Hindu American Foundation Updates Community on Progress in California Textbook Issue

Date: February 4, 2006

SACRAMENTO, CA - Approximately one month after the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) retained the law firm of Olson, Hagel and Fishburn, LLP of Sacramento, California to represent the Foundation in its interactions with the California State Board of Education (SBE), HAF today gave a progress report to its membership. The group also launched the “HAF Legal Defense and Education Fund Drive” as the foundation sought to prepare in advance of a potentially extended legal process.

HAF retained the firm when it became clear that the California State Board of Education was changing criteria and improvising its process in dealing with the recommended Hindu edits. The Vedic Foundation (VF) and Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) originally proposed these edits while certain individuals, known for their unflattering views of ancient Hindu civilization, attempted to undermine the procedures to force their own perspective. The SBE has announced that a new committee will review the relevant issues and make a final recommendation some time in March 2006.

“We are pleased that our firm has established communication at numerous levels of the SBE to ensure that the process afforded to Hindu groups to provide recommended edits is not compromised by motivated sectarian and partisan political groups,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., legal counsel of HAF.

Conceding that the legal options will require extensive financial resources, Shukla hoped that the Hindu American community will support HAF’s work in this area through the fund drive. “We know that the community is closely following the developments in California as it touches the life of every one of our children and generations to come. We will announce the final outcome as soon as we know, but I believe it is prudent to not publicly detail our legal progress at this sensitive juncture to allow our attorneys to complete their critical work.”

Over the last month, HAF garnered letters supporting the proposed changes from several educators of Hinduism studies, Hindu spiritual leaders, temple boards and practicing Hindus. Numerous major news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, covered the issue in prominent articles over the last week.

Casting a political light on the controversy were far left, non-Hindu groups such as Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and Christian evangelical groups such as the Dalit Freedom Network. Both groups have not otherwise been active in U.S. based issues. These, and ideologically similar groups have demanded that the sixth grade textbook coverage of Hinduism and ancient India be based on the controversial Aryan invasion theory; that the social evil of caste discrimination be presented as a part of the Hindu religion; that Hinduism be presented as polytheistic only; and that women be presented as inferior to men.

“It is truly unfortunate that groups that are avowedly non-Hindu, or worse yet, seeking converts from Hinduism, have turned an honest attempt by Hindu parents to improve textbooks into a political drama,” said Mihir Meghani, M.D., president of HAF. “But Hindu Americans will simply no longer tolerate Hinduism being depicted as nothing more than caste and cows and continue to suffer the physical and psychological abuse these stereotypes perpetuate.”

HAF leaders remain optimistic that the final recommendation will be favorable to Hindu Americans based on the outpouring of support they have received. Still the group asked members to continue to write to the California SBE and created a link on its web site to simplify the process.

“The Hindu community must not let this moment pass without its voice being heard and HAF will continue to work with other groups that ensure that it is heard loud and clear,” said Shukla. “But if the California SBE fails to follow its own process and guidelines in this matter, we are preparing for a lengthy legal process. For this we need the support of all Hindu Americans."