Debates on Hinduphobia in western universities have been raging for the last several months. The issue dominated the discourse at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where Hindu students had come out in the open against ‘historian’ Audrey Truschke for her distortion of history to portray Hindus in poor light and glorify Islamic invaders in India. Similarly, at Oxford University in the UK, the first female Indian President-elect of the student’s union, Rashmi Samant, was forced to resign after she had become the target of leftists and anti-Hindu propagandists.
Even though Hinduphobia in academic institutions by left liberals is well known, the leftists continue to deny its existence. They continue to allege harassment by the followers of ‘Hindutva’, a term they used to refer to Hindu nationalism. The latest example of the same is an op-ed by Arun Venugopal, a journalist focusing on race and migration. In a podcast published by radio station WNYC News, Venugopal uses the example of Audrey to further his narrative that American scholars are facing threats from the right-wing in India.
Arun Venugopal claims that the Indian right-wing was attacking Audrey Truschke because she is a staunch critic of PM Narendra Modi, and implied that there is no institutional Hinduphobia in the United States. He claims that Hinduphobia is the wrong term to use because it is similar to ‘Islamophobia’. He says that Islamophobia is real, citing the example of the travel ban which was imposed by the US govt on a few Islamic countries, and says there is no such institutional action against Hindus.
The basic premise of the podcast by Arun Venugopal is that even though some Hindus might have faced racism in the US, there is no institutional bias against Hindus. He also claims that ‘intellectuals’ like Audrey Truschke are targeted because of criticising Narendra Modi, and there is nothing wrong with ‘history’ being taught by the professor. He fails to mention how Audrey is trying to re-write history by denying that Aurangzeb destroyed temples and attacked Hindus.
However, such blatant glossing over facts by the journalist has not gone unnoticed, and a research scholar from Princeton University has rebutted Venugopal in detail. In a tweet thread posted by Economics PhD scholar Parth Parihar, he said that it is a deliberate erasure of Hindu-scholar voice that much be called out. He also pointed how the entire podcast on ‘Hinduphobia’ was centred on alleged attacks on a white woman by brown students.
Parth points out how Arun Venugopal used quotes from various people to ‘debunk’ the claims of Hinduphobia, but actually, it does not contain any quote from any scholar who has actually written on Hinduphobia. He also points out that Venugopal knows people who have spoken on the issue earlier, as he mentions the “Understanding Hinduphobia” conference organised by the students of Rutgers following the Audrey controversy, but only selectively cites few quotes from the conference.
Arun Venugopal quotes one student who said she was the victim of Hinduphobia but refused to identify herself and another student who said that the term ‘Hinduphobia’ was selectively deployed against scholars. Venugopal used just these two examples to present a distorted view of the conference, which implies that most Hindu students don’t agree with the term Hinduphobia, and those who do only do anonymously. That is a completely wrong representation of the conference held via video conferencing, where several eminent personalities had spoken in length on various topics in three sessions of the conference, focusing on understanding the Historical Origins of Hinduphobia, contemporary Manifestations of Hinduphobia, and the impact of Hinduphobia on Hindu Americans.
Parth Parihar informed the speakers at the event included teachers from Harvard and Princeton, and students studying South Asian Studies, Education, Religious Studies, and Economics from prestigious institutions. But Arun Venugopal ignored all those people who spoke in length on the issue, and selectively picked only two quotes to suit his narrative that Hinduphobia does not exist in reality. The whole day conference lasted 8 hours, but he picked only 2 minutes from it.
Parihar also said that Venugopal’s claim that people are willing to come forward to narrate incidences of Hinduphobia is false, as two powerful Hindu women ‑ Rashmi Samant and Prasiddha Sudhakar – spoke about Hinduphobia on their campuses.
Moreover, while Venugopal devoted half of his podcast to ‘attacks’ faced by Audrey Truschke, he does not even mention attacks faced by those who speak about Hinduphobia. Many scholars who spoke at the conference said that they have faced online attacks, usually from other ‘academics’, but it was completely ignored by Venugopal.
Parth Parihar informed he himself had faced such attacks, when one Cambridge professor had posted his morphed image on Facebook, liked a comment where Parihar was called a ‘cow piss drinker’. He also said that hateful comments that he received include information that can be used to trace and target him and his family.
Dr Lavanya Vemsani, Distinguished Professor of History at Shawnee State University, Ohio, has also gone public with her experience with Hinduphobic attacks on her. She tweeted that she was called Hindutva just for speaking the truth. She said that she has received death threats both online and offline. Dr Vemsani further informed that some academics had given a call for boycotting their conference when she shared call for papers on academic lists.
National Public Radio (NPR), to which WNYC is an affiliate, has also come under criticism from Indian scholars for promoting anti-Hindu leftists. Brooklyn based scholar Dr Indu Viswanathan narrates how she has been fighting against biased reporting on Hindus by NPR and its affiliates, but her voices have been ignored. She says that in American media, there is little or no mention of the massive violence done to Hindus in India and other parts of South-East Asia.
She has been meticulously compiling such reports, categorising them under various sections. Two years ago she had sent her analysis and a petition calling for Greater Journalistic Integrity in Reporting on Hinduism by NPR to the organisation, but it continues to produce and reproduce the same biased, single-story about Hindus & India with no attempt at balanced reporting or alternate analyses, Dr Viswanathan said.
Referring to the podcast by Arun Venugopal on WNYC, she said that now they are using their platform to “promote a bigoted, fragile white, a tenured white female scholar who has made a career out of erasing Hindu genocide.” Dr. Indu Viswanathan emphasised that WMYC and NPR are corroborating Audrey Truschke’s claim that she is under threat, while the fact is that she is a Genocide Denier.
Dr. Viswanathan added that there is a long legacy of white scholars using their power to demonize, gaslight, erase, lie about, and distort communities and civilizations of colour, and the same continues on NPR. By doing so, they want to say that these communities of colour have no legitimate right to call out the scholars distorting history. Audrey Truschke’s claims of being attacked are “substantiated” by the curation of tweets and reactions that paint the picture that the ONLY Hindu rebuttal to her scholarship is dangerous, violent, etc. She erases or ignores any reasonable Hindu response, she pointed out.
Dr. Indu Viswanathan said that her analysis shows that majority of Hindus are asking for plurality, balance, and inclusion, and it is Audrey who erases, oppresses and misrepresents the truth, and she justifies colonisation.