In a 126-page document, the subcommittee including members of the Board of Education and staff of the Department of Education recommended the state approve some 70 changes proposed by the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, the two groups leading the charge to rewrite Indian history in social studies textbooks used in California schools.
But the state rejected proposed revisions from the organizations on thornier issues polytheism, women's rights, the caste system and migration theories which have ignited a passionate debate among scholars and the Indian community over the interpretation of Indian history.
The state curriculum committee is scheduled to consider the edits at a public meeting Monday at the California Department of Education building in Sacramento. Attorneys for the Hindu American Foundation indicated Thursday that they intend to file a lawsuit against the state Department of Education if the state Board of Education approves the edits as proposed at its meeting on March 8-9.
"If the state approves the changes exactly as they are, then I think we'd take legal action because the procedures were fatal-
ly flawed," said Suhag Shukla, an attorney hired by the Hindu American Foundation, citing some 18 to 20 edits and contending the board failed tocomply with state regulations in its review and approval process. "We feel there are at least three or four key areas where the books do not present Hinduism accurately and respectfully."
While most of the edits appear to clarify and simplify complex issues of Indian history, other recommendations include replacing "caste" with "class," and adding "some historians believe" on historical references.
But the state rejected revisions by Hindu groups to replace statements that "men had many more rights than women" with "men had different rights and duties than women," opting instead to change the text to read "men had many more property rights than women."
Critics of the proposed revisions of conservative Hindu groups include Michael Witzel, a Harvard professor who served as a content review expert for the state. He said the state should have accepted more recommendations from the content review panel.
"Many of us think that a clear definition of class (varna) and caste (jati) has to be included," said Witzel in a statement to the board. "Castes are clearly attested and defined."
Angana Chatterji, an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a spokeswoman for Friends of South Asia, said she was pleased that the board rejected what she sees as attempts by Hindu groups to put a nationalistic "Hindutva" spin on history.
But she said the textbooks do not go far enough to highlight the diversity of belief, practice and tradition within Hinduism with regard to polytheism, the status of women and the caste system.
"I would strongly underscore that Hinduism is polytheistic," Chatterji said. "The principal disagreement I have with these (Hindu) groups is that I don't believe that Hinduism should be rendered as monotheistic. Hinduism is a diverse set of practices that encompasses both social and political aspects, not just a religious one."
Just as the insertion of creationism in textbooks has created a stir among Christians and scholars, the Hindu edits have each side accusing the other of deliberately distorting the truth.
In addition, the Texas-based Vedic Foundation has hired a public relations firm, Ruder Finn, to publicize the names of supporters and call for an independent commission to review the edits, corrections and revisions.
Anjali Patel, a founding member of the Hindu Education Foundation, accused the state of discriminating against Hindus by printing "false history in textbooks."
"Surprisingly, the state Board of Education has taken the matters of (the) curriculum commission (into) its (own) hands by diverting their own procedure," Patel said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that they are reconsidering the changes approved twice. I hope to see (an) end to further discrimination to minorities."
For more information on the proposed edits, visit the California Board of Education Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag.