California Department of Education (Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division)

On Nov 8-9, 2017, the California Board of Education will vote to finalize how the history of South Asia is taught in our textbooks.

Every ten years California’s Board of Education does public reviews of its history and social science curriculum, inviting academics and community members to weigh in on what California children will be taught.

This public process has now become a battleground for Hindu fundamentalists to Erase the Facts from South Asian History!

Since 2006, organizations like the Hindu American Foundation, the Hindu Education foundation, the Uberoi Foundation, Capeem and have invested thousands of dollars into concealing the basic historical facts about Hinduism, including the origin of caste in Hindu scripture. At the same these Hindu fundamentalist organizations are also creating misleading historical fictions to support their religious agenda. This includes adding the mythological Saraswati river to the Indus valley civilization, portraying the origin story of Islam in the subcontinent as one only of conquest, and erasing the struggles of Buddhism and Sikhism against Brahminism.

The stakes are extremely high, because California and Texas textbook markets set the standards for the rest of the US.

In response, a diverse coalition of inter-caste and inter-faith South Asian Americans came together to fight for accuracy and inclusion. We are Dalits, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. We are of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin.  We want the state's textbook guidelines to include caste, to remove Islamophobic references, and to depict all faiths of the subcontinent and ancient South Asia accurately.

The Department of Education agreed with us on many key points, and their revised guidelines were submitted to textbook publishers. The textbook publishers were supposed to create brand new textbooks based on these guidelines, but they made several egregious errors, especially in relation to caste, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and the Indus Valley Civilization.

Many of the textbooks don't match the official framework guidelines and it is clear that the Hindu Fundamentalist organizations have been lobbying and using backdoor negotiations to undermine framework decisions that have been democratically fought for.

The semi-final textbooks have now been submitted for public review by several publishers, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, National Geographic, and Pearson's.

We request that the California Board of Education and the textbook publishers respect historical accuracy and the State of California’s curriculum framework by doing the following:

  • Remove references to the mythical “Sarasvati River” from any descriptions of the Indus Valley Civilization.

  • Retain the Indo-Aryan references to migration.

  • Retain explanation of caste in every textbook.

  • Ensure that the explanation of Caste should be accompanied with a pyramid, and not misrepresented as a non-hierarchical structure of social division.

  • Make clear Hinduism’s connection to caste—this is not a debatable fact, and needs to be made clear in every textbook.

  • Remove wording that implies : Dalits “prefer to do unclean work”- instead make clear that they were “forced into unclean work”

  • Remove any wording that implies caste promotes social stability or the benefits of caste. We do not argue about the benefits of slavery, similarly caste apartheid carries the same gravity.

  • Remove all references to the derogatory word ‘Harijan’

  • Where revolutionary anti-Caste work is concerned, In place of Gandhi —we would ask you to replace with the Dalit Leader and writer of the Indian constitution B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit leader from the Dalit community.

  • Depict Buddhism and Sikhism as their own distinct religious traditions arising from the need to challenge Brahminism and social inequalities like Caste.

  • Add to the depictions of Islam in the subcontinent its introduction beyond conquest, including the spread of faith through Sufi saints, and through trade.

This is a critical moment for all of our communities. Our children deserve to learn an accurate factual history not a Hindu fundamentalist world view based on fiction.

We invite all who believe that our children should learn fact-based history, with evidence from rigorous established scholarship from across California and beyond to sign our petition to the California Board of Education by NOVEMBER 3rd, 2017


The South Asian Histories for All Coalition- are a coalition of teachers, students, parents, and community members.

We include Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis; Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, and atheists. We are multi-racial and an inter-caste alliance that centers the stories of all the religious and cultural communities in South Asia. And we believe California students deserve a balanced and fact-based history, not a partisan history.

We believe that all histories - including that of California and the United States - comprise facts that may be difficult and complex in hindsight, but must be understood in order to build a stronger democratic future for our children. We do not support the manipulation of historical facts for the purposes of pushing a fundamentalist religious-political agenda.

Petition by
B.R Ambedkar
oakland, India

To: California Department of Education (Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division)
From: [Your Name]

We, The South Asian Histories for All Coalition are writing in support of the Instructional Quality Commission’s commitment to continue to review all changes to the CA History-­Social Science Framework through a fact-based, evidence-driven process.

The South Asian community is not monolithic. We are a diverse community from many faiths including Ravidassias, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, and Atheists. We also represent the many countries of South Asia which include India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Maldives. And while the board has heard testimony of Hindu children and parents who feel factual portrayals of the origins of Early Hinduism lead to bullying and hurt feelings, this is not a view held by the majority of our communities.

In fact the signers of this petition are writing because we oppose the attempts of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), Hindu Education Foundation(HEF), Uberoi Foundation, and California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials (CPEEM) to erase our lived history from our textbooks simply for the sake of such hurt feelings.

In far greater numbers, there is incontrovertible evidence that women, gender non-conforming communities, and Dalits in India are still severely impacted by caste-apartheid, islamophobia, gender-based violence, and these struggles are far from over. It is crucial that our children correctly understand the history of the struggles of our peoples, in order for us to move forward together as a critically thinking and well-informed community.

Caste is an almost 3000 year-old problem that impacts hundreds of millions of people across South Asia in the form of atrocities against ‘lower’ castes, denial of justice, and structural exclusion from food, water, housing, jobs, and pathways of social mobility. However, the story of caste apartheid and the resistance to this system of oppression from Buddhism, Sikhims, and Islam is one of the most powerful historical lessons in world history.

Can you imagine teaching about the founding of the United States and not discussing slavery and those who fought against it? Or teaching the history of California and not teaching about Spanish conquest and the genocide of indigenous communities? The erasure or downplaying of caste from the origin story of Hinduism is equally significant. Talking about caste oppression and the resistance to it is a powerful story of resilience that offers powerful opportunities for California students to learn.

We want all of our children to learn fact-based history in all its complexities, that lays the foundation for an even more just and democratic future. We believe children are empowered in emotional resilience and maturity when thoughtfully exposed to the complex lessons of history. And the South Asian region is rich with such lessons.

We thank the board’s commitment to a rigorous fact-based review of the textbook framework and urge you to use the combined weight of scholarship and conscience, to support evidence-based history and social science textbooks for our children.

Further we urge that the textbook publishers follow the scholarship not the lobbying of Hindu Fundamentalist to erase the facts from our history.

We also call upon the California Board of Education to recognize, as we do, the importance of this moment, and reject the historical inaccuracies and political maneuvers of organizations like the Hindu American Foundation, the Hindu Education Foundation, and the Uberoi Foundation.

Thank you,