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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Rutgers University dismisses Hindu students’ plea against anti-Hindu faculty Audrey Truschke

Hindu students of Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA have petitioned university officials to act against their controversial faculty Professor Audrey Truschke, who teaches South Asian History. Truschke is regarded by many in academic circles as a Hindu-baiter, and one of her pet projects is to whitewash the anti-Hindu crimes of Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb. She has also misrepresented the Bhagavad Gita to claim it ‘supports rape, violence against women’ and ‘rationalizes mass slaughter’.

The students issued an open letter containing a long list of anti-Hindu utterances made by Truschke, and started a public petition addressed to the University Chancellor and other senior officials urging them to act against Truschke and provide a safe space on campus for minority Hindu students.

However, the University’s patronising, even dismissive reply, which starts by “emphatically supporting Professor Truschke’s academic freedom in pursuing her scholarship” before agreeing to “initiate dialogue to understand sentiments of the Hindu community”, has left a lot to be desired.

In a response posted on twitter through their handle @hinduoncampus, the student group shared their reaction –

“We are deeply hurt by the response of Rutgers Newark. In response to a petition signed by a large number of Hindu students and our allies. Rutgers – a university that claims to pride itself on diversity and inclusion – continues to signal that Hindu student voices do not matter.

To re-iterate: we welcome academic freedom & pursuit of scholarship. We don’t welcome a professor tweeting that our deities are misogynist pigs, that our texts endorse rape, & that Hindu orgs supported the assault on the US capitol.

Ironically, the Rutgers statement unintentionally demonstrates their lack of commitment to Hindu students. They defend Truschke’s claims under the banner of “free speech”, & take the stance to protect her from Twitter trolls that send “vile messages and threats”.”

It is an open secret that while American academia these-days is dominated by supposedly  liberal, progressive, anti-racist thought which stresses on the right of all minority and marginalized groups to speak for themselves, this right is denied to Hindus. Hindu studies and Indology is dominated by outsiders who view us in a negative light, and the insider view of practicing Hindus is dismissed as ‘extremism’ or ‘Hindutva fanaticism’.

The last time an issue like this caught the imagination of ordinary Hindu Americans was the California textbook controversy where students and parents accompanied by Hindu scholars and professionals joined hands to try and reform the distorted depiction of Hindu Dharma and Hindu society in California school textbooks. Now, once again it is Hindu students who are taking matters into their own hands to confront a repeat offender and bigot like Audrey Truschke, who is being backed by an American public-funded state university. The religious, political and community leaders of the Hindu community are largely absent from this struggle.

As Professor Vamsee Juluri, someone who has written extensively on the topic of Hinduphobia within American academia, asks in this thought-provoking article,  “What does it say about us as a community that produces CEOs and millionaires but not enough of a truth-claim to replace lies with facts?”

The mental colonisation of so many wealthy Bharatiyas who prefer to send their children to Western universities rather than spend that same money on establishing and funding world-class civilizationally-rooted universities in our own country, also comes up. Of course, even if some wealthy Anglophilic philanthropists choose to establish a private university, they end up creating something like the Ashoka University which is just another JNU-style hub of anti-Hindu invective!

It is also a question to our billionaires and millionaries who donate generously to top American universities and set up chairs and study centres in their names, that why haven’t they been able to demand the correct representation of Hindus? Do they care? Do they even identify with such Hindu concerns? We know the secular state of India doesn’t care; it is in fact one of the biggest promoters of bigoted Hinduphobic tropes as a cursory glance at school textbooks in Bharat will show!

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