- American academia firmly believes in George Orwell’s “All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.”
- Rutger University reprimanded Michael Chikindas for his anti-Jewish and anti-Israel comments.
- On the other hand, Audrey Truschke, who is known for her offensive tweets and writings about Hinduism, as well as her attempts to whitewash historical figures like Aurangzeb, was supported by Rutgers University, citing academic freedom.
To paraphrase George Orwell’s iconic quote from Animal Farm, ‘ All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.’ The trenchant Hinduphobia in American academia is a stark reminder of this adage. Two very similar cases – and their entirely different outcomes – at Rutgers University illustrate the wisdom of the legendary author.
In May 2017, Rutgers microbiology professor Michael Chikindas published multiple social media posts containing anti-Jewish and anti-Israel material, including describing Judaism as “the most racist religion in the world,” calling Israel a “terrorist country” and blaming the Armenian genocide on Jews. On his Facebook page, Chikindas promoted dozens of anti-Jewish conspiracies and comments, among them references to “international fat Jewish pockets” and descriptions of “orthodox Judaism” and Zionism as “the best of two forms of racism.” 
The professor also posted racist caricatures of Jews and a link to conspiracy theorists claiming the 9/11 attacks were planned by Israel and American Jews. In other posts, Chikindas referred to Israeli and American women, including Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, as “sluts” and “bitches”.
Rutgers wasted no time in condemning the offensive remarks and sacking Chikindas from his role as the director of the university’s Center for Digestive Health. Rutgers President Robert Barchi said the university would seek further disciplinary action against the professor through the faculty union and issued a statement:
“This has been a sad and deeply troubling situation for our students and our staff, and for our faculty, who stand for much nobler values than those expressed by this particular professor.” 
Barchi added: “While the university is and should always be a place that challenges students to grapple with complex and even controversial ideas, this situation has threatened the trust between professors and students that is a prerequisite to learning.”
The Chikindas case raised important discussions about the boundaries of academic freedom and the responsibilities of faculty members within the university setting. Rutgers acknowledged that this freedom comes with the expectation that it will be exercised responsibly, ensuring a respectful and inclusive learning environment for all students.
Anti-Jewish propaganda rightly doesn’t get much traction in America, and as Chikindas found out, it invites instant punishment.
Rutgers’ double standard
Almost exactly a year later, Audrey Truschke, Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers, posted the following tweet:
“For anyone unfamiliar with these episodes, in Valmiki’s telling (I’m loosely translating here): During the agnipariksha, Sita 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.” 
Truschke, who comes from a family with strong connections to fundamentalist Christian churches in America, cited a reference from a translation of the Ramayana by Professor Robert P Goldman of the University of California at Berkeley. When Truscke’s offensive tweet was brought to his attention, Goldman replied:
“I find it extremely disturbing but perhaps not unexpected to learn that AT (Audrey Trushcke) has used such inappropriate language and passed it off as coming from Valmiki. Neither the great poet nor we used anything like such a vulgar diction, and certainly, Sita would never have used such language to her husband even in the midst of emotional distress. Nowhere in our translation of the passage do we use words such as you mention AT as using…..she is in no way quoting our translation but giving her own reading of the passage in her own highly inappropriate language.” 
In November 2018, Truschke tried to whitewash the crimes of the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb, arguably the most brutal figure in India’s 5,000-year recorded history.  The 17th-century despot killed no less than 4.6 million Hindus , but according to Truschke, such numbers are exaggerated because people of that time made up numbers.
In her book Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth, she writes that the Muslim ruler “protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed” and “increased Hindu participation at the elite levels of the Mughal state.” Truschke’s aim was – and continues to be – to belittle the trauma inflicted on Hindus.
Again, in a 2020 article in Aeon, Truschke described the sublime Hindu epic Mahabharata as a “dark tale” that “centers around corrupt politics, ill-behaved men, and warfare.”  She goes on to say that the holy Bhagavad Gita “rationalizes mass slaughter.” Worse, she compares the 2012 gang rape case in Delhi to the attempted disrobing of Draupadi and concludes that Hinduism is misogynistic.
During the Capitol Riots, Truschke spread misinformation, tweeting about the presence of an Indian flag at the scene and immediately declared it to be the work of “the Hindu Right,” even though various media outlets showed that the perpetrator was not a Hindu, but a Christian convert from India. 
In response to her relentless Hinduphobia, in March 2021, more than 8,000 students, faculty, community members, and others signed an open letter expressing concern about Truschke’s conduct within the classroom and on social media. In an open letter  to President Jonathan Holloway and Chancellor Nancy Cantor, they wrote:
“Would Rutgers administration fail to address a professor on campus characterizing the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, or another central religious figure or sacred literature in a similarly ghastly, bigoted way? Why is it permissible for Hinduism and Hindus? Such a characterization is antithetical to the spirit of inclusion and integrity, which should make the campus community feel welcomed.”
“One can easily see parallels between Prof. Truschke’s work and the works of colonial scholars who carried intense disdain for Hinduism and India. Using Eurocentric race theories and white privilege, these scholars and colonial administrators deemed indigenous cultures savage and inherently inferior and thus worthy of colonization and slavery.”
So what did Rutgers do? Instead of taking action over the assistant professor’s Hinduphobia, it doubled down on Truschke. The university’s administrators issued a statement “emphatically” supporting her “academic freedom” in pursuing scholarship . They added that “scholarship is sometimes controversial, perhaps especially when it is at the interference of the history and religion, but the freedom to pursue such scholarship, as Professor Truschke does rigorously, is at the heart of the academic enterprise.” And as a parting shot at Hindus, they called for an “immediate end” to alleged threats being directed toward Truschke.
However, the ill-conceived statement stoked such a massive uproar that four days later, the university backtracked – but only a little.  Still, Rutgers sidestepped Truschke’s bigotry against Hindus and only apologized to Hindus for not “communicating properly.” No action was taken against the so-called historian.
Rutgers University, which incidentally faces many racial discrimination lawsuits from black employees , has two sets of rules – one for the chosen people (Christians, Jews, and Muslims) and another for Hindus.
In the words of author and economist Sanjeev Sanyal, this is classic “racist Orientalism” where “Western scholars establish a monopoly on how a culture should be interpreted. This is then used subtly to colonize and control a people”. Sanyal points to Edward Said’s book Orientalism, which exposes how the Orientals “cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” 
The open letter from the Rutgers students warns against precisely this racist Orientalism: “One can easily see parallels between Truschke’s work and the works of colonial scholars who carried intense disdain for Hinduism and India. Using Eurocentric race theories and white privilege, these scholars and colonial administrators deemed indigenous cultures savage and inherently inferior and thus worthy of colonization and slavery.”
Explosion of Hinduphobia
The truth is that Hinduphobia is not just growing but growing exponentially. Rather surprisingly, in 2022, the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience at Rutgers brought out a study titled ‘Anti-Hindu Disinformation: A Case Study of Hinduphobia on Social Media’.  The study acknowledges: “Hinduphobia is now exploding across entire web communities across millions of comments, interactions, and impressions in both mainstream and extremist platforms.”
The depiction of Hindus is eerily similar to how Jews were caricatured in Nazi Germany. “Hinduphobic tropes – such as the portrayal of Hindus as fundamentally heretical evil, dirty, tyrannical, genocidal, irredeemable or disloyal – are prominent across the ideological spectrum and are being deployed by fringe web communities and state actors alike.”
The study blows away the claim of liberals and leftists that Hinduphobia is just wannabe Islamophobia and that Hindus aren’t victims but rather the oppressors (of Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs). It reveals that a disturbingly large component of Hinduphobic material is generated by Muslims from Iran and Pakistan and Muslims in India. “Islamist extremist and white supremacist communities regularly disseminate genocidal and violent propaganda and memes against Hindus. ….we found open calls for genocide disguised using coded language.”
For instance, in a meme using Pepe the Frog, self-identified Pakistani Islamist accounts mock the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, where 175 people were killed by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists. Hindu victims are shown crying, frustrated, and powerless, while Islamist terrorists are depicted as impervious and smug, reveling in the violence.
Islamists borrow genocidal motifs beyond India, including Nazi Germany and the contemporary United States. For example, Islamists co-opt the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin to suggest the same dehumanizing treatment should be meted out to Hindus. Further memes illustrate Pepe the Frog (as an Islamist) enacting an ISIS-style beheading of Hindus foregrounded against a terror bombing, and the same character fashioned as an SS officer — clear from the Nazi flag and emblem on his arm – gassing a Hindu male, depicted with saffron and a swastika.
The study concludes: “We found that demeaning Hinduphobic themes were often depicted alongside elevated depictions of in-group supremacy among the memes of the extremist groups disseminating them. Proliferating exponentially in the digital age, Hinduphobia appears to be reaching new audiences and fueling group supremacy and feelings of ethnic superiority across the ideological and extremist religious spectrums. These large surges in ethnic antagonism online often presage violence against the targeted groups. Given the recent inflammation of ethnic tensions, web platforms and government and civil society actors need to be especially alert for surging coded slurs and imagery associated with Hinduphobia.”
The authors recommend that given the “historically murderous nature of Hinduphobia,” the Hindu community should update security measures and better protect itself. “It should also seek to partner with other vulnerable communities through interfaith organizations to address common security concerns and mediation. Growing community relationships and education for law enforcement, civil society, and interfaith dialog can help raise awareness about the growing problem.”
Joel Finkelstein, a senior research fellow at the Miller Center, says, “Educating young people on how to detect open-source hate messaging is a vital first step in helping vulnerable communities prepare for and respond to emerging threats.”
The trouble with Western academia supporting habitual liars like Audrey Truschke and other Hinduphobe Indologists like Wendy Doniger and Sheldon Pollock is its implications for Western scholarship on India.
Says Aabhas Maldahiyar, author and former Marxist, “Today, when archives, inscriptions and other raw materials of historiography are easily available, the self-proclaimed custodians of truth like….Audrey must sit back and introspect their stands. Nothing hurts more than the dents caused by losing credibility.” 
No argument there. Indologist Max Muller – who declared that his aim of studying the Vedas was to destroy Hinduism – ultimately died stewing in his own hatred, lamenting on his deathbed that he had wasted his life spinning lies about Hinduism. Modern scholars like Doniger and Truschke are universally despised in India, the country they claim to study. They may earn temporary popularity with their sensational lies and revisionism, but they are destined for a permanent place in history’s dustbin. And that’s precisely where more than 200 years of Western scholarship on India will also end up.