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New York: Led by hundreds of high school students, teachers, parents of Indian kids in American schools and “outraged” grandpas and grandmas, more than 20,000 people have signed off on a stinging letter protesting the recommended changes to California state textbooks from Grades VI to X that could eliminate crucial historical references to India.
Calling this the “largest civil rights movement of Indian Americans in the last 40 years” Dr Vamsee Juluri, who teaches media studies at the University of San Francisco, says the struggle here is for all Indian Americans who represent the “last remaining legally and professionally sanctioned victims of racism.”
Getting diasporans to lobby for national interests is usually hard but here is a case where the next army of millennial voters is speaking out in a country with a swiftly changing demographic. Asians and Latinos are the two fastest growing ethnic groups in the US where the share of white voters is going down year on year.
India’s diaspora, which is about 25m strong, has traditionally been a means of projecting soft power and burnishing the country’s image. Now, that cohort is stepping on the gas.
— Vamsee Juluri (@VamseeJuluri) March 19, 2016
Petitioning the California Board of Education, Juluri writes: “You seem to have been taken for a ride! You cannot seriously expect California’s educational system to be respected anywhere in the world if you go ahead with your recent decision to delete all references to “India” in middle school history lessons and replace this word with the geopolitically motivated Cold War era relic of a phrase “South Asia.” Would you presume to deny the reality of India’s existence and history, and its deep significance to Indian American students in California, simply because a few misinformed professors of ‘South Asia Studies’ wrote you a letter recommending you re-educate California’s children in this bizarre manner?”
This is not simply about Hinduism, it’s about world history textbooks and what we are teaching our 6th graders, Juluri clarifies.
The suggested changes to the framework could appear in sixth-to-tenth grade textbooks in California beginning in 2017 but the war cry is already getting heard and the education board is showing signs of backing off, says Juluri.
“Shocking”, “absurd”, “Let India be India, just like you are not changing America’s name” are the theme of thousands of responses on the online petition.
Indians on America’s west coast have long been wrangling with such “distortions” but what makes the #CaliforniaTextbooks fight to stand out is that it is the first time students are leading the charge for the Indian community’s representation in American public life and discourse.
Many parts of California — especially Silicon Valley, the 50-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose, are expressions of iconoclastic freedom and phenomenal productivity. Now, with a student-led movement on behalf of the Indian diaspora, Indian Americans may well have a new brag tag in the West – civil rights.
Firstpost spoke with Dr Vamsee Juluri in San Francisco. Below is the full text of the interview.
Politically, where is this coming from?
The entire argument of the South Asia faculty has been that whatever they’re doing is progressive and intellectually rigorous and is for a liberal South Asian ideal. They have been assuming this mantle and portraying all Hindu parents and students and community groups as Hindutva and extremist and revisionist. So that’s the weird thing. Politically, one would think we should be on the side of the faculty because they’re for the good stuff and the other side is fanatics. But in practice, the South Asia faculty action is very distorted and inadvertently even.
So, how do you differentiate, what is the defense against the ‘fanatics’ tag?
I’ve been following this for 10 years and been looking very closely at what people are asking for and it is very very clear that this is a huge popular uprising. This is the Indian American civil rights movement – the California textbooks. After 40 years of Indians being in America, they’ve not participated in any big Indian-American civic process — everybody comes settles down, gets a job and builds temples. But this (California textbooks) is a huge engagement with American civic life. The community is getting this act together – when it started out, there were a few small religious groups but it’s gotten a lot better in the last few years although not fully there yet. You cannot describe the changes they are asking for as fundamentalist because they are rational and reasonable. On the other side, the South Asia faculty have gone from a position of a questionable nature to complete absurdity. They have made a lot of changes that are selfself-contradictory extreme.
Their report goes into 12 pages, would you say some recommendations are more “extreme” than others?
When you say there was no India (before 1947), you are erasing an entire generation’s ability to identify with their heritage. Now, when you erase Hinduism and say there was never such a thing as Hinduism and at the same time you retain references to Hinduism and India when it comes to caste oppression, it’s bizarre, you’re crushing people into silence. So what kind of a political agenda does erasing India serve? Let me put it like this. Long term, if the legitimacy of the existence of India is denied like this…if you say that India started to exist only from 1947, I think it serves some very nefarious agendas.
Nefarious agendas…could you offer a specific example?
There was a line in the 7th grade curriculum about how just before European colonialism, India and the Muslim world experienced great prosperity. The South Asia faculty got that line changed to this – the Islamic civilization as a whole stretching from Mediterranean sea to the Indian Ocean region experienced prosperity. So what have they done? They have made it seem that before the British came, India was just a part of the Islamic civilization. They have not acknowledged the Vijayanagara empire here or the fact that India was both Hindu and Muslim at this time. So it serves a revisionist agenda where geo-politically, in 10-15 years, if this kind of thing continues, and it’s already happening, if it starts brainwashing 6th grade kids like this, people are going to start thinking there was never an India, and it also starts to revive weird partition-era arguments questioning the legitimacy of India’s independence and existence except as a “possession” of the Mughals and the British.
What is this South Asia faculty? Who are these people suggesting edits?
These are not unknown professors. They teach South Asian history or literature, post colonial studies. There are about 15 professors who have signed off on the recommended changes and the first letter was submitted under the lead name of Kamala Visveswaran — all well known scholars. Unfortunately, they are not realising that whatever their positions are in the field can and should be debated in conferences and graduate level courses and scholarly papers but to rush them into the minds of 6th grade children without considering the situation on the ground is not right – they are dismissing all push-back as fundamentalism. This is a debate that should have taken place on the sidelines of the school process well in time to have evolved into appropriate school-level recommendations.
South Asia itself is a cold war formulation – are the “scholars” confused between the geographical scope of area studies and the historical realities of large powers like ‘India’ or ‘Hindustan’?
That’s right. The term South Asia was coined out of geo-political considerations in the cold war period by the State department. In Universities, South Asia became a way of organising an inter disciplinary order for faculty in different departments working on that region. But this way of imposing South Asia and taking it back 5000 years is bizarre. Even within South Asia studies, there will be, say, a China center but nobody wants to erase their own identity — is any scholar of Chinese history going to send letters saying let’s remove the mention of China and say just East Asia?
How long has this been going on?
I first heard about this in 2005. A lot of the South Asia faculty were saying that Hindu extremists are trying to rewrite history in Sacramento. I initially took it at face value, even the Wall Street Journal was writing about it, I thought maybe these Hindu groups were talking about teaching California students that ancient India invented pushpak vimanas stuff. On closer study, I realised that they were not. It was actually the textbooks that were full of myths and old colonial fantasies full of mistakes and racist condesension towards India and Hinduism. The Hindu groups were for the most part were being respectful and asking for common sense things. Many communities face this kind of thing but they are able to cobble together strong community led movements and get it corrected.
I’m quoting from a letter you’ve appended to the petition…”Meetings were contentious, heated, outside parties jumped in and lawsuits were filed…” Who are these outside parties?
I think Bajpai and Arumuganathaswami have done the maximum work on this but they’ve been branded as right wing. In 2005, when the Hindu parents told the Department of Education that there were problems, they were initially sympathetic and happy to let Bajpai correct these things. The Board pretty much agreed to whatever Prof Bajpai recommended but at the last minute, a Harvard Sanskrit professor rebranded the whole thing as Hindutva extremists saffronising history. I am told that a lot of people were flown in to destroy Bajpai’s case.
Again, my first question…so what’s driving this?
Since I am located here within academia and I am familiar with the work of a lot of these scholars, I think their intentions are genuine and they really think that they on the side of minorities but the changes they are asking for are contradictory to their stated goals. The bigger problem is that what has happened in America as far as we Indians are concerned is that you have these far left academicians who are Marxist and subaltern studies kind of people who have been co-opted by extreme right wing forces from other politico-religious formations. So you have left wing South Asian academics doing things which serve the interests of certain other groups advancing intolerant (they think no other religion but theirs should exist) and imperialist (they think their nation’s destiny is to restore their great religion-based world empire) agendas. Otherwise, there’s no real principle or precedence to what they are doing. Nobody’s changing the name of Greece or Rome or China so why India?
Is that because we don’t push back hard enough?
Americans in general have to have some factual understanding of Indians.
Other minority communities have invested intellectually, economically, politically in changing the old colonial misrepresentaions of them. You’ll find people on mainstream TV fighting Islamophobia, a lot of studies have been done on how Arabs are portrayed in the movies, anti-Semitism. But the academicians who study India rarely do that because they think India and Hinduism are the problem. They don’t see a need to speak for India or Hindus, as a whole, as if Indians and Hindus don’t include the poor and marginalized communities in them too. If America does not understand India correctly, the last bastion standing against some violent and intolerant extremist forces that are sweeping worldwide will fall…then we’ll know how progressive South Asia studies can be!
So, what after the petition?
Two days ago, there was a meeting of the Instructional Quality Commission and what they did was to kind of acknowledge some of these changes have really upset people and they reviewed a lot of things. Several of the suggestions of replacing India with South Asia were rejected. So now, they’re going ahead with the somewhat weird situation where they’re going to use the word India but use the word South Asia in brackets next to it. So the struggle continues.The board of education has to stop getting pushed by one group of academics like this and realize that this is basically a disputed position in academia. Denying that India and Hinduism exist may be a fashionable fancy and even an aggressively dominant view in academia but then there is a growing movement consisting of other scholars who are batting for facts and commonsense here and demonstrating how self-contradictory, baseless, and far-fetched some of these majoritarian views are.
Are you saying you are in the minority?
Of course, today if we stand up and say India and Hinduism existed before 1947, people in academia shun you for it. The good thing is that in 10-20 years, it may change… it is becoming increasingly clear to many in the scholarly community that the currently dominant “South Asia studies canon” is just a rehashed version of 19th century German Indology that distorted the entire history of India and came up with this formula that Germans and Indians sort of had the same ancestry called the Aryans. The whole edifice of South Asia studies resistance to questioning Aryan stuff in Indian history lessons is just that. The South Asia studies dogma thinks Hinduism as it exists is Hindu nationalism/extremism! But the real question for scholars to explore now is: is South Asia studies as it exists now really just a reinvented form of colonial orientalism?
How palpable is Indophobia?
Indophobia is a systematic intellectual distortion in history books and in the media, I don’t mean it at a personal level. It’s not open like anti-black racism in the 50’s or even something seen palpably in everyday life perhaps in most parts of the United States. But it is real, and it will have consequences if left unaddressed for India and for the world. So one of the course corrections I am trying to do for the textbooks movement is in making it engage with not just Hinduphobia but Indophobia too, for this is something that concerns all Indians and not just Hindus. The textbook movement started out with a religion focus I think not necessarily because Hindus spearheading it wanted to exclude others, but simply because of the perceived way in which American society responds to minority/immigrant identities better if it is framed as “religion” rather than as nationality perhaps. But one thing should be clear to everyone following this, and perhaps getting misled by all the old news stories they may find about “religious extremism” and such. This is not a religion studies curriculum we are talking about, but world history, and India’s place in it. It concerns all Indians and Indian-origin people around the world now.
(The article was originally published in firstpost.com)
Amitabh Bachchan is adored by the public for his unforgettable on-screen performances as well as his magnetic demeanour. Not only do fans love Amitabh Bachchan's outstanding performance, but the actor's heartwarming words are also highly regarded. A much moved Amitabh Bachchan, during his speech to the crowd of over 80,000 people at the Reliance Industries' annual event, said that the legacy left by Dhirubhai has had a positive impact on millions of people's lives worldwide.
When Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan became bankrupt in the late 1990s, Dhirubhai Ambani stepped forward to give him financial assistance. In his speech, Bachchan remembered that Dhirubhai had sent Anil Ambani to offer him financial assistance during the crisis, which he had respectfully declined. Lenders began knocking on his door, losses mounted, and his bank account dwindled to nothing. He said, "Dhirubhai's money might have gotten me out of the problem quickly. However, I respectfully declined his offer and gradually began to find work again, which let me pay off my debt."
Amitabh Bachchan is adored by the public for his unforgettable on-screen performances as well as his magnetic demeanour. | Flickr
Later, after Bachchan had recovered from the bankruptcy, one day he was invited to an event at Dhirubhai's residence; Bachchan added, "Dhirubhai was standing and having a chat with his industrialist friends when he saw me there, he called me, firstly I felt shy even to present myself in front of such big industrialists but then, I went there, and Dhirubhai declared in front of all of them that 'This young man had fallen but managed to get back up on his own, I have a lot of respect for him because of that.' Those words of his were worth much more to me than any amount of money that he could have offered me."
It was the "Reliance Family Day" event and was attended by members of the Ambani family from all generations. The event commemorated the company's 40-year journey since its inception. It also celebrated the 85th birthday of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, RILs (Reliance Industries Limited) founder.
Keywords: Bollywood, Reliance, Amitabh Bachchan, Dhirubhai Ambani, event
In comparison to adults, children are prone to getting traumatized by troubling events easily, and this makes it important for parents to help their children when the times are tough. It could be a brutal accident, an unprecedented pandemic, a violent crime, or other disasters but with the right parental support, children have a higher chance of coming out stronger from an awful situation.
Anuja Kapur, Psychologist shares few tips wherein you can assist your child when tough times comes calling:
Every child responds differently to disturbing events: What children feel about a current disaster in their life and how they react to it can come and go in waves. Children can act moody and withdrawn at times, struck with sorrow and fear at other times. There's no absolute "right" or "wrong" way to feel after a traumatic event so make sure not to dictate what your child or how your child should feel and react to the event.
Children can act moody and withdrawn at times, struck with sorrow and fear at other times. | Photo by Kat J on Unsplash
Encourage your child to be transparent: Just make sure you let your child know that whatever feelings they're experiencing is normal. The unpleasantness will pass if your child opens up about it and that the phase is temporary. While many teens may be reluctant to talk about their feelings with a parent, encourage them to confide in another trusted adult such as a family friend, relative, or a counselor and teacher. It's important to talkeeven if it's not with you.
Just make sure you let your child know that whatever feelings they're experiencing is normal. | Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash
Deter your child from reliving the disturbing event: Dwelling over, watching the footage, or imagining the event can be overwhelmingly stressful for children and this stress can even block their nervous system. However, to negate such things from happening encourage activities that keep your child's mind occupied so they're not obsessive about the event. You could encourage your children to read, play games together, or simply watch an uplifting movie.
Dwelling over, watching the footage, or imagining the event can be overwhelmingly stressful for children and this stress can even block their nervous system. | Photo by Юлія Дубина on Unsplash
Cocoon your child with warmth: In order to reassure your child that they are safe with you and feel secure, that the worst is over your physical affection is important in making them feel safe again. Teens may try to be tough through it and avoid being held, but they still need the proximity.
In order to reassure your child that they are safe with you and feel secure, that the worst is over your physical affection is important in making them feel safe again. | Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash
Maintain routines. Establishing a predictable structure and schedule for your child's life can help to make the world seem more stable again. Try to maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family activities. Make sure your child accommodates time and space for rest, play, and fun. Keeping up with a schedule can help countercheck the obnoxious feeling of stress and worry in children about the future being dark, hopeless, and unpredictable.
Try to maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family activities. | Photo by Paico Oficial on Unsplash
Acknowledge and validate your child's concerns. The disastrous events in life may give place to unrelated fright and concerns in your child. However, understanding and accepting your child's present state is a comfort for the child. If at any point the child blames himself for the event make sure to make it clear and crisp the event was not their fault, you love them, and it's okay for them to feel upset, angry, or scared but not guilty.
Understanding and accepting your child's present state is a comfort for the child Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence on Unsplash
Irrespective of the age of your child, it is vital for parents to offer that extra support and assistance following an unsettling event. The traumatic event may bring up unrelated fears and issues in your child. However, by accepting their thoughts and replacing their fear with your love and direction, the ominous feelings will start to fade away. Eventually, the child will be able to return to a normal and healthy life. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Kids, Help, stress, cope, routine, warmth, understanding, encourage, psychology, children
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union (EU), has announced plans for smartphone and other electronics manufacturers to fit a common USB-C charging port on their devices in an effort to reduce waste. In addition to phones, the rules will apply to other devices like tablets, headphones, portable speakers, videogame consoles, and cameras, reports The Verge. The decision will have a huge impact on Apple, as the company still uses its own Lightning connector to charge iPhones. The proposals only cover devices using wired, not wireless and a USB-C port is only mandatory for devices that charge using a cable.
"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices | Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash
"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that," the report quoted EU commissioner Thierry Breton as saying.
The Commission also wants to unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices, which it says will improve the consumers' convenience. "With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics - an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste." In addition, the Commission will require manufacturers to provide relevant information about charging performance. (IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Electronic Devices, Chargers, Cable, smartphone, Adapters, Charging Cord