California is now the epicentre of a controversial issue which has been simmering on the backburner for a while. It revolves around replacing the word “India” with “South Asia” in the History Social Science Frameworks (Syllabus) in California’s Middle School textbooks. Should the subcontinent be referred to South Asia or India, especially in the historical sense?
They believe that India did not exist before 1947 and want a stereotypical “South Asia” to be used for almost all discussions of Indian history before 1947.
Besides this there is controversial over how lower castes, minorities, and women are portrayed.
The decision to retain the word India was in accordance with all the long historical references to the region which concluded India began at either the Indus River (mostly in today’s Pakistan) or the Hindu Kush Mountains (in today’s Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Can-India got two distinguished South Asians to discuss this issue.
From Bharat to India and now replacing India with South Asia
India- or Hinduphobia is so deeply embedded in the Western academia that controversies keep on arising year-after-year. Earlier, an attempt was made to characterize Hindus as people worshipping statues in the textbooks in California.
Now, the year 2016 begins with an attempt to replace India with South Asia by influencing a change in the textbook content with far-reaching consequences on the mind of young students. Indeed, a small group of South Asia studies faculty have asked the California Board of Education to change the History Social Science Frameworks so that the word “India” will be removed and replaced with “South Asia.” They argue that India did not exist before 1947 and want a stereotypical and concocted generalization like “South Asia” to be used for almost all discussions of Indian history before 1947.”
The argument ignores the very definition of India. The Indian constitution itself states that “India that is Bharat”, it is not without reason because Bharat identifies with Indus Valley civilization. The contributions of Bharatiya civilization to world thought, the
source of spirituality, are unparalleled in the history of humankind a la famous British author of ‘Civilization’ Kenneth Clarke. So, not only did India exist before 1947 but the very name India is a derived from its original name Bharat. Who is not aware of the great scripture “Mahabharata”?
In part, India itself has to be blamed for not having restored its original name Bharat that would have allowed it to continue its legacy of its glorious civilization. Just to name a few – Rigveda is the oldest book that humankind possesses; Sanskrit is the mother of Indo-European languages; the Vedantic philosophy; the world first intellectual order and world’s first democratic society with Inbuilt Dharmic traditions, plurality and multiculturism etc.
It does not make academic sense to erase a civilization tied to a geography related to Indus Valley, India, Indian subcontinent and Indian Ocean.
Every people in every geographical location have a right to their identity. An attempt to label people of Indian origin as South Asian is to destroy their identity and their very long history that no people anywhere can allow. It is not about image protection as some have argued but about “who they are as people? Their identity? Their proud rich heritage?, the very ‘know thyself’ that gives them their place, space and time within world community tied to their real history, heritage and geography.
The argument with regard to other countries within the Indian subcontinent does not make sense as all these people have a shared history and a shared future with India being the cultural, spiritual and economic centre of gravity. The South Asia is no substitute or just no connect.
These academics engaged in generating such distortions in the name of scholarship need to move away from primitive blurred optics of Hinduphobia to a higher level of consciousness and awareness where wisdom alone can lead them to sublime heights. No more the powerful will write the history they like, it will be the power of civilization that will determine its own future in this age of information and social media. If an educational system defies this reality, it will be its best enemy and without a future,
Azad K Kaushik, community leader, thinker and professor
One cannot obliterate historical facts
Not mentioning India in the delineation of ancient history is not only a disservice to India, but amounts to denying a great privilege to the world at large.
The words of knowledge that included advanced science and mathematics, along with medicine, engineering and the other forms of applied science, all embedded in the essential prerequisite human condition of peace, harmony and respect for the other, spread from India all the way to China and Japan in the East, and Greece in the West, starting in the BCE days. Hindus and Buddhists of India carried the words of wisdom to the world. In the medieval times barbarous, fundamentalist attacks on the country from the Middle East took place repeatedly. In modern times the colonial attacks on India from Europe tore into the foundation of the country. Still, the spirit of India lives on, through all the attempts of destruction, and the country is alive with a message for the ravage-torn world of today, following which the world has a chance to survive. It is the message of peace, and the technique to incorporate it in life for oneself and for all. India, on her part, never launched an attack outside her own boundary. She never tried any political moves on other countries in history. Deep and universal spiritual-cum-ethical thoughts on the other hand have travelled from Hinduism in India far and wide, away from any proselytizing designs. Down the ages, Hindus and Buddhists and Jains have given shelter in India to victims of religious persecution and genocidal attempts: the Jews, the Zoroastrians and others, without their facing any pressure for conversion to the religions of the soil. This is unique in the history of the world. Such is the specialty of India. Today, in the name of secular liberalism, which incorporates leftism, attempts are on to eliminate what remains of the true India after long suppression of the land by fundamentalist rulers originating from the Middle East, and more recently, the colonial power(s) from Europe. The name ‘India’ is too unique and precious to be missed in the history books where world history is discussed. Neo-colonial political designs must fail in the face of truth, honesty as well as justice pertaining to the depiction of history of the region.
Dr Sitansu Chakravarti is a retired professor from the University of Toronto