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California Text Book Travesty

Editorial Comment March 14,2006

This has been a unique experience. i daresay that no  member of an other faith has had to endure the ignominy of being told how their faith should be portrayed to their children by self proclaimed experts. Something tells me that this may be in violation of the US constitution. The state has no business portraying (or misportraying as the case maybe) the religious faith of any of its citizens using taxpayer money. It does not matter whether they choose to worship monkeys or 10000 androids, it should not be a matter for others to comment on much less deride  in a tax payer subsidized textbook.

That is the fundamental issue that should  be taken up by HAF/HEF in their legal suit. Just because there is no central authority directing what should or should not be said about Hinduism does not give anybody the right to throw  rocks at others, especially if you happen to live in a glass house. Unfortunately people who have nothing better to do with their time starting from Abbe Dubois to Katherine Mayo to the Wendy Donnigers  and Michael Witzel have taken on this mendacious task of deriding our ancient faith and are now somewhat aghast that somebody is hitting back. 100 years after the famous speech by Swami Vivekananda at the world conference of Religions in Chicago, where he electrified his audience with a passionate plea that  Hinduism be regarded as a major Dharma, nothing much has changed. The beloved Swamiji said at the end of his speech and I quote

"Sectarianism, bigotry, and it's horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.

"But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal."

That goal has yet to be reached.

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FAQ on the California Text Book Travesty (CTBT)

What is it all about

Every 6 years the State of California selects text books for 6 to 8th graders. In the past years egregious errors in the way Hinduism was portrayed were not challenged. Some examples of such errors: see for instance

Do Hindu American Edits Whitewash Untouchability in California School Textbooks FOSA spreads False Propaganda

This year the Hindu Vedic Foundation (HVF) and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) challenged many of these passages.

What is the California text Book Controversy all about


In a series of articles IF has chronicled the passage of this exercise in Sacramento.

The letter I wrote to Ms Ruth Green, State Board of Education

Report on Sacramento hearing

It aint over till its over

Letter from Dr.Yvette Rosser

California's Textbooks Contribute to Ignorance About Hinduism ?

The US laws about school textbooks

Hindus fight discrimination in California textbooks – 1

Is there discrimination against Hindus in the way their religion is depicted.  Read the above, compare with the guidelines of other religions and you decide.


Who is Michael  Witzel and why is he saying terrible things about Hindus  ?

MW  is a congenital  Hindu hater  who in his day job masquerades as a Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University. But I suppose it is better to adopt a charitable explanation and invoke Napoleon's dictum 'Attribute not to malice that which can be ascribed to incompetency.

Witzel curriculum vitae


He claims to know of Indic traditions, but has rarely if ever been to India. His only claim to familiarity with the subcontinent is some time he spent in Nepal. Here is a compilation of Aphorisms attributed to Herr Prof Witzel

What was Michael Witzel Objecting to ?

We have taken the liberty of reproducing the Hindu American Foundation summary of the major issues

What was the purpose of the February 27,2006 meeting

It was mainly  a meeting to legitimize decisions already made. see for instance


Hindu American Foundation files lawsuit on the matter of the California Textbooks

CAPEEM's Federal Complaint

Hindus and Local Councils launch first national toolkit for Religious Education

CAPEEM fundraiser



How can you help ?

Support HAF in their fund drive to fight this battle legally.

Get involved in local school boards and library committees


Some background history to the continuing saga of denigrating the Sanatana Dharma




Get involved as a concerned citizen

Check with local library and determine how you can select India related books/media

Become a member of the PTA and ascertain how you can influence what is taught in the classroom

Donate Text Books to School Library

Donate Books/DVD to Local Library

Get involved in "California Text Book Travesty"



Press Coverage of the CTBT

Sandhya Jain's Comment in Pioneer

Hindu textbook edits sent to state trustees

Hindu foundation to fight changes in school texts
Group opposes state plan to revise history of ancient India for sixth-graders
By Jonathan Jones, STAFF WRITER

Academic Researchers Versus Hindu Civilization   

  Comments from those opposing CA textbook edits


Angana Chatterji and

Angana Chatterji rarely has anything good to say about India and is even more abusive about Hinduism

Coalition against Communalism

Who are  the groups who oppose the edits

South Asia Educational Council (comprised primarily of CIIS &Berkeley personnel )

Large contingent from California Institute of integral Studies

Close Link between FOSA and CIIS personnel




Issues with California Textbooks

The Hindu American Foundation needs the support of every one of its members at this critical time. The efforts of Hindus in California to improve 6th grade textbooks so that these books actually reflect their beliefs and their religious practices have been hijacked by Michael Witzel, a Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and a few like-minded colleagues with demonstrable anti-Hindu links. Below, just some of the acrimonious, cynical and dismissive comments of Professors Witzel, Wolpert and Heitzman (Witzel, et al) are seen (For a full viewing of comments made by Witzel, et al on the specific edits and changes recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee and CRPE Bajpai, click here)

We believe these comments clearly relay the urgency with which Hindus must counter this insidious Hinduphobia. With your support, we can ensure that Hinduism is represented in a fair and appropriate manner.

  • The Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) and Content Review Panel Expert (CRPE) Bajpai recommended a correction stating that the Indian epic Ramayana was written before the Indian epic, Mahabharata.

  • Witzel, et al respond with, “Who in sixth grade cares which epic was “written” first?”

  • AHC and CRPE Bajpai recommended capitalizing ‘g’ in the words God or Gods to better describe Hinduism as a tradition that is not polytheistic but instead one that propounds a theology of panentheistic monotheism, recognizing that god is immanent in all of creation and yet transcendent. Also, since the letter “G” is capitalized when referring to God in Christianity, the same respect, with use of a capital “G” should be given to Hindu Divinity.

  • Witzel, et al want to retain the text “Many gods exist …”

  • AHC and CRPE Bajpai recommended that textbooks state that women enjoyed different rights than men and received some education. There is also little or no discussion of the concept of shakti or feminine divinity and the historical existence of brahmacarinis, sanyasinis and female saints. (Noteworthy: the textbooks portray the status of women in Islam sympathetically. They state that even though women had fewer rights than men, Islam conferred on women several rights that pre-Islamic Arab society had denied)

  • Witzel, et al want to retain text that said, “Hinduism also taught that women were inferior to men.” They did not want to mention the fact that women were saints and composers of the Vedas, Hinduism’s ancient texts.

  • Textbooks, while discussing other religions, do not present the historic misuses of religion to perpetuate social evils such as slavery, anti-Semitism or holy wars, all of which are part of the history of other world religions. In contrast, social practices like untouchability and caste discrimination are presented as central tenets of Hinduism. The textbooks fail to mention that these are social customs also prevalent in non-Hindu communities throughout South Asia. They also fail to mention that many Hindu sacred texts were authored by “lower castes.”

    • Witzel, et al and their supporters want to stress that caste discrimination is a central part of Hinduism and do not want to acknowledge the contributions of ‘untouchables’ to Hinduism.

  • AHC and CRPE Bajpai suggested that Hinduism be portrayed as a natural internal development of a composite Indian society, which also included the Aryans. This suggestion reflects an alternative theory based on the latest archeological, genetic and astronomical developments.

    • Witzel, et al suggest that no mention of newer theories that conflict with the Aryan Invasion Theory (which Witzel, et al propound) be made. They also allege that mentioning that Aryans were part of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization was a crude Hindu attempt at creating linkage with that civilization. (Noteworthy: For the portion on Islamic history, mention of converts to Islam through conquest has been eliminated)

  • Witzel, et al object to a well-written explanation of ayurveda and yoga as systems developed by ancient Indians for spiritual and medical well being.

Dangerously, a coalition of anti-Hindu academics, Indian Marxist activists, Christian missionaries representing themselves as Dalits, and others who are ignorant about California’s educational guidelines and Hinduism are working to have the SBE overturn the original recommendations made by the AHC on November 8, 2005 as well as the latest corrections and edits accepted by the CC on December 2, 2005.

Significantly, these individuals and groups want to maintain the textbooks as written, which as demonstrated above, misrepresent Hindu belief and focus on the "dark side" of Hinduism. They especially would like to see Hinduism portrayed as a religion of oppression and a religion foreign to India. Their main motivation: political, social and religious agendas: Marxists with their inclination to consider religion an "opiate of the masses" and to interpret history in terms of class struggle and Christian missionaries with their interest in the untouchables for targeted conversion.

The current textbooks, we believe, violate SBE guidelines because they do not leave a student with respect for Hinduism, and in fact adversely reflect on the child’s creed and ancestry. If anti-Hindu groups are successful, sixth graders in California public schools, and in following California’s lead, children in public schools across the U.S., will learn a warped, outdated version of Hinduism which is not on par with the portrayal of other religions.

California Textbook Lawsuit Moves Ahead in Court



SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, April 21, 2006: The California Superior Court ordered an expedited schedule be determined in the lawsuit of the Hindu American Foundation against the California State Board of Education over the adoption of sixth grade social studies' books for next school year. The lawsuit was brought when Hindus were dissatisfied with the book review process which left in place inaccuracies, distortions and an unbalanced presentation of Hinduism vis-a-vis other religions. See HPI, March 18, for a summary of the lawsuit issues: here.

In his ruling, Superior court Judge Patrick Marlette stated twice that he was "troubled" by the SBE review process in adopting the books. HAF had charged that what is supposed to be a documented and transparent system of review actually progressed through 2005 and 2006 in a haphazard manner. Parts of the review, HAF contends, were contrary to California State law.

The preliminary injunction was rejected by Marlette in favor of a speedy schedule to resolve the complex case prior to the school year. It would be rare for a preliminary injunction to be issued against a state government. He could have dismissed the case, if he felt it had no merit, but did not. He has instead ordered the SBE and HAF to confer and provide a schedule for hearing the case expeditiously, before the textbooks in question are distributed this fall. He also recommended the two parties explore any possible resolution of the issues between them.

One surprising testimony in the case is that of Stan Metzenberg, a member of the Curriculum Commission whose December 2 decision on the Hindu issues with the textbooks -- and supposed to be the final recommendation -- was tossed out by subsequent SBE actions. The SBE contended the Curriculum Commission failed to follow the guidelines laid out for it in reviewing the proposed Hindu "edits" (as the changes are called). As a result, the SBE held a separate, closed door meeting on January 6 to again review the edits, and arrived at a different set of recommendations less acceptable to Hindus.

Metzenberg, a professor at Northridge University in the California system argues in his testimony that the Commission did indeed follow the Board's instructions. He is no stranger to textbook issues, having been involved in improving the science curriculum in California and testifying before the US Congress on the same issue. During the December 2 meeting, Metzenberg, a molecular biologist, took issue with the claims that there was an "Aryan Invasion" in ancient times in India -- one of the main points of dispute with the texts. He took it upon himself to read the studies that had been done on the genetic makeup of individuals of the Indian subcontinent, and reviewed them with his wife, also a professor at Northridge and an expert in human genetics. At the meeting, he sided with the Hindus against the recommendation of several Western non-Hindu Indologists. In his testimony, he states, "My opinion as a scientist, and what I recommended to my fellow commissioners on December 2, was that Aryan Invasion Theory is not easily supported by genetic evidence, and in fact the preponderance of more recent genetic evidence would tend to rule out a major invasion of Europeans. This is why I believe that it would be inaccurate to portray Aryan Invasion Theory as a fact in California textbooks. Our [the Commission's] addition of a qualified statement, 'Aryan invasion theory has been contradicted by some scholarly evidence,' is a sensible solution."

Metzenberg's testimony carries special weight as he was part of the process of textbook adoption and is supporting the Hindu contention that the Curriculum Commission had followed proper procedure in considering the edits. The Board's contention that the Commission did not proper procedure is a major part of their defense.

Another declaration submitted is that of Dr. Shiva Bajpai, who was hired by the Board as an expert in Indian history to review the proposed edits. Upon the entry of the non-Hindu Indologists in December, he was sidelined in the process. At the critical January 6 meeting in which all contested edits were reviewed again, he was told that changes would only be made if he and Dr. Witzel of Harvard, leader of the non-Hindu Indologist group, agreed. This effectively gave veto power over the edits to Dr. Witzel, with the result that significant edits Hindus sought were not made. Bajpai concludes in his testimony, "It is my view and opinion that if the textbooks reflect only the edits recommended by the subcommittee [mostly the results of the January 6 meeting], those texts will portray Hinduism and Indian history inaccurately and in a manner that puts Hinduism in a rather unfavorable light. It is my view and opinion that the texts continue to require changes to make them comply with the Standards imposed by law for textbooks in California."

Also of interest in the court documents is an Amici Curiae Brief submitted by a group of political and social activist organization including The Ambedkar Center for Justice and Peace and the Friends of South Asia. An Amici Curiae Brief is one filed by persons or organizations not directly part of the court case, but who wish to provide input. Most of the Brief is spent critiquing the edits still sought by the Hindu groups, attacking the same groups as "politically motivated," including a flow chart connecting all of them to the RSS in India, even though HAF and the Vedic Foundation -- two key players -- have no organization ties with the RSS, and the association of most others in the chart is tenuous as best.

Toward the end, their Brief states, "Indeed, 126 south Asia faculty and scholars have unequivocally stated that the edits approved by the SBE are an 'important and positive step in providing California school children with more accurate information on Hinduism and Indian history than in the current textbooks.' These faculty and scholars have reached consensus that the textbook edits approved by the SBE are 'a sizeable improvement over the earlier texts in attempting to present responsible scholarship that is sensitive to and respectful of religious and cultural difference.' "

The irony here is that the praised "edits approved by the SBE" are those 75% or so of the edits proposed by the Hindu groups and accepted. There was no input to the edit process by the groups submitting the brief.

The judge at the April 21 hearing requested the groups explore a possibility of settlement. The charges brought against the Board by HAF are fairly extensive, ranging from improper process to the specifics of five issues: women's rights, caste and untouchability, theology, comparison with other faiths and Aryan Invasion. Toward the end of January, prior to the final Board decision on the edits, HAF submitted a document with their recommendation on two dozen or so critical edits related these five issues. This proposal was rejected by the Board, which led to HAF filing the lawsuit. The possibility remains that the Board and HAF could revisit this list of edits and try to work out a solution that does not hold up the entire textbook printing process, as a trial might. A solution based on these specific edits would not address the larger problems with the texts, but it would establish the rights of Hindus to at least an equal part in the process with Western non-Hindu Indologist, many of whom appear to regard Hinduism with contempt. If, however, HAF prevails at trial, then court-ordered changes to the books to bring the treatment of Hinduism on par with the other religious would necessarily be quite extensive, as the court would not be limited to the relatively small corrections allowed in the Board's review process.





Final California Board of Education Decision on Hinduism in Textbooks Better
Than Expected
Hinduism Today

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, March 9, 2006: The California State Board of Education approved a few additional changes to the proposed textbooks for social studies at the conclusion of its meeting today. They took public testimony on a proposed slate of change, or "edits," which was the result of a committee meeting of February 27 (see HPI, here for the complete background). An excellent presentation by Janeshwari Devi of the Vedic Foundation, which had spearheaded the effort to revise the books along with the Hindu Education Foundation, resulted in 14 additional corrections of contradictions and outright errors in  the list of edits approved February 27. These included, significantly, changes regarding the Aryan Invasion theory. According to InsideBayArea. com (here), "The board also instructed the commission to add lines in the textbooks stating
that the Aryan invasion -- the controversial theory that traces the roots of Hinduism to a migration of people from Central Asia -- is disputed." In all, most of the edits Hindus sought were granted, while controversial ones regarding caste, women's rights and other issues were not. These edits were opposed by a group of Indian leftists and non-Hindu American academics. The Hindu American Foundation testified at the meeting that the process of consideration of the edits by the Board failed to follow State guidelines and that they were
considering suing the Board over these lapses. A lawsuit could hold up production of $300 million worth of social studies books by a dozen publishers for California schools.

HAF Legal Team Assesses Victory and Comments on Failed Brief From Anti-Hindu South Asian Group

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 8, 2006) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) legal team continued to receive wide acclaim for the landmark ruling last week that upheld its contention that the California State Board of Education (SBE) followed an illegal process in adopting sixth grade social studies textbooks. The mixed ruling in California Superior Court, however, denied HAF's demand that if the process followed in adopting the Hinduism section of textbooks was illegal, then all of those texts already published must be thrown out and the adoption process revisited. In a statement released today, HAF highlighted sections of the ruling that they felt had not adequately been covered in press reports thus far and responded to comments from a group that tried to oppose HAF's efforts.

"It's important to reiterate that HAF at no time submitted any edits or revisions in the textbook adoption process, and HAF only entered this controversy when the SBE acted ar bitrarily and behind closed doors, depriving Hindus of a fair and open process, said Suhag Shukla, Esq., legal counsel for HAF. "We knew going into the lawsuit that a good number of revisions suggested by Hindu groups had already been accepted and the books had been improved--though far from perfect--but our focus was on proving the illegality of SBE actions vis-a-vis Hindus. "

In his extensive ruling covering the illegalities of the SBE and the merits of the texts, Judge Patrick Marlette's first decision was to reject outright an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief that a coalition led by Friends of South Asia (FOSA) attempted to introduce. According to its website here, FOSA sponsors activities that seek to "build Indian communism and fight the agenda of the global ruling class." The group worked with some non-Hindu and avowedly anti-Hindu groups to file the brief together.

A six-page rebuttal from the HAF legal team to the FOSA led effort argued that the amicus brief did not provide "any substantive legal nor adequate factual support for the assertions contained in their proposed brief, relying instead on materials that are not properly subject to judicial notice, as well as several irrelevant and highly objectionable declarations."

Judge Marlette agreed with HAF and refused to consider the brief. With that ruling, FOSA and other anti-Hindu groups were effectively shut out of the entire legal process and their allegations played no part in the judge's ultimate ruling. HAF leaders expressed surprise that some journalists sought out FOSA members to comment on the ruling when their anti-Hindu stance was ignored in the judge's ruling.

"Hindu parents worked hard in California to bring on par the representation of the religion they practice with the presentation of other major world religions in the textbooks," said Swaminathan Venkataraman, a member of the HAF Executive Council. "While FOSA's devotion to communism may force it to repudiate all religion, it is ironic that they reflexively opposed only Hindu efforts in the name of 'secularism'--completely ignoring major revisions to sections covering other faiths prevalent in South Asia including Christianity, Islam and Judaism--and tragic that it also ran an ugly communal campaign by co-opting non-Hindu groups to openly oppose Hindu parents and students." Sections of the texts on the other three religions were significantly modified in response to comments from the Institute for Curr iculum Services, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Council on Islamic Education.

HAF leaders also criticized again the SBE process that illegally allowed Michael Witzel, a professor at Harvard University who teaches linguistics, to accuse only Hindus of sectarianism and act as a reviewer even after Professor Shiva Bajpai, Professor Emeritus of religion and history from California State University-Northridge had already reviewed the proposed edits and corrections to the textbooks.

"Allowing Prof. Witzel to poison the process with his ugly accusations of sectarianism was only the first error in an illegal SBE process," said Shukla. "With this ruling, Hindu Americans have collectively demonstrated that we will never again accept unequal or discriminatory treatment instigated by the overt hostility of a cabal of anti-Hindu academics. Hindus must insist that a panel of professors who actually teach, and in many case s even practice Hinduism, such as those that supported HAF in the lawsuit, must be included in the process over those that are antagonistic to practicing Hindus."

Academics who supported HAF's contention that there are significant inaccuracies and discrepancies in the Hinduism section of the textbooks included a past president of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and current co-chairs of the Hinduism Unit of the AAR.

Thanks to Swaminathan Venkataraman for a lucid message at California Textbooks Case - A reply to Mr. Witzel and Mr. Rajagopal


The first four URLs, listed below, provide a fair report on the CA Superior Court's judgment on sixth grade textbooks. The report is unanimous: The process adopted was illegal and the textbooks are flawed. The judge recommends that HAF and CDE/SBE should work out a fair procedure to redress the illegalities.


There are two key issues:


1. Curriculum content

2. Who decides?


While the deliberations will be ongoing related to the curriculum content and the guidelines or procedures related to determination of the content of the school textbooks, the CA Superior Court judgment should be seen as an episode in the ongoing Hindu Civil Rights movement. Civil Rights movement it is, because, it involves the 1 st amendment (Freedom of expression and religion), 14th Amendment (Non-discrimination on the basis of religion or ancestry) and Article 42 Association Clause of the US Constitution (Non-discrimination on the basis of association). Using 'hindutva' as a derogatory term is a direct violation of Art. 42 Association Clause. The movement has thus to be proceed through many systems: legal, and political systems and also by involving the society of American parents concerned about the transmission of values to the younger generation through the education system consistent with the practices and traditions venerated for generations in family, farm and social or community festivals. The right of the Hindu community to get involved and be heard in matters related to curriculum content and fair depiction of hindutva (Being Hindu, Essence of Being Hindu) as a component of the civilization studies to which the students are exposed through the grades of the educational system.


One of the declarations admitted by the CA Superior Court judge was that of Prof. Nathan Katz. Hindu tradition places enormous emphasis on responsibility, vratam and hold that rights flow from due performance of responsibilities. Hindu term adhikaara flows from the performance of responsibilities. Prof. Nathan Katz made a comment that only the insider has the adhikaara to state the Hindu tradition and what is involved not mere historical chronicling but a compassionate understanding of the meanings of cultural metaphors.


I would invite a reference to the last URL which deals with teaching of 'religion' in many schools. An excerpt follows: " One exception is Modesto, Calif. For the past five years, all ninth-graders have been required to spend nine weeks studying major world religions. The course begins with a segment on the First Amendment and religious liberty in the United States, then describes in succession, though not comparatively, the beliefs and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The semester's other half covers world geography; apparently, students should know about seven spiritual continents as well as the physical ones. In a rare example of empirical research in this area, Modesto's experience has been studied by Emile Lester, a visiting professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and Patrick S. Roberts, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Their report, "Learning About World Religions in Public Schools," is available from The First Amendment Center's offices at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Surveying approximately 400 students with 75 written questions before and after they took the world religions course in the fall of 2004, the researchers found that after the course, students expressed modest increases in their already strong support for religious liberty and their weaker support for other First Amendment rights like freedom of speech and assembly. The course increased students' basic knowledge about world religions and stimulated student interest in learning more about major faiths. After the course, students were far more likely to view all major religions as sharing "basic moral values." But this increased appreciation of similarities among faiths "did not contribute to religious relativism or encourage students to change religious beliefs," the researchers write. Students did not conclude that "differences between religions are negligible or that choices about religion are arbitrary whims." In fact, later in-depth interviews with a sample of students showed that students' personal faith was more likely to be invigorated than enervated."


During the proposed deliberations between CDE/SBE, it is the responsibility of HAF, Hindu parents and the Hindu community to re-affirm the cardinal principle enunciated as a guideline that the children studying the educational material should get instilled with a sense of pride in their heritage and to reclaim their civil right to get involved in transmitting information on Hindu traditions and value system to the students.


The task has just begun; the CA court judgement is but one milestone in the ongoing Hindu Civil Rights movement involving over 2.3 million Hindu Americans (according to the 2005 survey figures). Hindus are contributing immensely to the American society and economy and their voices have to be heards. Hindu textbooks flawed but retained Judge Admits SBE Flaws, Upholds Calif. Textbooks,00050001.htm US court retains flawed Hinduism textbooks Underground processes, hostile academics California public schools teach about religion




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