The Dialogue

Rutgers community & Dr. Audrey Truschke

Rutgers community & Dr. Audrey Truschke

Post On:March 28, 2021

By Avinash Kumar & The Dwarapalaka Team

On the 17th of March, a letter addressed to Rutgers University, caught our attention. The letter was written by an ‘army’ of academicians in support of Audrey Truschke, in her crusade against Hindu students of Rutgers.

Below, we take the effort and time to decipher the letter for the benefit of the reader and hope, that he/she also sees through this irony of claims made in their letter. We start off by assuring the Hindu Students of Rutgers that, we fully support you and you are welcome to reach out to us anytime.

The Letter: We write, as faculty of South Asian origin at Rutgers, with colleagues at other universities co-signing, to add our voices to that of Rutgers administrators in unreserved support of our colleague Dr. Audrey Truschke. We are encouraged by their defense of the principle of academic freedom and the practice of critical inquiry, which are essential to the work that we do both as scholars and teachers and should be guarded against political pressure.

Analysis: It sounds like the faculty is rushing headlong to defend one of their own, without the slightest consideration for the religious sensitivities and faith of their students. We applaud Rutgers University administration for resisting the political pressure exerted by faculty themselves and for showing a willingness to listen and understand the perspective of Hindu students.

The Letter: We also echo their call for the threats against Dr.Truschke and her family and the attacks that have targeted her on the basis of race and gender, often viciously and hatefully, to stop. As scholars from a wide range of faith backgrounds, including Hinduism, we understand in deep and personal ways what it means to occupy the position of minority in the United States. Many of us are also immigrants or the children of immigrants as well as racialized minorities.

Analysis: The signatories to the letter, are attempting to generate sympathy and are drawing attention to only the hatred directed against Truschke by internet trolls. Ironically they chose to ignore completely, the Hinduphobic attacks on Hindu students on Rutgers campus, a result of Truschke’s vitriol against Hinduism [1]. The signatories are fully aware, that Truschke has stepped out of line to campaign against the faith of her students, those students who still have the reverence for the faith of their ancestors. We condemn any form of threat and abuse against Audrey Truschke, as well as the emotional trauma inflicted upon the Hindu students, who are defending their right to practice their faith without prejudice.

The Letter: We will fight staunchly for safe spaces for all of our students to express their faiths and identities. It is part of our calling. It is also part of our calling to examine critically the social and political forces shaping our globe and to provide students with the analytical tools to do the same, as they see fit. The two missions are reconcilable: students can be safe and supported in their identities and intellectually challenged at the same time.

Analysis: This is quite interesting. How is the faculty fighting for safe spaces for Hindu students by discounting the students’ pain? When Truschke calls Shri Rama, “a misogynist pig”, is she examining sociopolitical factors or forcing her ill-formed opinions down students’ throats? It is more like Truschke was experimenting in her Hinduphobic laboratory on unsuspecting Hindu students. Hindu students do not agree with the faculty on the efficacy of the so-called analytical tools. Nor do they agree with the reconcilability of the faculty’s call of duty and the safe practice of Hinduism on campus.

Hinduphobia, Hindu studies & safe practice of Hinduism are not reconcilable. It is conflict driven approach. And the resultant flare up compelled Rutgers administration involvement and apology. This letter by the diverse faculty is pushing the conflict agenda as it gives the impression that the faculty are ganging up against students. That is a fall in the direction of disgrace and sounds like its designed to intimidate the freedom of expression of Hindu students on potential future issues.

The irony of contradiction is hilarious. While the signatories seem to be issuing veiled threats to the Rutgers administration, they want us to believe, that they will work for the safety of students. As ludicrous as it sounds, what they are saying though is, If the Hindu students peddle the faculty narrative, reeking of Hindu hatred, they are safe. And like icing on irony, to this narrative, the faculty, ascribe a noble and higher calling.

The Letter: We insist that a critical examination of Hindutva, a political ideology, is not the same thing as Hindu-phobia. Dr. Truschke’s critique of the former rests on its majoritarian expression in India, in ways that threaten the safety, security, and equality of Muslims and other minorities. Her public scholarship resists the use of history and religious texts to accomplish those ends.

Analysis:While we encourage critical examination, we insist that it should encompass a neutral and comprehensive interpretation of history. The expression of Hindu faith has both, in history and in present times, stood for the safety, security and equality of the minorities, even when it was detrimental to the interests of the Hindu faith.Their differentiation of Hindutva and Hinduphobia needs deeper research.

This is more a battle of Hindu self-respect and the expression of Hinduism. And We call upon the faculty to cast aside colonial perspectives on Hinduism and look at it from the fresh perspective of a native immersive practice. We condemn any mechanism that restricts the freedom of expression of students.

The Letter:This pursuit points to a desire to uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have every confidence in Dr. Truschke’s respect for Hindus and Hinduism and its compatibility with a critique of Hindu nationalism as a social and political enterprise. We applaud Rutgers leadership in their defense of Dr. Truschke and their commitment to diversity and offer our solidarity in their steadfast support of both.

Analysis: We question the academic honesty of the signatories below, on this section. Because Audrey Truschke in her work and speech has acted in malefic and insidiousness towards the Hindu students of Rutgers and the Hindu community. Her statements and actions have resulted in unsafe spaces for Hindus on university campuses. In fact Trushke should be held accountable for creating a hostile and negative environment at Rutgers.

The faculty’s letter of support, points to a desire to uphold their narrative of Hindutva as a smoke screen to their Hinduphobia. Audrey Truschke must do a lot more to demonstrate that she indeed respects Hindus and Hinduism. Congratulations to Rutgers administration. We hope your spirit of good faith will motivate generations of Hindu students.

We understand the balance of power card on campuses. Most of these signatories think that they are on the pay roll of colonial thinking. We understand their fragile mind that is barely recovering from colonial subjugation. We understand their yearning to be re-colonized, But Rutgers by their apology have proven to the world the white mind is perhaps moving away from their colonial habits.

Hence It’s a opportunity for the signatories to discard psychological colonial shackles and imbibe values of the Guru-Shishya traditions which is the only way of objectively studying Hindu theological, cultural, and historical concepts.Being honest to themselves and embracing the Guru-Shishya traditions, will bring them true intellectual respect, that they yearn for.

Thanks to their letter we now know our “friends” of Hindu students!
From Rutgers – Newark:
Gaiutra Bahadur, Manu Samriti Chander, Sadia Abbas, Akil Kumarasamy,
Johan Mathew, Karishma Desai, Mukti Lakhi Mangharam, Anand Sarwate,
Jasbir Puar, Anjali Nerlekar, Preetha Mani,Deepa Kumar, Sarada Balagopalan,

From Other Universities:
Rajmohan Gandhi: University of Illinois
Partha Chatterjee: Columbia University Sheld
Akeel Bilgrami &  Sidney Morgenbesser : Columbia University
John Stratton Hawley: Barnard College
Gyan Prakash, Dayton: Princeton University
David Lelyveld:  William Paterson University
David Ludden: New York University
Dina Siddiqi, Clinical Associate Professor,
Romila Thapar:  Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Siddhartha Deb: The New School for Social Research
Amitava Kumar: Vassar College
Suketu Mehta: New York University
Vijay Iyer: Harvard University
Sunil Amrith,Renu and Anand Dhawan: Yale University
Maya Jasanoff, X.D. and Nancy Yang: Harvard University
Yogita Goyal: UCLA
Sana Aiyar: MIT
Rohit De: Yale University
Zahid R. Chaudhary: Princeton University
Sangeeta Kamat: UMASS Amherst
Biju Mathew: Rider University, NJ
Purnima Dhavan: University of Washington
Supriya Gandhi: Yale University
Chinnaiah Jangam: Carleton University, Canada
Rajeev Kinra: North Western University
Dheepa Sundaram: University of Denver
Ajay Rao: University of Toronto
Vinayak Chaturvedi: University of California at Irvine
Dohra Ahmad: St. John’s University
Bhakti Shringarpure: University of Connecticut (Storrs)
Ashwini Tambe: University of Maryland
Angana Chatterji: University of California, Berkeley
Marina Budhos: William Paterson University
Rupal Oza: Hunter College
Manan Desai: University of Michigan
Raza Rumi: Ithaca College
Divya Cherian: Princeton University
Rupa Pillai: University of Pennsylvania
Raza Mir: William Paterson University
Prasad Tadepalli: Oregon State University
V.V. Ganeshananthan: Minnesota
Inderpal Grewal: Yale University
Monisha Bajaj: University of San Francisco
Sharmila Sen: Harvard University Press
Sumita Chakraborty: University of Michigan
Sangeeta Ray: University of Maryland
Neilesh Bose: University of Victoria
Roopika Risam:  Salem State University
Nilanjana Bhattacharjya: Arizona State University
Neha Vora: Lafayette College
Ambereen Dadabhoy: Harvey Mudd College
Sruti Bala: University of Amsterdam
Kiran Asher: University of Massachusettsat
Ritty Lukose: New York University-GallatinSchool
Paula Chakravartty: New York University
Tejaswini Ganti: New York University
Jinee Lokaneeta: Drew University
Arjun Appadurai: New York University
Natasha Raheja:

Twitter release  1:
” 72 Academicians, mostly of Indian origin, working at North American Universities, write a letter in support of a white academician who has a fetish for hurting Indian sentiments” Deja Vu voluntary drift towards academic colonialism.

Twitter release 2:
” The message she is giving out is, that only whites have the right of scholarship on Ancient cultures. Hindus should have gone extinct, but they haven’t and are challenging the white scholarship.  So she will use any means at her disposal to discredit Hindus.”

[1] References to Audrey Truschcke’s Work!!