We Never Erased the Word 'Dalit' - Hindu American Foundation

We Never Erased the Word ‘Dalit’

By May 25, 2016 November 7th, 2019 One Comment

In the month leading up to last week’s Instructional Quality Commission meeting, the Hindu American Foundation was repeatedly accused on social media by some activists that HAF had specifically requested the word ‘Dalit’ be removed from the California textbook frameworks. An image was circulated on Twitter (copied below) showing the passage in question, connecting it with an email submission from HAF Director of Education and Curriculum Reform Murali Balaji and HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla, with the entire passage reproduced with strikethrough text and the word ‘Dalit’ circled. It was made to appear that HAF itself wanted to quite literally strike out Dalits.

dalit diva misrepresented HAF edit image

As with the case of our powerpoint presentation on the history of caste and efforts to eliminate discrimination based on caste, social media posts have been based on a misrepresentation of HAF’s actions and intent.

There is some discrepancy in numbering because the CDE staff compile all the comments received, but the content of the passage in question is in lines 686-693 of the PDF titled “Frameworks2014-Round1CommentsHAF”. The screenshot below is of the lines from that document.

HAF never erased Dalit image

For clarity, the original section in question reads:

“As in all early civilizations, Indian society witnessed the development of a system of social classes. The main categories, known as varnas, were priests; warriors; farmers, artisans, and merchants; dependent laborers; and by 500 CE or earlier, dalits, or “untouchables.”…”

HAF commented, on the first section: “This statement notes the development of a social system — thus of jatis. Varnas refers to a different concept;” on the middle section, immediately preceding the mention of “dalit,” “‘or earlier’ adds unnecessary ambiguity — how much earlier?”

HAF suggested rewording of the first section focused on making clear the distinction between varna and jati: “As in all early civilizations, India society witnessed the development of social classifications. In India two different systems existed — one described in scripture and one which developed in society. The first, called the varnas, were based on the Vedic ideal of society being classified by temperament and described in scripture. The four varnas were the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants), and Sudras (laborers). A different social system called the jatis, based on one’s occupation, also developed in ancient Indian society. Overtime, the jati system was associated to and conflated with the scriptural concept of varna and became complex, formal, and even hierarchical.”

As for HAF’s suggested rewording of the middle section, absolutely no elimination of the word ‘dalit’ exists. The suggested rewording is simply to eliminate the words “or earlier,” replacing them either with “by 500 CE” or by “(at the latest) 500 CE.” No erasing Dalits. No erasing of history. None.

The words behind the strikethrough are those of HAF, but where the strikethrough version of this document originates we cannot say. At no time has HAF asked for the removal of mention of Dalits from the frameworks. It is possible that the Subject Matter Committee added strikethrough in that passage to highlight our suggested rewordings. However, as should be clear from HAF’s submission on record, none of the changes suggested by HAF actually involved the word Dalit.

To restate HAF’s position: Caste discrimination is a grave social problem, one which we have consistently condemned and one which should be countered whenever and wherever it occurs. Such discrimination occurs today not only in the Hindu community, but also in Buddhist, Christian, Jain, and Sikh communities throughout the Indian subcontinent. Caste discrimination is in direct contradiction to the eternal and essential Hindu teachings found in shruti (Vedas, Upanishads, etc.) that each individual is equally divine and has the potential to realize God based on their own effort.

Read more: Hinduism Not Cast in Caste | Statements against caste-based discrimination by leading Hindu spiritual teachers


One Comment

Leave a Reply

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/2/2022Gandhi Jayanti

Gandhi Jayanti marks the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ for India and the Indian Diaspora. To honor Gandhi’s message of ahimsa (non-violence), volunteer events and commemorative ceremonies are conducted and statues of Gandhi are also decorated with flower garlands. Gandhi and the satyagraha (truth force) has inspired many of America’s most prominent civil rights and social impact movements and leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez. The United Nations declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence in honor of Gandhi, whose work continues to inspire civil rights movements across the world.

Examining the Impact of Mahatma Gandhi on Social Change Movements

Why we should not tear down statues of Gandhi

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple