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The Rutgers Circus, The Truschke Crimes

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The Rutgers Circus, The Truschke Crimes
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We know that Audrey Truschke, who teaches “South Asian” history at Rutgers, has indulged in puerile social media behavior mocking Hindus, Hindu deities, and Hinduism, attacking Indian political leaders or parties, and lying and prevaricating about them. We wrote about it here when we published an open letter addressed to some of the top Rutgers administrators. That was two months ago, and as it has happened in the past in instances where American universities and American academics have played fast and loose with Hindu sensibilities, Hindu identities, and the Hindu past, this time too, many of us felt, there would be little traction at Rutgers to bring their resident truants and bigots to book.

As it had happened earlier at other American institutions of higher learning, like at Emory University,  we thought Hindu complaints would be ignored, Hindu students marginalized or coopted, and Hinduism, Hindus, and India would continue to be fodder for the lucrative academic mills and the publishing industry with little or no price to pay for their transgressions.

Then, Rutgers University’s own Hindu student organizations, the Hindu Students Council (HSC), Hindu Youth for Unity, Virtues and Action (YUVA), , and an online movement — Hindus on Campus — got together and called the attention of the seemingly tone-deaf President of Rutgers, a historian himself,  and his cabinet minions. True to form, Rutgers administrators sought to browbeat the students and dismiss their complaints. We can suppose that for Rutgers’ administrators and leaders, “equity” meant cutting their Hindu students off at their knees. This is what they told the group when they first complained:

This message by the three administrators should be analyzed carefully by a rhetorician (maybe someone from Rutgers itself) for its dismissive, peremptory, and supercilious tone. Prof. Enobong (Anna) Branch, whom Rutgers appointed as Senior Vice President for Equity in September 2020 seemed completely oblivious to the concerns of Hindu students and ignorant about the nature of equity and about diversity. Her official role is described as providing “… strategic leadership to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of university life… (and) champion the role of diversity and inclusion in achieving excellence and strengthening the institutional commitment to its diverse community on and off campus”. So, read the statement above, again, carefully, and wonder where and what the emphasis is on in the statement. Is it on their concern for inclusion and diversity or on the “academic freedom” of Truschke? Do they mention “academic responsibility”? What would academic responsibility entail? Why should academics be responsible not only in their pursuit of “truth” but in the careful telling of it? Can academics be partisan trolls and provocateurs in defense of their own work and in belittling their perceived “political opponents”? Are they political activists first and scholars later? Can the worth of scholarship be determined by a closed set of fellow travelers in academic echo chambers or can it be weighed and evaluated by experts and non-experts outside of academe?

The Hindu students at Rutgers could have cried “foul” after the first tone-deaf statement by Vice President Branch, Chancellor Cantor, and Dean Mattis. We will label that statement “balderdash” for now, but it could very well be described as a dismissive “GFY” brushoff.

Then came another virtual meeting, we are told, on March 12, in which these three administrators heard students tell them about the specific, bigoted, and hurtful comments and trolling by Truschke herself and the many Hinduphobic statements and threats by her fellow-travelers on social media. Would the administrators, who otherwise rush to the microphones and the cameras to “support students” – when they are of color, of particular ethnicity, or female, or of specific sexual orientations – open their ears and their eyes to Hindu student complaints? Would Hindu students have to beg, cry, and cajole these uninformed and tone-deaf purveyors of equity to pay heed to and to stop stonewalling, nay, even gaslighting like they did after the first meeting? It is deeply troubling that these very, very well-compensated university leaders must listen to “personalized sentiments” to decide to change their stance. Change they did, somewhat, but ignored in their statement of support to the Hindu students is even one mention of the bigotry, mocking, shaming, lying, and bamboozling by Prof. Truschke. Below is the second statement released on social media by the same trio that put out the first statement. Note that these statements are nowhere traceable on Dr. Branch’s official website, Chancellor Cantor’s website, or that of Dean Mattis’ website. While the student newspaper at Rutgers published a report on the first student petition against Prof. Truschke, and the first statement released by the three Rutgers’ administrators, there has been no follow up there.

Here is the second statement by the three administrators:

They say that they support the Hindu community, and they convey their apology for the tone of their previous message. They acknowledge the hurt and anguish caused to members of the Hindu community but fail to identify who it was that has hurt the Hindu community, and what kind of mocking, shaming, and lying that this person, who has been at Rutgers since 2015, been getting away with right under their noses. Compare their first statement where they express “emphatic” support to Prof. Audrey Truschke, by name, and highlight “academic freedom,” “abhor the vile messages directed at her (Truschke),” and call for an immediate end to them, to the second statement where there is nothing emphatic about their condemnation of the anti-Hindu bigotry by the one they had named and defended before, but only vague sympathy toward the Hindu student complainants. They say that whatever happens next will be “difficult work”. Really? What is difficult about showing the door to a bigot, a liar (see her post on the Capitol Hill riots), and a shoddy scholar – who has now gathered around her the same set of social media trolls, anti-Hindu bigots, and vicious mockers of Hindus and Hinduism? Why is it difficult to warn academics of their political activism in which they needle, mock, shame, or lie about Hindus and Hinduism, or even Indian political parties and political leaders? Interestingly, when some of us petitioned Emory University in 2004 about Prof. Paul Courtright’s absurd “psychoanalysis” of Lord Ganesha and pointed out that Emory had suspended an instructor who had used the N-word, not to mock or shame, but to point out its misuse, we were given the “silent treatment” by their Provost and by their Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. There must be some bad karma there because Emory University is once again embroiled in another case where the N-word was used by another professor.

Hindu students also complained about the threats they had been subject to on social media which the senior administrators failed to mention or address or call a stop to.

After the March 12, 2021 meeting the Hindu Students Council at Rutgers issued a statement:

We could take issue with some of their language, or their second demand, but we will let that be for now. We simply applaud these students for having the courage of their conviction to do battle against entrenched and powerful forces, to not lose hope or faith, and to persist in the face of increased attacks by Prof. Truschke and her anti-Hindu bigot-brigade.

True to form, in matters Hindu and Hinduism, we had a bunch of deracinated Indian-American faculty immediately rush to the support of Prof. Truschke after the first statement by the Rutgers administrators. They offered “unreserved support” to Prof. Truschke. Unreserved? Can scholars be that pig-headed that they do not reserve judgement till they hear all sides of the issue, and considered whether they have the wherewithal and the expertise to evaluate the work and the public statements of the person to whom they are offering such support? Do they countenance the bigotry and the political partisanship of Prof. Truschke? Is calling Lord Rama a “misogynist pig” and the Bhagavad Gita a “treatise that justifies genocide” a matter of challenging students intellectually? When did the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana become “Hindutva” literature? When did double standards, one for evaluating Hindu epic figures and one for Muslim emperors who carried out genocidal programs, become an exercise in examining “critically the social and political forces shaping our globe and to provide students with the analytical tools to do the same…”? Who are these faculty of “South Asian origin” – this deracinated set of political activists who peddle partisan politics as objective scholarship? We can go into the antecedents of the mindset as well as the mischief-making capabilities of these scholars of “South Asian origin,” but let us not bother now. Suffice to say, these are neither objective scholars of Indian history nor experts in Hindu philosophy, texts, and culture. They may well call themselves globalists or claim to support academic freedom but let us not hold our breath and wait to see if they will stick their necks out to defend either of those when there is indeed the threat of having their necks chopped off. They know which chapatis have potato and onion curry on them, and which pitas have fatwas piled on them. Two-faced ideologues know who they can belittle and get away with and those who carryout the threats they make or those who have the clout to send them packing out of their offices. These signatories are not in anyway sympathetic to any Hindu cause, nor are they experts in Hindu literature. That they call themselves “South Asian” is yet another indication of their distancing from India and from Hinduism. South Asianism is a mask for Hinduphobia, simple.

Adding to this bit of nonsense is a letter signed by a whole host of Dalit, Islamist, and anti-India organizations that bring in their usual set of India-breaking concerns – Kashmir, CAA, caste, and cows. Audrey Truschke tweeted that letter, and we will not bother here to unpack the bilge in it. What it goes to show, however, is who are Truschke’s fellow travelers, what she supports, and who she uses to fuel her political activism. The list of signatories in that letter should really give pause to Rutgers’ administrators.

Finally, we are told that there are about 6,000 to 7,000 Indian origin students at Rutgers. It is time that the parents who send their children to the university to ask of the leaders of the institution who they hire, what they countenance, and how they will uphold both academic integrity and academic responsibility.

Enough is enough!

 

 

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Dr. Ramesh Rao

The author is Professor of Communication Studies, Department of Communication,  Columbus State University, Columbus, GA. He has published widely over the past three decades, and his latest book is titled, “The Election that Shaped Gujarat & Narendra Modi’s Rise to National Stardom”.