NEW DELHI: Many scholar friends are refusing to publish their books in India to “avoid the exposure” that comes with it, says author and Indologist Audrey Truschke who has run into controversy here with her new book on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Undeterred by the row over her book “Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth” and her lecture in Hyderabad University being cancelled, Truschke refuses to be intimidated by “right-wing extremists” and said she would continue to write on topics, whether “controversial or non-controversial”.
Talking to PTI in an interview she said, “Many of my scholar friends are increasingly declining to publish their works in India to avoid the exposure that comes with it. They just publish their work in the United States, so we read it there and everything is fine.”
“These things come with very negative consequences for Indian society… what sort of information is available in terms of history and the unwillingness of people to engage,” she added.
Mughal emperor Aurangzeb for long has remained a controversial topic in India, especially after the Aurangzeb Road in central Delhi was renamed to APJ Abdul Kalam by the NDA government.
The American historian said that history and analyses cannot be tempered with just because they are “not in deference to the popular sentiments”.
“I am not trying to speak to right-wing extremist, because I cannot reason with irrational people. I am trying to speak to the middle-ground, there is still a fairly broad middle-ground in India, and I am talking to them.
“Of course, I do not do this to upset people, but then I do not avoid controversial subjects also,” she said.
Truschke’s lecture in Hyderabad, titled ‘Unpopular Stories: Narrating the Indo-Islamic Past and Navigating Present-day Prejudices’, scheduled to be held tomorrow, was cancelled allegedly following threats from right-wing outfits.
Following the cancellation of her lecture, the author-professor had “deeply regretted” that the presentation and the “subsequent exchange of ideas will not occur”.
She had written on social media, “I was especially looking forward to talking with Hyderabadis about Aurangzeb’s brutal assaults on sultanates in the Deccan in the 1680s and debates concerning what brought about the end of Indian Buddhism in the early second millennium CE.”
“Sad and regretful” for not getting to share her views about the topic she very much holds an expertise on, Truschke said this was a classic example of “hecklers veto triumph over the pursuit of knowledge”.
Also, afraid that this trend of “cancelling lectures” would only be accelerated with time, she said the it was a “failure of Indian society on multiple levels”.
“I am not some random person who is getting up on the stage and talk about some random topic of which I know nothing.
“One does not need to agree with my views to agree that I have written two books on Mughal empire, besides numerous articles… I think that qualifies me to speak on certain areas of expertise and if you don’t let the experts speak how are you going to know about the past,” the historian, who teaches at Rutgers University, asked.