New Delhi: Hyderabad Police have denied US historian Audrey Truschke permission to deliver her talk scheduled for August 11 on “Unpopular Stories: Narrating the Indo Islamic Past and Navigating Present-Day Prejudices”.
Truschke’s take on Indology - especially her interpretation of main protagonists in Ramayana - has invited a sharp response from the Indian right. The historian says that people with “self-admitted connections to RSS and BJP” had written to Hyderabad police “protesting my appearance”.
My lecture in Hyderabad, scheduled for August 11, has been cancelled. The subject of "Unpopular Stories," proved a bit too true, perhaps, when the Hindu Right protested to the police. Read more here - https://t.co/0QItVfUNV2— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) August 8, 2018
Krishnakriti Foundation, in collaboration with History for Peace, was organising the event.
A source from the Foundation said, “There are various complaints about the scholar, especially her social media posts have been viewed as anti-Hindu. The public was not happy to have her speak at the function. The Hyderabad police informed us and we have called it off. There is no other place to hold it.”
Upon queries by people if there is any update on the situation, Truschke said “regretfully” she won’t be visiting Hyderabad on this trip to India.
“The organisers took this decision after being informed by the Hyderabad Police that several individuals had written letters protesting my appearance. I saw only one such letter and it was from an individual with self-admitted connections to RSS-BJP and BJPM (sic),” said Truschke in a post.
She was to speak in Hyderabad on Mughal history and Sanskrit literature. She was especially looking forward to talk about Aurangzeb’s brutal assaults on Sultanates in the Deccan in the 1680s and debates around what brought about the end of Indian Buddhism in the early second millennium CE.
“I deeply regret that my presentation and the subsequent exchange of ideas will not occur. Today is a sad day for the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedom, and it is a happy day for the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra,” she signed off the note.
Truschke is an assistant professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University, Newark, and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. She has authored “Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court” and “Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth.”
She has been in the eye of storm for quite some time, especially when she called Rama a “misogynist pig” and alleged that Sita accused “Lakshman of lusting after her”.
The comment was seen as “racist” and “supremacist” by Hindu scholars and criticised as a “misrepresentation of Sanskrit sacred texts, which is now a mainstream way of attacking Hindus”. Such episodes have led to the cancellation of her event in Hyderabad.
There was uproar over her Ramayana post, the Hindu scholars criticised it saying, “These posts were made in the name of “loose translation” and “colloquialism” and given without proper links to references,” said one of the online posts attacking her.
She holds a PhD in Indology, has been studying Sanskrit for nearly two decades. She has taught Sanskrit at three universities, has been a tenure-track professor with many peer-reviewed articles and authored two books.
“I don’t know everything, far from it, but I am qualified in these fields,” she defended herself every time there was an attack on her credibility as an Indologist.
For her work on Aurangzeb she said, “A few reasons I study Aurangzeb - He was the most important political figure in 17th-century India. He is the most poorly understood Mughal king. I’m a Mughal historian.”