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California education board to compensate Hindu-American parents

Last updated on: June 10, 2009 12:07 IST

An organisation of Hindu-American parents, which had filed a law suit against California education board alleging that information about Hinduism was distorted in the school text books, has decided to withdraw its litigation in an out of court settlement.
    
The California Department of Education and the State Board of Education have agreed to pay US $ 175,000 to the California Parents for the Equalisation of Educational Materials (CAPEEM) – the organisation formed by Hindu American parents – to fight the case against the California State.
    
"Believing that its points had been clearly understood by the defendants, CAPEEM opted not to prolong the litigation.
The State entered into negotiations with CAPEEM and agreed to pay CAPEEM US $ 175,000 in exchange for a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit," CAPEEM said in a statement.
    
CAPEEM had filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of Eastern District of California in 2006. It had challenged the process by which religious claims were incorporated into the  textbooks used by public school students, as well as some of the religious claims, themselves, which had made their way into those texts.
    
"CAPEEM looks forward to participating in a review process free from biases, and to work with the State to approve textbooks that do not favour or disfavour any religious doctrines," the statement said
 "We are a group of parents residing in the state of California. We are deeply concerned about the indoctrination of Abrahamic religions and the negative descriptions of Hinduism in the History and Social Science textbooks of our state," the CAPEEM website said.
    
"For decades, the California public school system has presented insufficient, inaccurate and misleading information
about various religions to young Americans. These issues must be addressed urgently," it said.
    
CAPEEM said Hindu parents in California participated in the adoption process and conveyed that the proposed textbooks
contain factually incorrect information about ancient India and Hinduism while repeating derogatory, colonial-era clichés
and perpetuating Eurocentric and Biblical views. Rather than consider the viewpoints of Hindu parents and experts on ancient Indian History and Hinduism, the California Board of Education, solicited the advice of hostile academics who carry political and ideological baggage against Hinduism and India and whose knowledge of ancient Indian  history and Hinduism is both limited and prejudiced, it alleged. Consequently it filed a law suit in 2006.
    
In its lawsuit CAPEEM charged that Hinduism is not treated on par with other religions in these textbooks. Positive aspects of ancient India and Hinduism are ignored, while Euro-centric, colonial and Biblical views are given prominence in the textbooks, it said.
Whereas Christianity, Islam and Judaism are presented from the believers' perspective, Hinduism is presented from the non-believers' perspective, CAPEEM alleged.
    
In its lawsuit, CAPEEM said the civil rights of Hindu school children are violated by advancing an inaccurate and derogatory picture of Hinduism in sixth grade school textbooks. The California Department of Education and State Board of Education meetings on the matter failed to address Hindu concerns. Hindus are being discriminated against, it alleged.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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