A video of professor Audrey is doing the rounds on social media. On YouTube, the non-descript channel Houston Protest has uploaded this video. The description reads, “Audrey Truschke, professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University, shows real face of BJP #India in protest against #Modi outside #UNGA in New York.” The intent of this protest seems to be political. Let us examine her claims.
Audrey starts by talking about her credentials. She ostensibly declares that she is simply there to “tell the truth.” So far, so good. She further reiterates the importance of telling the truth and how, as a historian, she is factual and grounded in realities. The truth, for her, is also a “professional obligation.” Next, she claims, in a sweeping statement, that Hindutva ideologues do not like the truth. To make the definition of Hindutva clear, she says that it is a political ideology distinct from Hinduism and implies that protesting against it is not Hinduphobia. By her own admission, Audrey is not against Hinduism. She is merely against (Hindu) Indians exercising their political choice.
She further claims that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the members of BJP openly adhere to Hindutva. However, by saying that, Audrey only betrays her poor
understanding of what Hindutva is. Hindutva in Hindi means Hindu-ness. According to this explanation, “Hindutva was an attempt by Hindu intellectuals to arm Hinduism to adapt to a world order based on the concept of nation-states. Till the 19th and 20th centuries, there was no need for Hindu scholars to attempt such an endaevour as the world politics revolved around kings and empires. However, with the creation of nation-states, it became very important for Hindus and Hinduism to adapt and to develop a sense of nationalism and to develop a sense of political consciousness if it wants to survive and if it wants to secure its place in a world dominated by monotheistic, exclusivist religious ideology. They decided, therefore, if they want to survive, Hindus have to unite politically. Therefore, Hindutva is the political arm and political consciousness of Hinduism. The main objective of Hindutva is to properly define the concept of nationhood along the Hindu identity rather than regional or caste identities.”
By the above definition of Hindutva, we can see that Audrey omits entirely the existential threat to Hinduism posed by the exclusivist religions in her narrative. It is this threat that drives Hindus to band together to survive. For a thousand years, India and its Hindus have suffered due to foreigners, namely the British, Muslims, and Christians. The goal of Hindutva is not to divide but to unite Hindus of all creeds, colors, and races. Most importantly, in line with the Hindu teachings ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam‘, the goal is to treat the whole world as a family.
Another thing is clear. Hindutva did not arise, as Audrey asserts, “100 years ago, give or take a few decades.” Even when Bharat (India) was divided into kingdoms and ruled by kings, this Hindu political consciousness and identity existed. One can even argue that as far back as the 16th century, Hindutva existed when Aurangzeb subjected Hindus to a tax called Jaziya collected after spitting in the subjects’ mouths. The forms of humiliations reserved for Hindus are well-documented in K. S. Lal’s book ‘Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India.’ Ironically, Audrey defended the same king and has gone as far as to say that he protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed. Although this makes little sense logically, it makes even less sense historically. According to the book ‘Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them‘ by Sita Ram Goel, out of two thousand demolished temples, five hundred can be attributed to Aurangzeb alone. The injustices that he meted out against the Hindus are also available in the public domain as Mughal
records. The ongoing translation of the Fatawa Alamgiri, the Islamic code of law under the Mughal rule, is taken up by the Jaipur Dialogues team. It is expected to similarly shed light on many uncomfortable truths of the daily lives of Hindus struggling to survive against the desire of establishing an Islamic caliphate. What is under question is not the cruelty and insensitivity of the Mughal king Aurangzeb but the credibility of a historian named Audrey Truschke, who consistently proves that she is a historian against history.
Audrey continues, “It was inspired, in its early days, by Nazism. Did I say Nazis? Yeah, I said Nazis.” She sounds a note too triumphant. But that is not our concern. From this point onwards, Audrey lies. “Early Hindutva espousers openly admired Hitler. They praised Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in Germany as a good model for dealing with India’s Muslim minority.” She neglects to mention that Veer Sarvakar, the Hindutva revolutionary, wrote his book before the Nazis went to war. He admired the way that Germany progressed technologically. Gandhi, too, wrote to Hitler to stop the horrors against the Polish and the soviets. Bose, another Hindutva leader, even had a
fallout with Hitler after the former asked the latter to refrain from considering the Jews in a bad light. As further proof, about 5,000 Jews found refuge in India during the holocaust. As recently as 2018, Jews have been granted minority status in parts of India. An author and expert on Jews and minorities in India, Kenneth Robbins, said that not only for the Jews but for many others India was a place where minorities were able to flourish.
As a historian, Audrey should be aware of these details. By misrepresenting facts, she implants the idea that Hindutva supporters are Nazi admirers. By extension, they are Nazis themselves.
This blatant accusation hangs in the air long after she has said it.
Another argument is that Germans distorted Hindu ideas (and symbols), which led to Nazism. This pains Hindus to this day. Why would any contemporary supporter of Hindutva admire Nazism and Hitler?
Coming back to the topic at hand, Audrey speaks of the “rising facism” in India. Like most
left-leaning intellectuals, she does not present proof but asks the crowd to trust her word. The camera then pans to a signboard ‘Hindus against Hindutva’ and breaks away abruptly, giving a disjointed and inauthentic feel to the meeting of protestors. After a bit of friendly banter, the professor speaks of being subjected to a “lot of academic pressure.”
“I received rape threats. I received death threats. I require armed security to speak in India at times. I have even required armed security on certain occasions to speak in the United States. That is how threatening the truth is to Hindutva.”
Rape and death threats are universally condemnable and inexcusable. At the same time, Audrey conveniently leaves out what she has said and done to draw the ire of the hundreds of millions of Indians across the globe. Imagine that a toddler hit their older sibling, but after the sibling used a swear word against them, immediately tattled to their mother. That is the impression that Audrey gives off (of diabolical cunning).
As for Audrey’s repeated proclamations of knowing the truth, I have but one thing to say.
Shouting from the rooftops does not determine the truth. What is true can be kind, gentle even. Most of the Indians (and Hindus) Audrey targets in her frequent Hinduphobic and Indophobic attacks have an unequal power representation in the Western media and academic circles. Academics and white historians like her only perpetuate these inequalities while being uncontested and unchallenged. In short, she is never held accountable for her words and actions. To me, that is a more dangerous idea than Indians preserving democracy by voting for their chosen candidate.
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