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Hindu Nationalists and California’s History Curriculum: Pepper Chongh

Guest Post by PEPPER CHONGH

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak once asked us to consider that the histories of people at the margins are constantly in competition with dominant histories– that when a marginal woman speaks in dissent, the narratives of more powerful social groups can silence or supplant others.[1] This concept is at the heart of controversies around the revision of history textbooks throughout the world. It’s at the heart of the current debates on South Asian history in the California public school curriculum, up for revision this year.

In 2005-6, U.S. wings of Hindu nationalist groups named together as the Sangh Parivar[2] (the Sangh) attempted to insert changes into California’s 6th grade history textbooks. Rewriting history is one of the Sangh’s political projects toward the realization of a Hindu nation, where upper-caste Hindus dominate and benefit from all aspects of society to the exclusion and subordination of all other groups. The 2005-6 effort follows another in India in 2002-2003, when the successful insertion of Hindu nationalist histories into Indian textbooks resulted in a protest walkout by education ministers from 16 states and a scholar-led suit filed before India’s Supreme Court to block the new textbooks. In 2006, South Asian scholars and minority and other progressive activists defeated the U.S. Sangh in a public clash.[3] The California State Board of Education (SBE) rejected most of the Sangh’s edits, leading the Sangh to file two lawsuits against the SBE, both of which lost on claims of discrimination against Hindus. Continue reading Hindu Nationalists and California’s History Curriculum: Pepper Chongh