In a video, which went viral recently, Dr. Audrey Truschke, an American historian, is seen trying to deal with a genuine question from one Dr. Murli. The video has Dr. Truschke on the stage of The Hindu Lit Fest as Dr. Murli, as a member of the audience questions, her authority to pronounce judgements on Bhartaiyas. As the uncultured audience, who I presume are readers of The Hindu, boos him, he continues his question and questions her right to misrepresent Bharatiya history, with a slightly raised voice.
Meanwhile Dr. Truschke is playing, almost dancing, around the table in a schoolgirlish kind of way. She starts her answer by saying that she is a trained historian and can read Sanskrit and Persian. She continues that some people cannot handle women, probably implying that women academics should not be questioned on the quality of their work. The boos by audience, due to which he had to raise his voice are not even mentioned. She then says that a lot of work on Aurangzeb is in process and in 5-7 years we shall have a new understanding of the Mughal tyrant.
She then claims that as a historian, she does not have to be correct as long as they “move forward”, probably meaning that as long as her cause is served. In between, she also threatens that she will have Dr. Murli evicted.
Issues with the retort
The answer by Dr. Truschke has several issues. I will enumerate them one by one below:-
- Her first argument is that she is a trained Historian. She says that she can read Sanskrit and Persian. As a trained academic, she should be aware about the fallacy of “appeal to authority”. If she were properly trained, she would probably answer with facts and not authority and condescending whitesplaining.
- She takes refuge in her womanhood. She would have been well aware that all academics must defend their thesis to become respectable, so probably she had no confidence in her own thesis, which points to intellectual dishonesty. But let us assume she said it because Dr. Murli raised his voice, in that case she must have also heard the loud booing by the audience. Clearly, it was she and the audience that could not handle the questions of Dr. Murli.
- Then she claims that “being correct is not that goal”. This is problematic and the problem is self-evident. If being correct is not the goal, the goal is certainly to be incorrect! In that case, how can one expect truth from such a historian? Such are the inaccuracies in her biography of Aurangzeb that even Girish Shahane of hinduphobic portal Scroll had to criticize her book in his review.
- She ordered Dr. Murali to shut up or she will have him evicted. This arrogance is befitting a white colonist, but she should remember that the days of Sahibs and Mem-sahibs are long gone and are not coming back anytime soon.
- She did not actually answer the question if she had conducted any archaeological analysis for her claims that Aurangzeb protected more Hindu temples than he broke or that he broke only dozen or so temples!
Who is Audrey Trushke?
In her own words, she is “a historian, author, and activist. She is Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. She is the author of two award-winning books: Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court and Aurangzeb.”
“When Audrey isn’t writing about the Mughals, Sanskrit texts, or Hindu-Muslim interactions, she is often calling attention to abuses of history and human rights in contemporary South Asia. Her other frequent activities include condemning sexism and Islamophobia, reading, and spending time with her family. “
She has a BA in Religious Studies from Chicago University; M.A. from Columbia University in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and M. Phil and PhD in the same subject from the same university.
But really who is Audrey Truschke?
By her description above, you might have guessed that she is a woke activist, thinly disguised as a historian. Bharatiya history is a battleground and tends to attract such characters on the side of Marxists, Islamists and Evangelists. Naturally her books raise some controversial issues. This is a tried and tested way of getting noted by ’eminent’ historians. However, we shall discuss her work in next section of this article. Let us focus on the life of Dr. Truschke now.
She was born in a pious Christian family, to James R. “Jim” Truschke and Fern Truschke. The family attends the United Methodist Church, an evangelist and fundamentalist Protestant Church. It was no wonder that she chose to graduate in Religious Studies at Chicago University’s School of Divinity, founded by Baptists and evolved from Baptist Theological Union Seminary. It was there she met her future husband Thane Rehn.
It is important to note that her father-in-law is Nathan Martin Rehn, the man behind Bless India Ministries. The organisation donated crores of rupees for conversion of children in Bharat to a person named Devadas Mekala and his organisation. They now claim that they stopped supporting him because of some “sin issues” and financial irregularities. I invite my readers to speculate what kind of “sin issues” are prevalent in orphanages. We have many previous examples to make an informed guess.
In the meanwhile, Devadas Mekala has continued his work of conversion and church planting in Andhra Pradesh with help of foreign missionaries. He has facilitated “mission trips” by foreigners, which are illegal in Bharat, and also converting people through various means. On the other hand, her father in law now runs First Baptist Church of Monterey and no doubt helping the “work of Church” in Bharat in other ways.
We could assume that Dr. Truschke had nothing to do with her father in law, and indeed they do not see eye to eye. However, that would be contrary to facts. They are close enough to jointly donate to charities, her picture is featured on his Church website which says that Nathan Rehn or Pastor Nate has “nine children, six are married, and they have nine grandchildren, living on three continents. By God’s grace, all of their children are walking with the Lord. “
It should also be remembered that she was mentored in her area of study by luminaries such as Wendy Doniger and Sheldon Pollock, who are known Hinduphobes. But let us not judge a person by her background, and take a few samples of her work.
The Deeds of Dr. Truschke
Trushke became famous in Bharat by his book about Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb. The King has widely been noted for his ruthlessness, cruelty and bigotry. His contemporary chroniclers, both Hindu and Muslims, have described his deeds such as breaking of Kashi Vishvanath, Krishna Janmbhumi and Somnath temples. The many revolts by various groups, including Jats, Sikhs, Rajputs and Marathas, during his reign attest to his unpopularity.
However, Dr. Truschke tried to rehabilitate the Mughal King in her book and presents him almost as a benevolent father figure. According to her, he supported more temples than he broke and even his temple breaking was restricted to dozen or so temples. According to her, he is supposed to be a religiously tolerant man who expanded his empire. True Indology and Dimple Kaul in a detailed blog post have comprehensively refuted her whole thesis about Aurangzeb.
But that is not all. Trushke has showed her Hinduphobia in many other ways. For example, she claimed in one of her tweets that Sita called Rama as a “misogynist pig” and that she accused Lakshaman of lusting after her. She did this while she was defending an insulting cartoon shared on facebook.
For anyone unfamiliar with these episodes, in Valmiki's telling (I'm loosely translating here): During the agnipariksha, Sita basically tells Rama he's a misogynist pig and uncouth. During the golden deer incident, Sita accuses Lakshmana of lusting after her and setting up Rama.
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) April 19, 2018
She claims that she can read Sanskrit, however she could not point out the exact verse in Ramayana where these things are alleged to have happened. She referred to some other translation of Ramayana by Prof Goldman, who strongly refused that he had ever written any such thing! The only persons in Bharat who came to her rescue were associated with Congress Party. They wrote an article in the National Herald defending her!
White Christian Indologists
Such behaviour by western white Christian Indologists is not uncommon. They have ever made their scholarship the instrument of denigrating Hindu Dharma and glorifying Christianity. In initial days of Indology, they were honest and confident enough to admit this.
Max Muller, the famous Indologist translated Hindu religious books, including Vedas, into English. But what was his purpose? Let us see from his letters. On August 25, 1856, he writes to Chevalier Bunsen:-
“India is much riper for Christianity than Rome or Greece were at the time of St. Paul. The rotten tree has for some time had artificial supports, because its fall would have been inconvenient for the government. But if the Englishman comes to see that the tree must fall, sooner or later, then the thing is done, and he will mind no sacrifice either of blood or of land. For the good of this struggle I should like to lay down my life, or at least to lend my hand to bring about this struggle.”
In the same letter he continues :-
“I should like to live for ten years quite .quietly and, learn, the language, try to make friends,- and then see whether I was ‘fit to take part in a work, by means of which the old mischief of Indian priestcraft could be overthrown and the way opened for the entrance of simple Christian teaching”
This is just one example from dozens of such available that you can find in his letters. After his translations of Veda, he received several congratulatory letters from his missionary friends, who declared that now the way of Christianity in Bharat would be easier.
Similarly, Alexander Cunningham, a famous Indologist founded Archeological Survey of India. But, what were his motives? In his own words:-
“It would be an undertaking of vast importance to the Indian Government politically, and to the British public religiously. To the first body it would show that India had generally been divided into numerous petty chiefships, which had invariably been the case upon every successful invasion; while, whenever she had been under one ruler, she had always repelled foreign conquest with determined resolution. To the other body it would show that Brahmanism, instead of being an unchanged and unchangeable religion which had subsisted for ages, was of comparatively modern origin, and had been constantly receiving additions and alterations; facts which prove that the establishment of the Christian religion in India must ultimately succeed.”
This is the same thesis that many Hinduphobes peddle even today. Demonisation of Brahmins, narrowing down the scope of Hinduism by calling it Brahmanism and claiming that it is a recent religion is an oft repeated tactic. Clearly, Muller and Cunningham did succeed to some extent.
Multiple such examples of scholars who had ulterior motives in writing about Bharat can be given. In fact, look up any white Christian Indologist and you might as well be looking at a missionary or a marxist. Indeed, many missionaries like Caldwell became Indologists for similar reasons.
They often made allies in Bharat, which included converted Christians as well as people and movements they thought were stepping stone to Christianity. In case of Muller, he though Keshub Chander Sen and his Brahmo Samaj could be stepping stone to Christianity. Thus the goal was, and has been always the same. The strategy is similar too : to show Hindu Dharma in bad light, to glorify foreign invaders and to blame Brahmins for all problems of Bharat thus whitewashing their own role.
Dr. Audrey Truschke is no different. Coming from a fundamentalist Christian background and trained by Hinduphobes, her deeds reveal a lot about her intensions. She is the latest in a long list of western Christian scholars, who whitesplain Bharatiyas about their “true” history. For them, the “white man/woman’s burden” is still there. They need to civilize and convert the native by whatever means necessary.
A few exceptions like Dr. Koenraad Elst, Michel Danino, François Gautier and David Frowley are also there but a vast majority of western scholars on Bharat are Hinduphobic, whether they be due to Christianity or Marxism.
Bharat needs to create an ecosystem of patriotic and dharmic scholars who should be encouraged to pursue academic career, publish books and papers on a regular basis. Indeed, scholars should take up the issues like the Christian character of colonialism, the genocide of native people of new continents, the church sanctioned slave trade and the hereditary class structure of western Europe, that was no better than caste system. Unless we produce motivated and capable scholars, mediocre people like Audrey Truschke will continue to thrive.
Featured image : The Hindu
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