The hour has come for a South Asian studies program

Rohith Nandagiri

"Silence is not golden when driven by fear."

- Mahatma Gandhi

Fifty years ago, one of the biggest events of the 20th century occurred: Great Britain finally relinquished its hold on India. This after numerous bloody skirmishes in which the British used their vastly superior weapons to annihilate Indian troops armed with only spears.

Mahatma Gandhi, whose method of ahimsa, or non-violence, was repeated by other civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Jawaharlal Nehru and British viceroy Lord Mountbatten, "fought" to give India the right to govern itself.

This opened the floodgates to the wealth of knowledge and mystical heritage of one of the world's oldest civilizations.

A rich grand history, indeed, but one that has gone conspicuously unnoticed by the University of Houston. In a city with as much cultural flavor as Houston, it is impossible to believe that no classes are offered in regard to South Asia.

Other universities in and around Texas have opened discussions and even semester long classes to help educate and enlighten people in America with the beauty of India and South Asia. Even the so-called "hick school" 100 miles north in College Station has a class on Eastern Religions, which includes Islam and Hinduism, along with Jainism and Buddhism.

UH contains many diverse groups of people. African-Americans, Asians, Latin Americans, and even those of European descent can learn more about their heritage. This is a truly attractive feature of UH. However, it is time to add a new branch of study to our class schedule.

The Indian and South Asian population at UH is considerable. The latest breakdown shows that South Asians, which includes people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, make up nearly 10 percent of the student population. This is a huge chunk of the population with no voice and apparently not enough need for a class or two.

The Indian Student Association and the Hindu Student Council are in agreement that it is now time to open discussions with the deans of different departments to create a South Asian studies department.

It is time for our Board of Regents to develop a South Asian department. It could be a big selling point for grants and donations. Other big schools around the country, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Berkeley, have such departments.

A class on Hindu and Islamic philosophy could help to dispel many negative misconceptions about these schools of thought. A class titled "Religions of India" or "The Philosophy of the Indus River Valley" could discuss all the various sects and beliefs of India.

A class on Indian history and anthropology could be successful, considering the amount of knowledge available by examining ancient artifacts. India's history predates Christ, so there should be enough information to teach. Many Eastern languages stem from the ancient language Sanskrit. Many Sanskrit words, such as dogma, karma, and guru are part of the English language. A plethora of age-old verses and religious hymns were written in Sanskrit and would be a welcome part of South Asia studies.

Too many South Asian people in America allowed their heritage and culture to slip through their fingers. It is time to escape the shadow of our American upbringing. Our ethnicity should not be a burden, but a platform from which to leap and gain knowledge and understanding of our history.

Every other ethnic group has fought the system and gained something it felt was necessary to better understand the cultures that inhabit this country.

It is time to inform the deans and regents of the need to share the knowledge of our past. In order to be a proud Indo-American or Pakistani-American, it is necessary to be as familiar with the Indo or Pakistani part as with the American part. To be good Americans, we should be aware of the struggles of all who dwell here.

Nandagiri is a junior MIS major.

Visit The Daily Cougar