield News-Leader.

While yoga is a longstanding practice originating from India, there is no indication that it is based off religious values. According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, it is stated yoga doesn’t adhere to any particular religion or belief system.

Yoga translates to “union” in Sanskrit, an ancient language of India. Given its broad meaning, the practice has varied locally and abroad. In addition, there are variations in certain disciplines — which can have a Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism influence — but it is dependent on the type of schools, practices and goals one is pursuing.

In the U.S., it’s become popular for various outcomes. Whether it be for physical, mental or spiritual pleasure, yoga has served as a peaceful outlet for many without it impacting their religious beliefs. While Lindell claimed it’s “spiritually dangerous,” many in the area have responded.

Heather Worthy, a Christian and yoga instructor in Springfield, only had four people attend her class following the sermon.

“It’s so frustrating,” Worthy told the Springfield News-Leader. “The whole thing is quite ludicrous to me.”

Worthy felt attacked, and she wasn’t alone.

With about a dozen yoga classes in the Springfield area, Amanda Davis has spent her last 12 years as an instructor.

“Yoga doesn’t prescribe to any religion, and I don’t think people understand that so they get false ideas about it,” Davis said, one week after a Florida gunman killed two people and injured five at a yoga studio.

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Donald Trump takes subtle jab at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai during Diwali ceremony

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WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Donald Trump took time to appreciate and honor fellow South Asian members in his administration during a Diwali celebration, but he did also manage to throw a jab at Ajit Pai.

Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was criticized by Trump earlier this year during the Sinclair-Tribune merger which halted the conservative local news giants.

The decision made by Pai, a conservative, infuriated Trump:

Fast forward to the Diwali celebration at the White House, the president managed to bring it up again. After raving about how “grateful” he was to have numerous Americans of Indian and Southeast Asian heritage in critical roles and who’ve done an “incredible job,” the remark was unfitting.

After singling out Pai, he reflected on some of that “incredible” and said the following:

“”I just didn’t like one decision he made, but that’s alright,” he joked, then he subtracted some of that “alright,” adding: “not even a little bit, but he’s independent.”

Pai, who is of Indian American descent, was designated by Trump in January 2017 — becoming the first Indian American to hold the office.

The Harvard and Chicago Law School graduate previously served as commissioner of the FCC after being appointed by former president Barack Obama.

Though Trump didn’t elaborate much after pointing him out, it has been noted that Pai carries a heavy load in how media is presented.

Pai’s decision to reverse Sinclair’s merger was based on his stance of the people’s interest and keeping media diverse throughout the country.

Along with first amendment best practices, Pai is focusing on issues relating to broadband, public safety and fiscal responsibility.

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Bollywood sweethearts Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh tie the knot in Italy

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Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there 'Konkani' Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com
Bollywood superstars Deepika Padukone & Ranveer Singh tie the knot in Lake Como, Italy

LAKE CUOMO, Italy — Bollywood sweetheart couple, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have officially tied the knot at a private villa against the scenic Lake Como backdrop, in Italy. The two-day ceremony included a ‘Konkani‘ style ceremony as well as ‘Sindhi‘ ceremony to bring these two Bollywood stars into matrimony.

The couple released two pictures on twitter, with a simple heart emoji

The newlyweds began their love story on screen, sharing intimate moments in films like ‘Ramleela’,’Bajirao Mastani‘ and Padmavat.

According to the Huffington Post, film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said ‘cut’ during their kiss toward the end, but they continued their sizzling moment as over 50 crew members mesmerizingly watched. It was the start of a blossoming relationship, forging together a Bollywood power couple with chemistry on and off set.

The much awaited wedding ceremony left no stone unturned to celebrate this star couple in grand style with an intensely private and synchronized affair set against at Italy’s scenic Lake Como backdrop, at Villa del Balbianello.

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there 'Sindhi' Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there ‘Sindhi’ Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com

An Indian Bollywood wedding without a celeb designer? I think not. The duo opted to go with veteran designer Sabyasachi Mukherji. ‘Sabya‘ as fans often call him, drew inspiration from the wedding ceremony theme and designed decadent outfits in shades of red, pink and all things ‘shaadi‘ for both the ‘Konkani‘ & ‘Sindhi‘ ceremonies. Deepika wore a veil with the words,”Sada Saubhyagyavati Bhava” embroidered along the hem draped over her head. This mantra translates to “be forever fortunate” is often a blessing given to newly weds, wishing them a ‘happily ever after’ life ahead.

Ofcourse no Bollywood wedding is complete without all the ‘Badhaai‘ or well wishes from fellow co-stars, most of who took to twitter to shower the newly minted couple.

A Bollywood wedding, without some ‘filmy’ elements is nearly impossible. According to Filmfare, Singh made his grand entry on Govinda’s hit song ‘Meri Pant Bhi Sexy’, continuing with ‘Chunari Chunari’ and ‘One Two Ka Four‘ as he reached the wedding venue with his family and relatives.

With heavy security for this intensely private ceremony, the couple remained sensitive to the plight of hundreds of fans & paparazzi gathered to capture a glimpse of their special event. They sent gift packs of sweets to the media, thanking them for their wishes.

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