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Dear Professor Witzel et al,

Thank you for cc’ing your letter to me. I am returning the favor to point out that your math is fuzzy: over 70% of the edits requested by the Hindu educational foundations were approved. 70% is not a rout or a "Crushing Defeat"…30% is not a victory to gloat over. The changes that were approved were the ones that practicing Hindus felt were the most important, which included these four:

  1. Wherever the words 'gods' or 'goddesses' are used in the textbooks, they will be replaced either with 'deities', or with 'Gods' and 'Goddesses' (with upper case G). This establishes that the Board now recognizes the fact that Hindus believe in one Supreme Being within and beyond creation... one God that manifests in many forms.

The Hindu citizens who requested changes to their children’s textbooks did not ask that Hinduism be labeled a monotheistic religion. Hinduism is not monotheistic. We all know that. Monism is a more apt label…transcendent and pervasive. It is an error on Prof. Witzel's part as well as a great source of humor for him, when he says that HEF and VF asked that Hinduism be described as monotheistic. They did not.

  All anyone has to do is read through the suggested edits, issued by the SBE, to see that the Hindu groups have never claimed that Hinduism is monotheistic. We all know that practicing Hindus believe there is one transcendent pervasive “God” behind the "multiple manifestations of the Infinite". You may call it polytheism in the Ivory Towers, but in their hearts, Hindus understand it as Monism--not polytheism or monotheism. Why persist in calling Hinduism polytheistic when it is really monistic?

2. Regarding the AIT, the Hindu parents did not ask that this theory be erased from the textbooks. To infer this is another error. As can be seen from the official documents published by the State Board of Education, HEF and VF only requested that another sentence be added which states “AIT is a controversial theory that is not accepted by many scholars.” Glee Johnson, the president of the SBE, directed all publishers to add that sentence. [more victory than "defeat", eh?]

The Aryan Invasion Theory is very controversial, and the textbooks should reflect the dynamism of changing historiographical paradigms. Since this issue has been bandied about, once and for all, please take note that the Hindus in California only requested that their children's textbooks include current historiographical research, and that they are multi-perspectival and inclusive. Ironically, Prof. Witzel wrote in Outlook India: "The Hindutva lobby will undoubtedly persist in their efforts even if they are stopped in California. The fact that there are very culturally biased and insensitive passages regarding Hinduism in many textbooks provides their alibi."  [Kristallnacht anyone?] (Please note: I am Jewish, I am Hindu, I am Black, I am a Sufi... to go after my brother, you'll have to go through me first....)

3. Another important SBE approved change included:
In all sentences where 'poems', 'stories', and "myths" are used to describe the sacred texts of Hinduism, instead, as requested, they will be modified, and the word 'scripture' will be used.

4. Glee Johnson, the SBE president, acknowledged that there were contradictions on the recommendations made by the Board, and these will be resolved.

Re: Crushing Rhetoric:

Please note that Dr. Bajpai had earlier accepted more than 90% the Hindu edits. During his hostile intervention, Dr. Witzel accepted only 37%. However, on Feb 27, the SBE accepted completely or adequately 71-75% of Hindu edits. In sum, Dr. Witzel accepted only 46% of HEF edits whereas SBE has accepted 80%. Dr. Witzel accepted only 27% of VF edits whereas SBE has accepted 62%. Overall, Dr. Witzel accepted 37% Hindu American edits, but SBE has accepted 71%. Where is the "Crushing Defeat"? Entangled in rhetoric...

Significantly, though the narrative about Hinduism in secondary level textbooks has been full of errors and stereotypes for generations, at a public meeting with a Dharma group at Harvard, Professor Witzel admitted that this was the first time that he has involved himself in correcting the biased textbooks that have been full of mistakes for decades. Why didn’t he care? Please see:

The venomous attack mode that Professor Witzel employed precluded any collaboration. Rather than an alarmist professorial attack on Hindu-Americans, cooperation between practitioners and scholars would certainly be more productive in solving the glaring problems regarding how Hinduism is described in Junior High and High School textbooks. The bias and errors are pervasive.

Please see the following newspaper article for a different view-point:

  Panel approves textbook changes
Hindu groups satisfied with corrections to Vedas, Aryan invasion wording
By Jonathan Jones, STAFF WRITER

The state Board of Education voted Wednesday afternoon to adopt proposed revisions to the depiction of ancient India in sixth-grade history textbooks.
In approving the changes, the board rejected further review of the descriptions of women, the caste system and Hindu theology. But the board directed Tom Adams, executive director for the Curriculum Commission, to contact publishers to correct inconsistencies and change the wording with regard to the Vedas, the oldest and most sacred Hindu texts.

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.
After the meeting, members of the Hindu Education Foundation expressed satisfaction that the board had made some concessions, though they did not accept all of the proposed revisions.

"Actually, I think we got a lot of things," said Sunnyvale resident Khanderao Kand, a member of the foundation. "They're going to correct a lot of the contradictions, clarify statements of the Hindu concept of deities, and add a statement about the Aryan invasion. So we've made some progress since last week."

Shalini Gera, a spokeswoman for the Coalition Against Communalism, which opposed many of the revisions, said her organization would reserve judgment on how the directives affected the wording in the textbooks.

But she said she was pleased overall with the board's action Wednesday, especially with its decision to change the wording of God and Goddesses to deities, which she said better reflects the diversity of beliefs within Hinduism.
Before the board's decision, Mihir Meghani, president of the Hindu American Foundation, said his organization was close to filing a lawsuit against the state seeking a detailed review of the board's approval process.

In a March 3 letter to board members, Deborah B. Caplan, an attorney with Olson, Hageland Fishburn retained by the Hindu American Foundation, said the foundation was extremely disappointed by a state subcommittee's decision to unanimously approve revised edits despite four hours of passionate debate among scholarsand the Indian diaspora regarding the interpretation of Indian history.

"It was apparent from the complete lack of deliberation, that the 'public hearing' portion of the meeting was a complete sham and that the critical decisions had been made in advance of that meeting," wrote Caplan, adding that it is her contention that all actions taken since the Dec. 2 Curriculum Commission meeting have been in violation of the law.

Meghani could not be reached after the Wednesday meeting for comment on whether the board's action may affect the Hindu American Foundation's decision to seek litigation.

Before the meeting, critics of the Hindu groups, including the Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism, held a news conference to publicize a letter from 17 state legislators urging the board to reject attempts by Hindu groups to sanitize gender and caste inequalities from ancient Indian history.

The board's decision is the culmination of 10 months of debate regarding the historical accuracy of textbooks about ancient India.
In late summer, the Texas-based Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation sent hundreds of proposed revisions.

While many of the revisions corrected inaccuracies, others sought to soften the language on polytheism, the caste system and the status of women. The Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation contend the revisions are necessary to ensure that Hinduism is accurately described and not presented as inferior to Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

But critics, including various scholars, contend the groups are trying to put a Hindu spin on history and whitewash India's past. Each side accuses the other of deliberately distorting the truth.

In conclusion, I would like to share this observation:

I was stunned to read in his article that Professor Witzel was the founder of the website. It is a hodge-podge of slanderous assumptions that have no substance coming from nowhere and going down a nasty mud-slinging path that does not address issues but denigrates and negates. On the indiatruth website, Hindu is a four-letter-word.

My name is listed on the website as some sort of conspiratorial murderess. I sent the following letter several times to the two email addresses associated with that ridiculous website and no one ever responded. It seemed as if whomever assembled the website was intellectually challenged. I figured that they were a bunch of politicized cranks trying to smear those who are investigating alternative paradigms and/or are creating a milieu in which Hinduism is more accepted and better understood. Then in Outlook India Dr. Witzel wrote that he had founded that webpage. He is the crack?

Witzel twists the facts and makes spurious analogies... really rather frightening... He accuses the Hindus of North America of being Hiina (or lost and confused) and he uses "furious if not predictable slurs" against Hindus, such as "Nazi", "Hitler", "Racist", "Muslim hater", "Race Traitor", "Christian hater", "Creationist", and "obscurantist murders".

No one ever answered my letter to indiatruth, whom I dismissed as crack-pots who winnow information until they satisfied their dubious theories:

From: Yvette Rosser <>
Subject: Please note my other significant associations

   To the people who created the web site,

I saw references about me on your website and I would ask you to please add links to my other significant associations:

I am a founding member of The Global Pashtun Institute for Peace and Democracy, a nonprofit organization working for the realization of the following objectives:

     *  Support and strengthen peace, democracy and stability in Afghanistan initiated under the Bonn Process by the United Nations and the Coalition;
     *  Press for democratic, human rights and legal-administrative reforms in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan;
     *   Support and conduct non-partisan research, educational, and informational activities about the language, history, culture, economy and politics of the Pashtun people;
     *  Impart skills, training and education to the Pashtun youth to avoid their falling into the hands of extremists and militants propelled by obscurantist ideologies;
     *  Raise awareness about issues of ecological and environmental concerns to the Pashtun people and the international community;
     * Improve human rights situation among Pashtuns, particularly women and children rights and;
     * Increase international understanding of the language, culture, history and society of the Pashtuns.

In addition, I am a founding member of The G M Syed Memorial Committee 
•  To educate the international community about G. M. Syed's message of non-violence, democracy, secularism, and the right to self-determination for Sindhis and other oppressed nations.

•  To sponsor the following programs:
•  Organize community outreach events to celebrate the life and work of G. M. Syed.
•  Give awards recognizing the exceptional contributions of activists, scholars, and leaders who are striving to achieve peace and justice for the Sindhi nation, or who have promoted awareness about the Sindhi language, culture or people.
•  Promote the teachings of G. M. Syed through the publication of reports, books, research articles, and other works, and the dissemination of these works on a website.
•  Establish G. M. Syed Memorial Centers around the world.
•  To advocate and support other organizations promoting human rights, religious tolerance, environmental responsibility, equal rights for women and religious minorities, as well as conflict resolution and peaceful initiatives in Sindh.

I am on the advisory board of the Baacha Khan Research Centre in Baacha Khan Markaz, Peshawar; and founder of the Badshah Khan Peace Initiative (BKPI), a worldwide movement to promote the life's teachings of Abdul Ghaffar Khan/Frontier Gandhi. The main priority of the BKPI is to correct the flaw in standard historical treatments of the Subcontinent, in which Badshah Khan has been expunged from history. Our goal is to amend the historical record so that he is included along side Mahatma Gandhi in our children's textbooks.

Friends at, since you have taken the time to list my name, please be sure to include my other very important associations supportive of Pashtuns and Sindhis.

I am also cofounder of the International Day Without Violence:

Additionally, instead of links under my name that lead to articles by others in which I am not even mentioned (duh, what it this?), please add links to my actual writings:

Please update the information about me on your website. Perhaps, the broad spectrum of my interests and commitments does not jive with your narrow, negative view of me, but be brave and break the mold and add these links to reflect my other activities. Thank you very much.

All the best,
Yvette Rosser

PS On your web site I see that Hindu is a four letter word.

To whomever was cc’ed on this letter, thank you.
And please note that South Asianists and Sanskrit scholars cannot flood the moats and raise the drawbridges to keep practicing Hindus at bay. There seems to be a fear in the Ivory Towers that the academic study of Hinduism is being high-jacked by Hindus. The key words to solve the dilemma are cooperation, collaboration, and respect.

Move over, the future is here. Cease and desist the arrogant, academic battle regalia and start the interactive dialogue.

All the best,
Yvette C. Rosser,
PhD – Curriculum and Instruction
MA & BA South Asian Studies

PS Undoubtedly, my email will bulge from the yahoogroups in which I am not a member such as Indo-Eurasian_research, RISA, and indology. In support of fairness, if members of those groups, who receive this reply to Prof. Witzel's letter, would please forward it to the group, I would be appreciative.

Thanks again!

The Groan

02/10/09 13:05:16 -0800.



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