India textbook change decried

A group of 41 scholars, including several Indian-Americans from across the US, have written to the California Department of Education opposing plans to change "India" to "South Asia" in textbooks.

By TT Bureau in Washington
  • Published 18.05.16
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Diana Eck of Harvard University

Washington, May 17 (PTI): A group of 41 scholars, including several Indian-Americans from across the US, have written to the California Department of Education opposing plans to change "India" to "South Asia" in textbooks.

Signed by distinguished academics like Barbara McGraw of Saint Mary's College of California, Diana Eck of Harvard University and Gerald James Larson of Indiana University, the letter called for a "representation of India and Hinduism that is consistent with the manner in which other cultures and religions are portrayed, and one which avoids Eurocentric biases".

In the letter dated May 5, the academics, who are part of the Social Science and Religion Faculty Group (SSRFG), termed the recommendations to use "South Asia" in place of ancient India "anachronistic" and "not historical".

A copy of the letter accompanied a statement.

They argued that the term "South Asia" is a post World War II geopolitical designation to account for the break-up of British India.

The academics said that textbook narrative "refers to all other ancient geographical areas by their ancestral terms China, Japan, Egypt, Greece, etc". Only "India" is recommended for a change".

Earlier this year, the California Department of Education's Instructional Quality Commission had proposed to accept several changes to the textbook framework suggested by another group of academics calling themselves the South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG), the statement said.

The suggestions included replacing references to "India" before 1947 with "South Asia" and "Hinduism" with "ancient Indian religions. The group was led by Kamala Visweswaran of University of California, San Diego, and Robert Goldman of University of California, Berkeley, it added.

In the letter, the SSRFG questioned these edits and said the SAFG's views did not constitute scholarly consensus as claimed by the latter.

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