Several academics of South Asian origin at Rutgers and other universities in the US have come forward in support of Dr Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey who is facing criticism from some Hindu community members about her views expressed on Twitter.
‘Critical examination of Hindutva is not Hinduphobia’
More than 35 academics from various universities, including Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, JNU and Rutgers, have released a statement supporting Dr Trushcke.
“We insist that a critical examination of Hindutva, political ideology, is not the same thing as Hinduphobia,” they have said in their joint statement.
It reads, “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 the minority in the United States.
“Many of us are also immigrants or the children of immigrants as well as racialized minorities. 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.”
Who is angry with Prof Truschke?
A group of ‘Concerned Hindu students and allies at Rutgers Newark and New Brunswick’ had written an open letter to the Rutgers’ administration expressing its concerns about Dr Truschke’s views.
“While we still hold dear the core values of Rutgers – students and community, inclusion, learning, and integrity – we are aghast at the bigotry being peddled against Hindus via continued derision of our religion, our deities, and our sacred texts,” reads the letter.
The letter lists many examples from the writings and tweets of Dr Truschke, claiming that she “uses works from authors who have a known history of demonizing Hindu deities and Hindu texts. Her coursework relies on many outdated and colonial theories and does not offer an opportunity for alternative views of Hinduism and India – something that would greatly benefit the students taking her class.”
One of the examples is her tweet following the Capitol Hill insurrection and riots.
“Prof. Truschke tweeted about the presence of an Indian flag at the scene and immediately declared it to be the handiwork of “The Hindu Right,” even though various media outlets showed that the perpetrator was not a Hindu.
“Not to mention, the national flags of Israel, Vietnam, Georgia, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and Iran were also carried by some people to Capitol Hill on that day. Such conflation creates a dangerous environment for Hindus and opens us up for potentially violent attacks by falsely linking Hindus to White Supremacists,” reads the letter.
Rutgers stands with Dr Truschke.
The university has refused the demand of ‘Concerned Hindu students and allies at Rutgers Newark and New Brunswick’ to “condemn Prof. Truschke for causing trauma to Hindu students, alumni, and the Hindu community at large by her irresponsible tweets and utterances.”
“Rutgers emphatically supports Professor Truschke’s academic freedom in pursuing her scholarship, abhors the vile messages and threats that are being directed at her and calls for an immediate end to them,” said Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of the university, in a statement.
The administration has offered to initiate a dialogue with the concerned students.
“We are initiating dialogues to understand the sentiments of our Hindu community and create a context that honours our complexity while allowing us to do the difficult work of constructive and healthy engagement among our diverse community,” said Ms Cantor.