By Rama Sardar
As a Hindu woman living in the United States, I have experienced my fair share of Hinduphobia. I have lost count of how many times I have been referred to with religiously offensive slurs and been told that my culture is one full of “cow worshippers.”
But a staff member at my own university calling the concerns of other Hindu students “lazy” and “immoral” is a new one.
Audrey Truschke, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark, has had a history of disrespecting Hinduism. Truschke has allegedly used religious slurs to refer to Hindus and denied the existence of countless genocides committed against Hindus in Indian history.
The Islamic Studies Program at IU tweeted in support of her March 8 and 9, defending her comments against my religion through the guise of “academic freedom.”
In a series of now-deleted tweets, Robert Crouch, the interim director of the IU Islamic Studies Program, called the concerns of Hindu students “lazy” and “immoral,” explicitly stating that the program stands with Truschke and RU.
Using the Twitter account of a program that represents a religious minority in the U.S. to shut down the concerns of students who belong to a different religious minority is incredibly appalling.
As a Hindu IU student, I am fed up.
An open letter written by Hindu students and allies from RU details the many accusations brought up against the controversial Truschke.
On several occasions, Truschke falsely claimed Hindus were involved in the January 6 Capitol Hill riots caused by white supremacists. She has referred to our holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, as one that “rationalizes mass slaughter” and even called Lord Ram from the Hindu epic the Ramayana a “misogynistic pig.”
She has claimed that Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor of the Indian subcontinent, “protected more Hindu temples more often than he destroyed them,” despite historical evidence suggesting he actually destroyed thousands of Hindu temples and forcibly converted millions of Hindus to Islam.
Does any of this sound like “academic freedom” to you?
In an interview, Crouch apologized “if” he had caused any offense and said the Islamic Studies Program “does not have an official statement to make about this case.”
The tweets were then deleted.
Shibani Mody, a junior running for student body vice president of IU Student Government, said she was equally disturbed that Crouch supported Truschke’s behavior, rather than condemning it.
“Minority students who stand up for themselves when they see an injustice, that is not being lazy,” Mody said. “This is not a disagreement that they had with a professor. This is something that they see as an injustice to people from their religion, from their culture. The amount of anti-Asian hatred we have been experiencing contributes to this.”
Mody stressed people need to stop pitting Hinduism and Islam against each other.
She said she believes Crouch has a responsibility as a director of an educational program to represent and support all minority students and should apologize for using a platform for Muslim students to direct hatred toward Hindu students.
Mody said Crouch’s comments may cause Hindu students on IU’s campus to feel frustrated and to believe no one is standing up for them.
“If you are the director of a big department like Islamic Studies, you have students who are minorities,” she said. “You have students who believe that injustice is wrong, and they are trying to improve life situations for themselves and people who practice that same culture.”
Compared to words used to describe other forms of systemic oppression, the term “Hinduphobia” is one of the least searched forms of oppression on Google as of 2020. Despite being the third largest religion in the world, we are failing to bring the issue of Hinduphobia into the mainstream conversation of anti-minority sentiment.
In a country that has constantly appropriated my religion, whether that be non-Hindus who practice yoga or people who use my Gods as “aesthetic” wallpaper or doormats, I would at least expect someone to be an ally to us.
I wish people loved Hindus as much as they love using our culture.
In the midst of escalating Hinduphobia, I encourage all Hindus to stand up for themselves when they know something is not right. We have been tolerant of anti-Hindu bigotry for too long, and it is important we recognize our silence on these issues is compliance to deepening our oppression.
Now is the time to speak up, and now is only the beginning.
Rama Sardar (she/her) is a freshman majoring in media with a concentration in film. She aspires to be a screenwriter and film director.