In a typical case of American imperialist hubris of rewriting the world’s history, a small group of South Asia Studies faculties recently asked The California Board of Education to change the “history of social science frameworks” syllabus causing the word “India” to be removed and replaced with “South Asia”, as they believe India did not exist before 1947.
This proposal has been met with indignation and incredulity by Indian academics the world over. Prof Vamsee Juluri a professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco has taken up the cause on behalf of all those who find this rewrite unwarranted and politically motivated.
Prof Juluri asked in his letter – “If this is indeed correct that ‘India’ is not an accurate term for India before 1947, how is it possible that the word ‘India’ has been in usage in some form or another from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans? Did Columbus go searching for ‘South Asia’? Are the islands of the Caribbean Sea called the ‘West South Asianes’ instead of the ‘West Indies’? Was it the British East ‘South Asia’ Company that led colonial trade and exploitation? Was it the ‘South Asian Ocean’ which constituted the centre of the world’s largest trade network before the rise of the modern Europe? Do you write, perhaps, with ‘South Asian’ ink?”
The new draft was issued in last fall, and the two sides have been battling it out since then.
“Indian-Americans are a successful community, well settled in American life and creating companies and jobs, building bridges with the new and old country through culture and business, and yet we have only recently woken up with a start to realize that we don’t own our history. In California, and even in India, 68 years after independence, we were still being taught a repackaged version of scholarship that was current in, say, the 1890s!” Prof Juluri wrote in a statement on Teaching Approaches and Experiences he submitted to the California board.
Many experts in the know argue that this change is aimed at diluting India’s position in the region.
This is not for the first time that such a controversy has erupted in California. Around 11 years ago, many academics and activists had objected to the portrayal of Hindus and history of Hinduism in textbooks. There were academic protests, and even a lawsuit last time. This time, people are speaking up through an online petition.
Prof Juluri has put up the online petition asking the CBE to reconsider their decision and it has already gathered more than 10000 signatures in a short period of time. Many prominent historians and indologists have signed the petition and the same is getting widely circulated in various social media platforms.
In response to an email sent by this author, Prof Juluri mentioned that he is also undertaking a separate scholarly outreach for the same issue, and will put up the letter sent to them in media soon.
For those who wish to read about it and sign the petition please click on this link.