Historian Audrey Truschke’s lecture in Hyderabad, titled ‘Unpopular Stories: Narrating the Indo-Islamic Past and Navigating Present-day Prejudices’, on August 11 was cancelled Wednesday.
The organisers — Krishnakirti Foundation of Kalakriti Art Gallery — said they called off the lecture because of lack of space and to avoid controversy. “We expected a big crowd and we do not have that much space. We came to know that some people are opposed to Truschke’s views and made their displeasure known. We did not receive any calls threatening us, and no one asked us to cancel the event. We asked other organisations if they could host the event and Birla Science Centre agreed. A day later, they said they were not in a position to host the lecture,’’ a Kalakriti official said.
Birla Science Centre secretary Shyam Kothari said that they cancelled the event after they came to know about controversies surrounding Truschke. “We received a pencil booking and we did a background check on the speaker and found that she is controversial. We do not want any controversies, so we cancelled it. We did not receive any threats,’’ Kothari said.
Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said that they did not ask anyone to cancel the event. “No one approached us for permission, so there is no question of giving, denying or withdrawing permission,’’ Kumar said.
Announcing the cancellation of her lecture, Truschke on Wednesday tweeted, “My lecture in Hyderabad, scheduled for August 11, has been cancelled. The subject of ‘Unpopular Stories,’ proved a bit too true, perhaps, when the Hindu Right protested to the police.”
Truschke — who is in India to deliver lectures in Kolkata and Delhi organised by ‘The Seagull Foundation for the Arts’ for their annual ‘A History for Peace’ event — said that she was told about the “threat” last week.
“The organisers of the Hyderabad event (Krishnakirti Foundation) told me that they had received letters protesting my appearance. In view of the perceived threat, they were inclined to cancel the lecture. I saw only one threatening letter on social media, in which I was tagged. Last time I was in India, before the publication of my book ‘Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth’, I had not faced any trouble,” she said over the phone.
Sources said that Bajrang Dal members indicated to police officials at Banjara Hills police station that they would protest at any venue where Truschke would deliver a lecture.
Bajrang Dal city president S Kailash said they were opposed to Truschke’s views on Hinduism. “We did not threaten or ask anyone to cancel her lecture. We just wanted to know from whoever is hosting her lecture if they will take responsibility for any controversial remarks she makes about Hindus,’’ Kailash said. “She has made several derogatory comments on Hindu gods and goddesses.’’
Several prominent citizens have condemned the cancellation. “We are dismayed to learn that vigilante groups have persuaded the Hyderabad Police to deny permission for the public talk by the noted US historian, Dr Audrey Truschke…who has been given a visa by the Government of India…This (cancellation) has been done, it is reported, under pressure from these vigilante groups…” they said in a statement.