Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus has, to date, refrained from weighing in on the debate surrounding the representation of Hinduism in California textbooks. We have not had enough information to make substantial recommendations. However, as a progressive Hindu organization active in the United States, we feel it is important to comment on this matter in light of the "Don't Erase Caste" petition produced by the South Asian Histories for All Coalition. Sadhana rejects attempts to erase or minimize caste in accounts of Hinduism. Caste is an ongoing controversy in Hindu and South Asian religious and social life today.
Part of our work as progressive Hindus is to dismantle caste discrimination within Hindu and South Asian communities. A first step toward this is publicly acknowledging the historical realities and social legacies of caste today. We have taken a firm stand on this issue with our caste statement and apology. As with many other faith-based organizations, Sadhana supports textbook narratives of religious traditions that are historically grounded in empirical research but remain sensitive to practitioner perspectives. This is especially important for followers of minority religions in the US context of emboldened white and Christian supremacy. We will comment more thoroughly once we have acquired and studied copies of the actual textbooks and can make comparisons on how Hinduism is represented in comparison to other faith traditions. We call for parity in addressing patriarchal practices and other social injustices and conditions of inequality in all the religions included in the California school curriculum.
Hindu fundamentalist histories do not represent Hindu histories. Sadhana is signing the "Don't Erase Caste" petition because we fully reject revisionist histories that seek to produce a sanitized vision of Hinduism’s past. The brutality of caste and its historical relationship to Hinduism cannot be avoided in honest discussions of South Asian history and religion. We recommend the inclusion of egalitarian Hindu movements that historically struggled against caste, such as Bhakti and woman-centered forms of Hinduism.
As progressive Hindus, we believe students should be trained to critically reflect on the complexities that have shaped religious and social life in South Asia, the US, and the world at large. Sadhana endorses this petition and dreams of a caste-free egalitarian future.