75 Hindu temples write to Rutgers, Prof Audrey Truschke cites ‘vendetta’

RITU JHA

A Hindu advocacy organization in the United States has written to Rutgers University against faculty member Audrey Truschke for her remarks about Hinduism, and the academic has described the letter as being spearheaded by an individual who has been harassing her for long.

Truschke is an associate professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, whose published works include the award-winning book Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court and Aurangzeb.

The letter against her is from the Coalition of Hindus of North America along with 75 Hindu temples and religious organization. It is addressed to Rutgers University president Dr Jonathan Holloway, Chancellor Dr Nancy Cantor, and Dr Anna Enobong, SVP for Equity, Rutgers University.

‘As the students have highlighted, Professor Truschke has called Shri Rama, one of the most popular (or revered) deities in the Hindu tradition, a “misogynistic pig,”’ the letter states.

She also declared that the Bhagavad Gita, an internationally renowned and revered Hindu text, “rationalizes mass slaughter” while the Mahabharata, another immensely popular and sacred Hindu text, rationalizes rape and other social problems in India. In doing so, Professor Truschke demonizes Hinduism as inherently misogynistic, oppressive, and savage.”

The letter claims Truschke’s comments on Hinduism have caused intense trauma not only to Hindu students on campus but also to the broader Hindu community.

“This is a part of a continued outreach to Rutgers University to address the concerns that Hindus have about Prof Truschke’s statement about Hinduism and Hindus in general,” CoHNA president Nikunj Trivedi told indica News.

Prof Truschke’s statement makes students upset and traumatize because they feel our religion is portrayed in this way by a professor in authority,” said Trivedi, who coordinated with temples and spiritual organizations for the letter.

He said that Professor Truschke had called the Hindu God Ram a “misogynistic pig,” had said that the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita “rationalizes mass slaughter.”

Trivedi also said that when the Uttarakhand state government opened up the annual Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage in the Himalayas in April this year, Truschke had dubbed it “Mrtty Yatra” or journey of death. The Yatra was, however, barred by the state high court in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked if Rutgers had responded to the letter and taken action, Trivedi said: “The university has not taken any action but they do recognize the anti-Hindu sentiment and it should be condemned.”

About Truschke, Trivedi said: “She can criticize anyone she wants but if you say anything she would say you are not an academic and you cannot criticize me. You are BJP IT cell. I am not a BJP, IT cell, I am an American Hindu.”

Asked what they want from the university, he said: “We do not have any issues with Prof. Truschke personally, but when you talk about Hindu deities and Hindu culture derogatorily is when the problem comes in.”

Asked if it was challenging to convince temples across the United States to rally against a professor, Trivedi said: “It was, because temples thought this was a political situation and so they had to say this has nothing to do with politics or the Indian government. They were not aware of this issue and so it took a few months of coordination.”

Trivedi said Truschke teaches about South Asia, which has so many religions, but “I don’t see her talking about them as much as she talks about Hinduism. She has open bigotry against Hinduism.”

Contacted by indica News for comment on the letter, Professor Truschke said her remarks should not be taken taken out of context.

She wrote: “On the letter spear-headed by Mr Nikunj Trivedi: I encourage you to read my extended discussions of the topics raised in the letter at the following links: On Sita criticizing Rama in the Ramayana https://thewire.in/religion/the-many-criticisms-of-rama-and-the-anger-of-the-hindu-right. On the Bhagavad Gita: https://aeon.co/essays/the-indian-epic-mahabharata-imparts-a-dark-nuanced-moral-vision

A reading of my full articles shows that the accusations in this letter are based on taking isolated words from my writing out of context and then unfairly distorting them to attack me,” Truschke added.

The letter was spearheaded by an individual with a multi-year history of harassing me. I find it unfortunate that he has dragged a series of religious organizations into his vendetta. My respect for and commitment to studying and learning from the wide range of Hindu texts and traditions remains unaffected.”

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