Audrey Truschke, the American academic and assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, Newark has emerged as one of the Indian history champions in the West. Today, if we wish to have advanced studies in Sanskrit, we need to refer to multiple sources in her works – which is often deemed more authentic than the local ‘Gitapress Gorakhpur’ versions of our religious and cultural texts. She has been quoted a number of times by Indian fiction bestseller Devdutt Pattnaik in his mythological books about Indian gods and goddesses but there is something remarkable about her.
Almost everyone from India who have ever disagreed with her on certain facts and figures with objective truths are in her Twitter block list. However, her frequent usage of words like ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu nationalists’ against whosoever objects to her seemingly ‘unbiased’ piece of history reminds us of the classic Godwin’s law. Godwin’s law says that ‘When an online discussion goes long enough, someone is guaranteed to bring up the name of Adolf Hitler’. Let’s check her through some nuances:
Blocking People and Hindutva:-
The debate over what is Hindu nationalism or Hindutva is uncertain because it hasn’t been defined – except in the leftist frameworks of idea dissemination which are propagated even by seemingly “mainstream liberal online outlets” such as Caravan, Wire etc. The definition of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva has four proponents according to such people: People who believe in establishing a Hindu nation, fascist and archaic ideas, a political movement separate from ‘Hinduism’, started in the initial years of the last century and “association” with Neo-Nazism. An incredibly vast majority of the seemingly ‘Hindu nationalists’ support Israel and the right of Israeli people to defend themselves against terrorist organization like the Hamas. One of the few Jews in India, Sarah Cohen has stated that, “From the time of the Romans, to Babylonians to the Greeks… to the Germans to… everybody has discriminated against Jews, but not Indians. Indians can hold their head high and… proudly say that we have never discriminated against Jews.”
As we all know, India is a nation with an overwhelming majority i.e. 79% Hindus and Jews numbering anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000, Hindu nationalists having similarity to Neo Nazis or discriminating against the Jews appear nothing but a wild stretch of imagination. Despite being a microscopic minority, the first few Miss India were Baghdadi Jews. Also, who could forget Sulochana of the 1930s – the actress who took the Indian films by storm during the bedrock stage of Bollywood. However, the institution in India which has displayed open and rabid anti-semitism were not Hindus. It was the Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Hind (MUH) who burnt Israeli flags at the Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival.
Hence, we see Audrey Truschke’s idea of “Hindu nationalism” doesn’t quite fit the definition and this stands as one of the chief reasons, why she keeps blocking people. And like a typical fan, this is also the fact with Devdutt Pattnaik. Both of them leave no room for discussions and debates but want a platform where they can share their expertise. Indologist Rajiv Malhotra, along with his teammate Nithyananda Mishra discussed some of the issues on her Sanskrit translations which were extremely flawed and Mr. Malhotra got blocked as well!
If we consider the origin of ‘Hindutva’, it was indeed popularized by Veer Savarkar but it did not rise out of vacuum during the British period. The word was used even far before Savarkar was born. Hindutva originates from, two words, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Tattwa’. Hindu refers to anyone living to the east of Sindhu river. ‘Tattva’ meaning element. Hindus are the largest unorganized religion so far, and all the philosophies emerging from the subcontinent prior to Buddhism and Jainism had the name of Hinduism. Hence, we can say the random philosophies formed a plurality which constitutes Hindutva. The moment one attaches -ism to the definition, the plurality is lost. We have ‘Darwinism’, we have ‘Freudianism’ but we never have ‘psychologism’. The distinction of ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutva’ is quite frankly borrowed from the notion of ‘Judaism’ and ‘Zionism’ and Aabhas K Maldahiyar has done a wonderful job pointing out the hypocrisy of Audrey Truschke in a series of tweets which are collated.
Smearing Tulsi Gabbard:-
We see that the argument of association failed but apart from cherry-picking, most left-leaning authors, academicians, journalists etc have championed the ‘association’ argument in order to defame certain people. Not surprisingly, Audrey Truschke argued via certain articles that Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat running for the president in 2020, has aligned herself with ‘far right Hindu nationalists’. While the Democratic party positions itself as having liberal views, it is mindboggling how would Tulsi Gabbard of all people be considered a ‘far right Hindu nationalist’ by means of association?
In a Joe Rogan podcast, she mentions that she had visited war torn areas in the Middle East and met certain leaders by virtue of which, she can even be an ‘Islamic extremist’ if we follow Truschke’s logic – and that would be a terrible joke. Secondly, the ‘far right Hindu nationalists’ she is talking about is the Rashtriya Swayamswvak Sangh (RSS), a social organization which focuses on promoting Hindu culture. In fact, they are so far right down the political aisle that they also created their Muslim arm called ‘Muslim Rashtriya Manch’ (Muslim National Stage) and a group for indigenous tribal population with the name of ‘Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram’ (Organisation for Forest Dwellers’ Welfare)!
Authoring a Book on Aurangzeb:-
For any self-respecting Indian, Aurangzeb would be the last person to look up to. Aurangzeb or “Muhi-ud-din-Muhammad” was the sixth Mughal emperor in India. He was also the last ruler to fully establish Islamic economics and Sharia law in India and other parts of South Asia over his 49-year-reign till 3rd March, 1707. He introduced the Jizya tax, carried out mass destruction of Hindu temples, executions of Maratha leader Shambhaji and the 9th Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur. 4.6 million people were killed under his reign during the initial Maratha wars and 2 million people died later on due to war-torn lands which were incapable of cultivation and an onslaught of famine (and I haven’t even mentioned the atrocities of Bundela and the Deccan wars). He also ordered his governors to “destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels, and that they were strictly enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching and practice of idolatrous forms of worship”.
Ironically, the same Audrey Truschke who describes Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his ideological background as ‘hindu nationalists’, ‘fascists’, and ‘xenophobic’, writes a ‘well balanced’ book on Aurangzeb – listing his achievements and failures, almost akin to whitewashing his ideologues and actions. She could have chosen any Muslim ruler but strangely enough, her choice was ‘Aurangzeb’.
In an Indian literature fest, sponsored by newspaper outlet “The Hindu” – Audrey Truschke goes out to point out ‘myths’ surrounding Aurangzeb. This approach of hers towards the fascination of Indian culture is weird as we do not find people fascinated with Cambodia go out there and straight away praise Pol Pot! Some of the factors that she zeroed in were honest, such as India surpassing China that year having the highest global GDP. However, with the endless destruction of Hindu lives, it is self-lobotomizing to view an invader of the most barbaric nature as a ruler who ‘requires’ more fame.
Unwarranted Commentary on Indian Politics:-
Her tweets on the Ram Mandir – Babri Masjid issue are again extremely uncalled for. In India, the anime-viewing younger generation do share a fascination towards Japan. Similarly, she may have some fascination towards India. There’s nothing wrong. However, when people claim to know it all, only by learning the language – the credibility is often lost. That is equivalent to me saying I know English so I must venture into British politics and advocate for some viewpoints shared by the Labour Party lot. While the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992 by an organized group of close to a hundred thousand Hindus, the court case of justice prolongs till date and continues to be one of the unnerving decisions for the lawyers and Supreme Court. The people who were put behind bars or sent notices justify the overthrow of the mosque claimed that there was a razed temple beneath the mosque. Archaeologists were involved till 2003 on the site and surprisingly, they found ample evidences suggesting the same. Fun fact. It was a Muslim archaeologist (K.K. Mohammad) who headed this excavation.
Truschke, here, states that there was always a Ram Mandir but immediately backs off. She states that upon “request” she shares an article where the evidences are “quite limited” but she anyhow suggested that the evidences of 2003. She continues to say, “Even if there was a temple at some prior point, we don’t know that it was a Ram temple. We don’t even know that it (the theoretical, unproven it) was a Hindu temple. Shout out here to Buddhism and Jainism, so often forgotten.”. This was again followed by the following tweet:
Objection: But can you PROVE that there wasn’t a Ram temple there? Answer: The burden of proof is on the other side. I can say this – The historical evidence does not suggest an old Ram temple. So, this story relies on something other than facts (in this case, communal hatred).
I'm updating here, upon request, with a short thread on whether there was a temple on the former location of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
In brief, the evidence is quite limited.
The 2003 ASI excavation was deeply flawed; for a brief overview, see, e.g., https://t.co/Q8XefrttNW
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) November 8, 2018
Now here are some more facts: Ajay Mitra Shastri, Chairman of the Epigraphical Society of India and a specialist in epigraphy and numismatics, examined the Vishnu-Hari inscription which were found after the mosque was broken in 1992 and stated:-
“The inscription is composed in high-flown Sanskrit verse, except for a small portion in prose, and is engraved in the chaste and classical Nagari script of the eleventh-twelfth century AD. It was evidently put up on the wall of the temple, the construction of which is recorded in the text inscribed on it. Line 15 of this inscription, for example, clearly tells us that a beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari, built with heaps of stone and beautified with a golden spire unparalleled by any other temple built by earlier kings was constructed. This wonderful temple (aty-adbhutam) was built in the temple-city (vibudh-alaayni) of Ayodhya situated in the Saketamandala (district, line 17). Line 19 describes Bhagwan Vishnu as destroying king Bali (apparently in the Vamana manifestation) and the ten-headed personage (Dasanana, i.e., Ravana).” (Puratattva No 23 1992-93)
Now, had it been a mosque – there would have been Arabic or Urdu scripts and not Sanskrit or Nagari. Allahabad High Court directed GPRS excavations and it then directed Archaeological Survey of India, which unanimously proved existence of a Hindu temple due to presence of pillars, idols and many other artifacts used in Hindu temples alone. Secondly, her “communal harmony” argument goes for a toss when she fails to realize that India is a democracy. Truschke is oblivious of the objective facts that India has a legal system in place which looks into such matters. Places of Religious Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 explicitly outlines “That it is an Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947” and Section 5 of the very act states that this is not applicable only in case of the Ram Mandir – Babri Mosque situation, which means this issue is the only exception. Only in this case, the decision whether to construct a mosque or temple (on top of one another) is justified, yet pending.
Backfiring the Association Based Logic of Audrey Truschke:-
A series of few tweets by Tulsi supporter, Terrence McNulty hit the Indian twitterati by storm on 12th May, 2019. The tweet revealed that Truschke’s father in law, Nathan Rehn owns a Maryland, USA based Christian NGO, Bless India Ministries, Inc (BIMI). The BIMI’s motto as mentioned in their tax return to the Internal Revenue Service is as follows:
“To Spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. To train people in Christian principles. To help widows, orphans and needy people in the name of Jesus Christ. And to do all legal acts in furtherance thereof.”
It turns out that @AudreyTruschke who has been trying to smear Tulsi Gabbard as having (unsubstantiated) ties to far-right Hindu nationalists is the daughter-in-law of Christian evangelical Pastor Nathan Rhen whose NGO, Bless India Ministries, has shut down.
— Terrence McNulty (@TerrenceMcNulty) May 12, 2019
Bless India Ministries suffered a sex scandal in India. However, its closure may have more to do with Truschke’s real target, Narendra Modi. This is all that is left of their website:https://t.co/DnM263oXpd
— Terrence McNulty (@TerrenceMcNulty) May 12, 2019
The response to this tweet has been overwhelming—nearly 10,000 engagements so far. The comments have been interesting, often informative, and passionate. Many of you have followed me, and I will follow you back soon. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you. 🙏
— Terrence McNulty (@TerrenceMcNulty) May 13, 2019
The BIMI worked in India by sending donation through sending donations to the Christ the King of Kings Ministries Welfare Association (CKKMWA) owned by the Mekala family in Andhra Pradesh. The CKKMWA received funds to the tune of 16,381,063 rupees (USD 237,406) between the years 2007-11. The CKKMWA, or the Indian arm of the BIMI suffered a sex scandal in 2012 after which BIMI withdrew their ties. The CKKMWA works on an extremely cryptic scale. They have also not filed FC6 (or FC4) tax returns for the years 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 yet. The CKKMWA is also listed as a “social” organization in FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which was set up to regulate malpractices such as scamming, embezzling etc and ensure legitimate usage of foreign funds within India). Also, if one is registered under the “social organization” label, it has to ascertain that there is no religious character within the organisation. This flies in the face of fact that it has spent money on “Maintenance of priests/preachers”. As we look into the association logic, can we easily presume Truschke for harbouring political vendetta to aid her father in law and by introducing a weird, self-flagellating brand of Hindu texts and ideologies where everyone looks up to her without a speck of opposition?
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