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Nobody wants to erase India from textbooks. Here’s the real deal.

Nobody wants to erase India from textbooks. Here’s the real deal.
How should students learn about India in California schools? (Dibyangshu Sarkar/ AFP/Getty Images)

Is India being "erased" from California's history books? No, it's not.

But some 22,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the state from changing "India" to "South Asia" in its social studies curricula. A group of academics from schools including the University of San Francisco and Columbia University, and Hindu groups like the Hindu American Foundation, have signed on.

The State Board of Education is currently updating California's history and social science curriculum, and the petition is reacting to submissions in the public comment process that would replace some instances of "India" with "South Asia" and address Hinduism differently.

That request spurred a backlash from Hindu academics, leading to the petition that reads: "School students in California will be forced to learn that there was never an 'India' unless you act!"

https://twitter.com/VamseeJuluri/status/704839368574263296

This is not what is happening. The group that originally suggested the changes calls itself the South Asia Faculty Textbook Committee and includes South Asian scholars from Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University and UCLA, among others.

They do suggest that in some places "India" be replaced with "South Asia" because some of the area discussed currently belongs to Pakistan.

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In a letter dated Feb. 24, the group responded to the the backlash: 

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FOR THE RECORD

April 2, 8:52 a.m.: An earlier version of this article indicated the letter was also a response to the petition. It was not; the petition began after the letter was written.

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"We wish to clarify that while 'Ancient India' is the accepted usage among Indologists, in other fields, pre-modern South Asia is the common term of reference. Since there is no standardized usage across fields, it is difficult for us to recommend a single standard term for use in the curriculum framework. After careful review, we have settled on a context dependent approach for the use of the terms, 'Ancient India,’ ‘India,’ ‘Indian subcontinent’ and ‘South Asia,’ as we explain in the edits. The use of terms like 'Ancient India' and 'India' in the current version of the draft framework, particularly for grades 6 and 7 is at times misleading. Although 'Ancient India' is common in the source material, when discussing the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), we believe it will cause less confusion to students to refer to the “Early Civilization of South Asia or “Ancient South Asia” because much of the Indus Valley is now in modern Pakistan. Conflating “Ancient India” with the modern nation-state of India deprives students from learning about the shared civilizational heritage of India and Pakistan."

The California History-Social Science Project takes public comment into account as it amends the framework and presents it to the state Board of Education. The group did adopt many of the faculty textbook committee's recommendations, and the Board of Education is scheduled to review the changes in May.

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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