Attempt to sabotage Hindu interests in Srisailam thwarted; Corrupt EO transferred after Hindu organisations protest
The state control of Hindu temples has only caused much misery to the devotees, the temple wealth and its functioning too. While Hindu interests are taking a beating all over the country, in major temple towns Hindus are being edged out by people of other religions in employment and business activities. Their latest target is Srisailam.
- VSK Telangana
Srisailam is grappling with influx of non-Hindu businessmen who have besieged the interests of devotees and Hindu businessmen alike
Srisaila Kshetram is one of the twelve (Dwadasa) Jyotirlingas and the most important of the eighteen (Ashtadasa) Shakti Pithas. Nestled amidst the greenery of the Eastern Ghats, lakhs of devotees from all across the country and beyond come here to worship lord Shiva. The temple town boast of a rich dharmic and cultural history and is one of the places where Chhatrapathi Shivaji himself stayed and prayed Lord Shiva.
Srisailam is one of the main endowment temples in Telugu states. However today, the situation has turned grim with Hindu groups of the two Telugu states being worried about the corruption, the dominance of other religions, and the temple executive officer’s controversial attitude in the administrative affairs of Sri Bhramarambika Mallikarjuna Swamy Devasthanam at Srisailam.
The Actual controversy
In the last few decades, with the appointment of non-Hindu employees in the administrative section of the Srisailam Temple, the tenders of the Devasthanam and the licenses, were given to the Muslims. This was supported by the temple EO A. Ramchandra Murthy. This generated fierce opposition from the Hindus.
According to the orders issued in 2011 by the then joint Telugu States endowments Commissioner, no contracts were to be given to non-Hindus in the Devasthanam shopping complex or any other contracts. In violation of this order, the shopping complex tender licenses of Srisailam temple as well as other licenses were given to the Muslim traders and businessmen. Since then, the Muslims have gained the upper hand in the administrative section of the temple.
As expected it did not stop at that. As their influence grew, the Muslim businessmen began to exercise their clout. Among others, two Muslims traders, Rafi and Razzak, with their political influence began to exercise their authority over Hindu servants and devotees. In addition, the controversy turned to extreme form when the Temple Executive officer started supporting the activities of these Muslims.
On August 16, 2019, the local Hindus were enraged to see that Muslims were also present to submit and file tender documents and licenses for the Devasthanam shopping complexes. At this stage, local Srisailam BJP leader Budda Shrikanta Reddy opposed this affair and questioned the E.O and was arrested by the police and produced in court. With this incident, all Hindu organisations decided to free the Sri Saila area from the unauthorized rule of Muslims.
‘Chalo Srisailam’ Protest
On August 20, 2019, all Hindu organisations called for “Chalo Srisailam” program. They planned to conduct a peaceful protest against corruption in the Srisailam area and the dominance of non-Hindu religions.
Hindu organisations called for “Chalo Srisailam” protest against the EO n on August 20th which shook the administration
With this, the situation became tense. The activists belonging to the Hindu organisations such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajaranga dal, Shivashakti, etc., reached Srisailam and called for a protest. As a result, a large number of Hindus from the Telugu states also arrived at Srisailam. Noticing the erupting anger among the Hindus and their just demands, the administration was forced to act.
Following the huge protests, the state government Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam, issuing an order on August 19th, transferring the temple Executive Officer A. Sri Ramachandra Murthy. Anantapur Deputy Collector K. S. Rama Rao has been appointed as the new Executive Officer for the year’s tenure. This has put a stop to the week-long erupting controversy.
Srisailam Temple EO: The crux of the controversy
From the beginning, the attitude of A. Ramachandra Murthy, who worked as an executive officer at Srisailam, was controversial with allegations of corruption made against him. In addition, it was also alleged that to get married a second time, he converted to Islam. A case was also registered against him in this regard at the Andhra Pradesh High court in 2010.
At that time, a regency member of the Srikalahasthi temple M. Subrahmanyam Reddy filed a case against Ramachandra Murthy, then E.O of the same temple. Subrahmanyam Reddy stated in his petition that Ramchandra Murthy had accepted Islam and married another woman while he had a wife. He said that he had been appealing to the Government many times and in the absence of any response, he approached the court. The High Court issued an arrest warrant against Ramchandra Murthy as he failed to attend the court despite several notices.
Subsequently, Hindu organisations protested that not only a person with a criminal history was appointed as the E.O of Srisailam temple, but this time again he was merely transferred. The devotees came together under the aegis of Shiva Shakti Spiritual Consciousness platform to protest against the lackadaisical attitude of the government in dealing with the situation. As no real action was taken to address their concerns, the devotees decided to reach Srisailam as per plan.
In this process, the state police forces in the Srisailam area arrested the activists and devotees of the Shiva Shakti Spiritual Consciousness platform in the name of maintaining security. However, when the activists showed no signs of retiring from the protest, the new EO of the Temple K. S Rama Rao took up discussions with representatives of Hindu organizations.
Representatives of the Hindu organisations submitted a memorandum to the new EO demanding that the interference of non-Hindus in all the activities in the Temple area should be totally stopped and action should be taken against those people who acquired the surrounding shops illegally in the auction. The new EO co-operated saying that he felt lucky to come to Srisailam and that this was not possible without the grace of God. He said the sanctity of the temple would be preserved and he told the representatives that they should give him some time to sort out this matter.
17 other non-Hindu employees in Srisailam so far!
Close on the heels of the Andhra Pradesh government passing an order the only Hindus will be employed in Tirupathi temple, another controversy on similar lines has been exposed in the holy town of Srisailam.
On 19th August, 2019 evening, the Legal Rights Protection Forum (LPRF) has revealed the details of the 17 non-Hindu in the administrative section of Srisailam Devasthanams through their Twitter handle. Three of them are regular employees and the rest are clearly contract and out-sourced employees. LPRF also revealed the details of their employee IDs, recruitment dates and recruitment orders along with employees’ names. LRPF said through their Twitter handle that the details were brought to the notice of the Endowment Commissioner and the Special Cheif Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh state for necessary action.
Legal Rights Protection Forum's investigation revealed that the Srisailam temple administration had allowed non-Hindu businessmen to operate in its premises
The LPRF had a conversation with the Spl Chief Secretary of AP and relevant inputs were provided. Taking a cue from the findings of LPRF, surprise raids were conducted by Srisailam Temple Executive Officer at the temple premises and the employees in question were investigated. The investigations revealed that 17 of the temple staffs were not Hindus and were found to be practicing Islam and Christianity.
It is indeed concerning that non-Hindus were allowed to be employed in Hindu temples while the Endowment board chose to neglect the concerns. After Tirupathi, it has now been found that Srisailam had employed non-Hindus thanks to the efforts of LPRF. However, this is not the end and every endowment board across every state in the country should take similar measures and ensure that Hindu temples, its activities are conducted by Hindus alone. While it is ideal that the state does not interfere in Temple affairs, given the fact that control of Hindu temples by the state cannot be done away immediately, the least the administration can do is to safeguard Hindu employees, devotees and their interests in their own temples atleast.