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Communication from Vishal Agarwal 

Contrary to pompous claims being made by Professor Witzel, it is his side that has been 'defeated'. The board passed the final motion today to accept the document recommended for approval on Feb 27 but with FOUR amendments:

1. On One Supreme Being: Wherever the words 'gods' or 'goddesses' have been used in the texbooks, 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 in Hindu Dharma, we believe in One Supreme Being that manifests in many forms. It is false propaganda on the part of FOSA etc to say that VF/HEF were trying to inject 'monotheism' into Hinduism, when a cursory look of the textbooks would indicate that they already acknowledge the fact that Hinduism talks of one Brahman and various 'gods' and 'goddesses' are 'parts' or 'aspects' of  that Brahman (many textbooks actually have entire sections explain the concept of Brahman). This amendment proposed by Dr Johnson, and the accompanying edits merely reinforce the existing narrative of these textbooks, and also highlight the best of Hindu traditions.

2. AIT as a Controversial theory: President Glee Johnson directed all publishers to add the note that AIT is a controversial theory that is not accepted by many scholars.

3. Respect for Hindu Holy Books: All sentences where 'poems', 'stories' etc are used for the Vedas will modified and the word 'scripture' will be used instead.

4. Resolving Contradictions: Glee Johnson acknowledged that there were contradictions on the recommendations made by the Board, and these will be resolved. From the indications available from her in the form of media interviews etc., (which I need not elaborate upon because we should wait for their official final document), this may result in approximately 12-15 additional edits resolved in an acceptable/favorable manner. This should take care of a lot of material in the textbooks that unnecessarily relate the origin of Hinduism and varna system to the hypothetical Aryan invasion

In sum, Dr Bajpai had earlier accepted more than 90% Hindu edits. Witzel led CRP accepted only 37%. On Feb 27, the SBE accepted completely or adequately 70-75% of Hindu edits (depending on how one counts them). And finally, with  these four amendments, we expect that overall up to 80-82% of Hindu edits will be accepted (again, the range indicates that the actual acceptance percentage involves subjectivity in calculations).

So it is clear who has 'lost', and who has 'won'. I will do an analysis to show later that Witzel's claim notwithstanding, the coverage women rights and Dalit rights in these textbooks have not improved to any significant  extent due to his intervention. If anything, his intervention has robbed Emperor Ashoka of his famed religious tolerance, and has allowed the textbooks to retain caricaturist and innaccurate definitions of Ayurveda, Yoga etc. Contrary to his claims that he has defended the Dalits, I have shown that he accepted 6/7 Hindu edits related to untouchability. Likewise, of the 3 edits related to women, he accepted 1 completely (which removes the negativity from one book completely), and 2 with modifications (that considerably tone down the original text anyway). Hindu edits relating to women rights actually did not touch most of the material of the textbooks anyway. A complete correction of these books was impossible in the first place due to the restrictive nature of edit rules. Finally, Witzel CRP rejected one of the edits of HEF but agreed to a text according to which the 'regional languages of India are derived from Sanskrit'. This robs the independent status of Tamil (HEF edit 44) and it is a pity that 'scholars' have overlooked this important fact.

It appears that the Board became acutely aware that the group of Dalits representing even Evangelist and Sikh organizations were actually trying to back-project today's issues into India's past. This is why it has decided to stick to its decision to approve 6/7 edits related to untouchability (and thereby approve Dr Witzel's agreement with Dr Bajpai also in these 6 cases), and has mandated the use of the word class for 'varna'. This group of Dalits came today as well and delivered in many cases the SAME speeches that they had made last week.

I would like to thank dozens of Hindus who laboriously and with great dexterity, provided copies of authoritative textbooks and journal articles to the Board members very promptly, and this surely made them decide in our favor, despite the innuendos of politicians masquerading as academics. As a Hindu, I would also like to thank more than 100 academics that wrote to the Board in our favor repeatedly, even as recently as this week. Their dignified and scholarly letters elaborating on academic matters related contentious matters in this controversy were in marked contrast to the rhetorical garbage that the Board received from the other side. Credit is also due to the hundreds of parents who sent in their support to Hindu edits to the Board. Per my information, more than 250 parents sent their approval  signatures in just the 10 days before the Feb 27 meeting. This demonstrates the extent of support in the community and the fact that our opponents (whose names we see often in connection with political activities) are a fringe group, despite their characteristically high decibel campaign. Frank
Pallone and Kumar Barwe wrote in our support, as did many mainstream Indian American organizations such as the National Federation of Indian  Associations (NFIA) to my knowledge.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the fight was on our community edits, and the opponents of Hindu Americans had nothing to lose. It was a 'war of attrition' for us. Hence, anything less than 100% acceptance of our edits is a loss to us. Therefore, I would fully support the HAF in case they do decide to go with a lawsuit. The fact does remain that the entire process was derailed by the gratuitous intervention of a group academics, some of whom have made very prejudiced remarks against our community. The Board should not have been party to this calumny, and even when they realized it finally, it was  already too late. The speech of Steve Farmer today too was very hilarious (worse than that of Feb 27), and the last laugh will be made by someone else

The Board members nicely stated that textbooks cannot be perfect, and that parents will henceforth play an important role in educating the teachers and  their county officials. My personal recommendation is for parents to approach their children's school teachers, and request rejection of certain textbooks such as those of 4 publishers namely McGraw Hill Glencoe, McGraw Hill MacMillan, Holt and OUP because these are worst. Teacher's Curriculum Institute and Pearson-Prentice Hall books are the best.

Alan Bersin acknowledged that the heritage and culture of India is very rich, and no textbook could be perfectly correct in representing our rich and diverse civilization. He stated (as did another Board member), that the entire controversy made them learn a lot about Hinduism, and I think we should thank HEF and VF for spreading awareness of Dharma amongst the Board
members. It is the light of Dharma alone that can dispel the darkness of  falsehood, and as the national motto of India, quoting the Mundaka Upanishad, says

satyameva jayate' ('Truth alone triumphs').

Let us however take this controversy as just a beginning, because justice and fairness in describing Hinduism in textbooks should be the norm in all states of the great nation that we have chosen to reside in. Those who are threatening that 'Texas will be a greater mess 2 years from now', will face even tougher opposition there because the Hindu American community of TX has already started gearing up for quite some time now, and has been historically very well organized for over a decade. In fact, CA Hindus should acknowledge the very valuable help extended to us by them even in this controversy.

Just two days ago, three of the greatest current scholars of Tamil grammar in Tamil Nadu, India faxed a long handwritten letter to the SBE supporting the efforts of HEF/VF. It is individual acts of love such as these that has helped us tide this situation to a great extent. But again, this is just a beginning, and we need to multiply our efforts to spread awareness, and the light of Dharma so that each community in this land of the free can enjoy their freedom, and appreciate each other's heritage as if it were their own.


Vishal Agarwal





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