Under attack from Hindu rightwing clusters, Dr Truschke gets support from Rutgers University

Illinois:  Over two dozen US and international civil and human rights organizations have expressed solidarity with Dr Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University against the ongoing systematic campaign of vilification against her including vile threats of extreme violence, according to a press release issued by the Illinois-based Indian Muslim American Council.

In a remarkable build-up of broad support for Dr. Truschke, the joint letter thanks Rutgers for unequivocally supporting Dr. Truschke while debunking the claims made against her. The letter also declares the campaign attacking Dr. Truschke’s scholarly integrity an attempt to silence her, curtail her academic freedom as well as her advocacy for peace and pluralism.

Organizations and individuals that sent a joint letter to Rutgers University thanking them for unequivocally supporting Dr. Truschke include Hindus for Human Rights, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King Study Circle, Dalit Solidarity Forum, Boston South Asian Coalition, Council on American Islamic Relations – CAIR (New Jersey), Islamic Society of Central Jersey, Indian American Muslim Council, India Civil Watch International, Coalition to Stop Genocide, ICNA Council for Social Justice, Justice for All, Center for Pluralism, South Asian Left Activist Movement, API Chaya, Stand With Kashmir, The Humanism Project, Australia, Dr. Chloe Breyer, The Interfaith Center of New York, Dr Aslam Abdullah, Interim President, World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations (WCMIR), and Dr Rehan Khan, President, International Society for Peace and Justice, 

Dr. Truschke is no stranger to controversy, having attracted the ire of the Hindu nationalist organizations in India and the US, for her commitment to scholarly integrity and her ability to make her research accessible to the masses. Not surprisingly, Dr. Truschke’s work is at odds with the Hindu right’s grand project to revise India’s history to align with the Hindutva narrative. On March 9, Rutgers University tweeted that it has received, “expressions of concern from members of the Hindu community about views expressed by Professor Truschke on Twitter.”

The University, however, in the same tweet said, “it emphatically supports Dr. Truschke’s academic freedom in pursuing her scholarship and, and abhors the vile messages and threats that are being directed at her and calls for her an immediate end to them.”

The letter is remarkable in that it is a collaborative effort among many organizations in order to defend Dr. Truschke, and refute the claims made against her in the complaint from the Hindu students. The letter terms some of these claims as outright lies. For instance, the letter states that the “complaint against Dr Truschke claims that the ‘perpetrators’ at the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. did not include any Hindus.” “That is a lie,” states the letter, and adds, “One perpetrator, Krishna Gudipati, is associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), an affiliate of the VHP in India, which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has classified as a ‘religious militant organization’ for its violence against Muslims and Christians.

“Gudipati is an associate of the infamous Member of India’s Parliament, Subramanian Swamy, who heads the Virat Hindustan Sangam of which Gudipati is a member. Dr Swamy wants Muslims denied voting rights, a view that prompted Harvard University to drop his course,” the letter says. 

The complaint of the Hindu students against Dr Trushchke, author of two books on Aurangzeb, includes the claim that, “reputable sources have demonstrated that [17th-century Mughal emperor] Aurangzeb enslaved and murdered 4.6 million Hindus.” The organizations have refuted this in their joint letter with the fact that “the link for ‘reputable sources’ is not a scholarly paper but a New York Times infographic, which is based on The Great Big Book of Horrible Things by Matthew White, a librarian who does not have any degree or formal training in history or statistics.”

Author-historian Manimugdha Sharma of The Times of India has tweeted that Manucchi did not claim Aurangzeb killed 4.6 million Hindus but only that Aurangzeb lost 100,000 soldiers a year in a war, which, too, has never been validated, the letter points out. 

The organizations that are coming out in full support of Dr. Truschke have stated in the joint letter that the real reason behind the campaign of intimidation against Dr Truschke is her courageous and unwavering opposition to Hindutva, the supremacist ideology espoused by the RSS and its affiliates. 

“It is this hateful ideology that is the driving force behind the rapidly escalating bigotry and horrific violence in India. The campaign attacking her scholarly integrity is intended to silence her, curtail her academic freedom as well as her advocacy for peace and pluralism,” it says. 

Hindutva’s propagandists loathe Dr Truschke deploying her scholarship to devastating effect in debunking its supremacist myths they are desperate to perpetuate, declared the joint letter. Commenting on their spurious claim that India is foremost a country of Hindus and that Muslims and Christians are outsiders, the letter states that these claims are made by India’s Hindu nationalists to justify violence against these minorities. A key aspect of the enormous vitriol being poured against Dr. Truschke is the fact that she has exposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the anti-Muslim citizenship law designed to strip many Indian Muslims of citizenship.

The signatory organizations noted that over time, Dr. Truschke’s powerful voice has helped to bring increased global attention to — and scrutiny of — India’s persecution of its religious minorities.  

The letter goes on to give a picture of the state of India’s minorities under Modi’s rule, stating that in June 2020, the US Department of State’s annual report on global religious freedom recorded “mob attacks by violent Hindu groups against minority communities, including Muslims,” as well as, “religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice and speak about their religious beliefs.”

The recent Freedom House report, a reputed American research institute founded by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, which downgraded India’s status from “Free” to “Partly Free” because Mr. Modi had continued to crack down on critics, the joint letter has noted.

The letter is clearly a response to Hindu nationalists in the US who have relentlessly trolled anyone that has vocally criticized religious persecution in India. Drawing comparisons between RSS, the fountainhead of Hindu nationalism, and Adolf Hitler, the letter plainly says, “RSS has long been an admirer of Adolf Hitler,” noting that RSS has adherents both in India and the US. 

“They are the people who attack Dr Truschke for her erudition and courage. They are the people behind the petition against her,” the letter states. 

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