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India or South Asia – The HAF campaign

“Early Civilizations of India” or “Early Civilizations of South Asia”

There’s an ongoing debate in California over how to portray ancient India in academic curricula for grades 6 and 7. Some want it to be South Asia while others are insisting on renaming it to India. However the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) wants the whole region to be called as India.

  • The debate is all about whether the region which comprises of modern-day India, Pakistan and Nepal should be referred to India or as South Asia.
  • This debate over Indian subcontinent is evolving into a strong fight. Depicting the fastest-growing Asian population in the United States this can be seen as a reflection of ongoing transformation in California’s population.
  • Various petition drives and social media campaigns such as #DontEraseIndia have been triggered by this raging issue. Students believe that anything other than India will be like erasing their Indian heritage.

South Asian culture, Wikimedia commnons
South Asian culture, Wikimedia commons

  • Tom Admas (Deputy Superintendent of the California Department of Education) said that they want children of California to understand all the religious groups.
  • Mentioning to the fact that in universities such as Harvard the term South Asia is used for the academic unit dealing with the Indian subcontinent, Political scientists (current scholars of India) have preferred to use the term South Asia rather than India.
  • Nathan Glazer (one of the sociologist professors at Harvard) said “They could not conceive of it as South Asia. They knew it as a distinctive civilization, stretching from the Indus to the Ganges, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, with its own ancient languages, and classic texts and religions descended from them. He further elucidates that South Asia is being used to avoid offending to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Hindu American Foundation (HAF) wants the whole region to be called as India and insists on explaining the caste system as a part of the region, not as a Hindu practice. According to them, the caste system is not universally accepted in India.
  • However, a group of scholars has challenged HAF the historical accuracy of their view. According to the former group, HAF is trying to sanitize any link between Hinduism and Castes. Therefore, they want it to be renamed as South Asia.

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  • Vidhima Shetty (a high school student) further says names are what define us people and using the term South Asia is like asking us to change our name. Removing India as a term from the textbooks leaves Indian-American children with no ethnic or cultural identification to turn to. When we acknowledge ourselves as South Asians, us Hindus are forced to re-identify ourselves as something we are not
  • Almost 2.5 million Indian Hindus live in the United States. This textbook debate arose when the United States Instructional Quality Commission introduced a new framework for the Kindergarten to the Class 12th social science curriculum.
  • Intellectuals are worried because the textbooks that are made on California’s framework are followed elsewhere as well. The commission has also heard from Filipino, Korean and Mexican advocates.

South Asia definition, Wikimedia commons
South Asia definition, Wikimedia commons

  • Suhag Shukla, an executive director of the HAF who also initiated the social media campaign said “Early Civilizations of India” could be “Early Civilizations of South Asia”. This is an issue not only about accuracy but also cultural competency. HAF was not trying to deny the fact that caste exists, but arguing only that tying it to Hinduism was unfair. Every religion has some form of caste and discrimination
  • Another statement came from Mr. Hansen that “This group has a lot of interest in calling everything Hindu and Indian so that it can equate modern-day India with historic roots. But it’s absurd. It would be like calling Ancient Rome Italy. Our duty is to make sure that the history is keeping with the scholarly research rather than give into what a particular group wants “.
  •  Recently a statement came from Mr. Adams that “In the midst of the back-and-forththe commission is trying to strike a balance.

Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata. A simple person who tries to innovate and improvise himself. Twitter handle @pritam_gogreen

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