Dr. Robert L. Barchi,
President, Rutgers University
Dear Dr. Barchi,
We are writing to express our deep concern for the safety and security of Dr. Audrey Truschke, assistant professor of history at Rutgers and a scholar of repute. Recent news reports indicate Hindu supremacist entities, based in the US as well as in India, have launched a vicious campaign to discredit Dr. Truschke and her work, merely because her scholarship does not align with the Hindu ultranationalist narrative. Given how proponents of Hindutva are known for silencing critics in India, we believe the recent threats against Dr. Truschke should be addressed through adequate security measures for her.
Dr. Truschke is one of the few living scholars who reads pre-modern Persian, Sanskrit and Hindi, and is a leading authority on South Asian cultural and intellectual history. Her scholarship, integrity and erudition is beyond question. Since the publication of Dr. Truschke’s books on Aurangzeb, challenging the Hindutva caricature of the emperor as a religious zealot and Hindu-hater, she has been subject to enormous amounts of hate mail, and online trolling. Her courage in bringing the fruits of her scholarship to the masses through her books and articles is profoundly commendable. Her recent comments on Hindutva’s roots in Nazism and Fascism, seem to have earned her the ire of those who would prefer such facts to be hidden from public view.
We are well aware that the entities attacking Dr. Truschke are aligned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary organization dedicated to converting India into a Hindu majoritiarian state where Christians, Muslims and other minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. These entities are also vested in maintaining the upper-caste hegemony in order to perpetuate the infamous caste system.
We have noted with dismay that the entities attacking Dr. Truschke, infamous for their espousal of the supremacist ideology of Hindutva, have adopted tactics of intimidation and harassment very similar to those faced by scholars and intellectuals in India who do not tow the Hindutva line. The inflammatory rhetoric online against Dr. Truschke, the petitions to have her arrested and to have to her Indian visa revoked, are all part of a campaign to intimidate a scholar whose research is an impediment to the fascist agenda of these supremacist entities. As scholars and academicians in the US, we are deeply concerned that the anti-intellectual climate of fear scholars and historians are facing in India, has now reached American shores.
Scholars, intellectuals and independent journalists in India are facing unprecedented censorship and intimidation. India now ranks 140th on the World Press Freedom Index. The Paris-based “Reporters Without Borders,” found an alarming rate of coordinated hate campaigns against journalists who dare to challenge the Hindutva narrative. “The campaigns are particularly virulent when the targets are women,” noted the report. Critics of Hindutva supremacy are branded as “anti-Indian” and six of them were murdered in 2018. The intimidation of Dr. Truschke is disconcertingly similar to the tactics these forces have used in India.
The fact that Hindutva is rooted in Nazism and Fascism is well-known, and for which there is ample evidence in the writings of RSS’s founding members. Golwalkar referred to Nazi Germany’s “purging the country of the Semitic races,” as “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” Similar admiration was expressed for Mussolini whose fascist model was sought to be emulated by RSS founders in India. Hitler continues to be admired by Hindutva ideologues to this day, with Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” now a bestseller in India.
Hindtuva connections with Nazism and Fascism are more than a matter of academic accuracy. The obsession with establishing “Akhand Bharat” (unified India) that encompasses the region from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, has spurred a kind of virulent jingoism in India, the like of which the world has not seen since Nazi Germany. Millions of Indian Muslims have been rendered stateless through the “National Registry of Citizens,” whose requirements for establishing citizenship are virtually impossible for those living in rural areas. In Kashmir, over 8 million people are under a lockdown that has turned the entire state into a giant prison, where basic communication facilities have been curtailed.
We urge Rutgers to continue to resist attempts to discredit Dr. Truschke’s scholarship by people whose ignorance and intellectual bankruptcy is evidenced by the intimidatory tactics they have adopted. Moreover, we believe Rutgers should take the threats against Dr. Truschke as a security risk, and adopt appropriate measures to ensure her safety.
Dr. Audrey Truschke is a scholar and intellectual and we would like to let her adversaries know that the academic world will not be silent in the face of crude attempts at historical revisionism. Thank you for allowing independent scholarship to flourish at Rutgers.
We will be delivering this petition to The Foundation directly. We will update you of developments and their decision. It is because of people like you that the world becomes a better place.