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BJP Asks US University to Look Into Allegations Against Academic Accused of Vilifying Hindu Religion

India’s ruling BJP has asked Rutgers University to look into concerns raised by a Hindu student outfit about academic Audrey Truschke in the South Asian studies programme. She has been accused by the group of denigrating Hindu traditions through her academic research and comments.

The concerns against Truschke were highlighted on Tuesday by Vijay Chauthaiwale, a federal parliamentarian who heads the foreign policy cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) .

​Associate Professor Truschke is the author of a book on Indian Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb. And she claims to have blocked more than 5,000 Twitter accounts in recent days after being sent vile and hateful Islamophobic messages on her social media account over her criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government.

​Truschke is no stranger to criticism from BJP supporters for her critical take on contentious issues such as India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Jammu and Kashmir situation, and “persecution” of Muslims under the current Indian government.

But the latest barrage of insults came after a Hindu student organisation at Rutgers University launched a signature campaign to highlight and express concern over Truschke’s “conduct”.

In another instance, the academic sparked indignation among many Hindus for calling Lord Rama a “mysogynistic pig” for his treatment of his wife Sita. Both Rama and Sita feature in the Hindu religious epic Ramayana and are epitomised as an ideal couple by millions of followers of Hinduism.

In its signature campaign, endorsed by over 5,000 people as of 8 March, Hindus on Campus accused Truschke of vilifying Hindu religious texts, spreading misinformation about Hindu culture encouraging the gang rape of women, and endorsing the burning of Hindu scriptures during her classes.

​The student group further accused Truschke of encouraging “racism” against Hindus, not only in India but across the world.

Truschke entered the limelight after her 2017 book “Aurangzeb, The Man and The Myth” was released. She riled up many Hindu nationalists in India and across the world because she portrayed Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in a rather more favourable light than he has been shown in Indian history textbooks. Many of these books described the policies during his reign (1658-1707) as being responsible for promoting Islam in India at the expense of Hinduism.

Critics of Aurangzeb and Mughal rule in India, in general, are of the view that many ancient temples were razed and Indian customs erased during the reign of the Muslim rulers in India. This Islamic rule began around the 16th century and continued until the onset of British colonial rule in the mid-nineteenth century.

In her book, Truschke draws upon some historical evidence and documents to claim that Aurangzeb has been used as an “excuse” by the Hindu right to denigrate Muslims in India. The argument is disputed by many nationalists in India.

Her critical take on many Hindu traditions as well as many issues held dear to the BJP have triggered protests against her in the past. Truschke’s scheduled lecture in Hyderabad had to be called off following protests by local Hindu outfits over her controversial views during her India visit in 2018.

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