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Grant for Hindu Studies Turned Down by US University

Feb 26, 2016 13:06 IST

    The University of California Irvine (UCI) amidst the heavy ongoing protest amongst the scholars and students have finally decided to turn down the $3 Million grant, that it received from an Indian American not-for-profit body named the Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF).

    The foundation and its grant was reviewed by a faculty committee and upon the reviewing they have decided to abort the tow chairs of Hinduism and Indian studies with immediate effect in the university. The committee is also considering reviewing two other chairs which are Sikhism and Jainism. Stopping grants for these chairs would additionally burn a hole of another three million dollars.

    The Foundation was associated with four chairs in the university from 2015 and roped in a total of six million dollars in gift. It has over 1000 Indian American donors in the country. The foundation before funding the chairs has given money for projects at UCI, which focused on Hinduism and Indian culture. The move was criticized by both scholars and students, demanding academic freedom from the norms set by the foundation. The committee which gave its review over the foundation said that the foundation is “extremely ideologically driven” and have “extreme right-wing notions”.

    The review made it clear that there will be no negotiations with the foundation and there will be no renewal of the foundation grants in any terms. The review pointed out that one of the objectives of this foundation was to make Hindus study Hinduism; because they thought that the non-Hindu scholars were misrepresenting the religion. It came out from the opposition of the academic community. According to a petition signed by professors from Yale, Cambridge, Harvard and other universities it said, “We are troubled by news reports that the DCF has put forward its own list of acceptable candidates based on race and religion. Further, we are concerned about reports that the DCF has already brought their favored candidates to the UC Irvine campus, in the absence of any advertised search for these positions.”

    Kalyan Viswanathan, who is the Executive President of the DCF said that he was shocked by the decision of the university and said that they had no links to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh(RSS). He further said, “We don’t deserve to be smeared, as the faculty members of UCI have smeared us. It is calumny, their accusations. We are being vilified, and they are demonizing the organization.”

    The DCF president said that since the university has already decided to cancel two of their chairs, the foundation would withdraw the other two grants as well. He said that the foundation would find a more hospitable environment for their funding and criticized UCI to attack them by criminalizing the very act of giving.

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