In the last Andhra Pradesh has witnessed massive religious conversion. Successive governments led by parties – Congress, Telugu Desam Party and YSRCP – have pursued a policy of minority appeasement at the cost of Hindus in the state.
Unfortunately the burgeoning minority population is not reflected in the state census. Actual figures of are always hidden to enable Christians to grab the benefits of Scheduled Caste Hindus and to receive proselytising gifts from Christian organisations as well. Successive Congress governments did nothing to stop this kind of Crypto- Christianity in Andhra Pradesh.
During the rule of Dr. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who took over as the Chief Minister of the Congress in 2004, there was no control on chriastian activities and organisations. There were allegations of large-scale conversions at the time. Armies of evangelists carried out propaganda and other activities even in Hindu holy shrines. At one stage it became a practice of his government to auction temple lands for generating revenue to the government.
It is a well-known fact that his government passed a government order to restrict Seven Hills of Lord Balaji to two hills and tried to open various entertainment and business centers in the remaining five hills. But the government withdrew the decision in the wake of large-scale protests across the state and intense outrage from Hindus and Hindu institutions.
He also tried to extend reservations for Dalits to Christian converts and to Muslims also knowing well that it is unconstitutional.
The TDP -- the first non-Congress regional party to rule Andhra Pradesh – rode to power on the slogan Telugu vari Athma gowravam (Telugu people’s self-respect). Although NT Rama Rao came with bang, it did not take any steps taken to protect Hindu Dharma from evangelists. However, it did not cause any harm either.
However, Shri Nara Chandrababu Naidu who came from Congress continued the policy of Congress’s minority appeasement. Naidu also mentioned on several occasions that the reservations would be extended to Dalits who converted to Christianity. He demolished tens of Hindu temples in Vijayawada in the name of development work, but did not touch the two dargas which are in the middle of the road on the same area. When the Vajpayee government tried to bring in legislation to ban on cow slaughter, Naidu opposed the proposal.
Addressing a public meeting during the 2019 elections, he remarked that "Who is Modi to prevent Muslims from eating meat? Will Modi even tell Muslims in the country what to eat and what not to eat?" So an attempt was made by Shri Naidu to provoke the Muslims but he never bothered about the sentiments of the Hindus. Shri Naidu’s decisions on issues like protection of Tirumala temple ornaments and property and the appointment of TTD and HDPT (Hindu Dharma Parirakshana Trust) chairman have caused controversy and anger among Hindus.
Since a long time Hindu organisations have been demanding the transfer of non-Hindu employees in TTD to other departments. But he took no steps in this regard during his regime. Now, in opposition, he is shedding crocodile tears.
On campaign trail, he raised the slogan, ‘Nenu vunnanu, nenu vinnanu” (I am here - I have heard). But it is true for all except Hindus. After the formation of Jagan government, the then Chief Secretary LV Subrahmanyam appeared to have reacted somewhat to the issue of non–Hindu employees in TTD. But he was immediately transferred by the government without citing any reasons.
During the 2019 general elections, the Hindus in the state were in fact terrified when they saw the YSRCP manifesto announcing bounties to pastors and imams. Jagan promised an honorarium not less than Rs 5,000 and allot plots to build houses for them those who used to convert innocent Hindus. The impending danger was also somewhat anticipated. But the people voted to Jagan because they were fed up with Naidu’s rule. At the same time all the pastors across the state worked hard for Jagan’s victory. All the churches worked publicly and became YSRCP propaganda centers.
Hindus were shocked when they saw Christian religious symbols at SVIMS Hospital run by Tirupati-Tirumala Devasthanam trust. Although SVIMS officials removed them, there was much hue and cry in the media. The prices of darshan tickets and prasadam at all the prominent temples in the state, including TTD, have been significantly increased.
There are rumours that discussions took place in the TTD Board and TTD Finance Committee meetings on the issue of withdrawing deposits belonging to the temple from banks and convert them into government bonds in order to earn higher rate of interest for TTD. If that happened, it is sure that there is no chance to recover the money from the government
In February 2020, the government detained and removed Sri Arjun Das, the custodian of the Hathiramji Math in Tirupati, and handed over the responsibilities of the Math to Kalahasti E.O Chandrasekhar Reddy, without valid reasons. Arjun Das’s dismissal was declared null and void by the High Court. But the Endowments Department did not reinstate his office. Many doubts were expressed about the interference of the government in the affairs of the Math.
On November 14, 2019, a Durga temple in Guntur city was demolished by the authorities, overnight, without any prior notice under the pretext of clearing the road block. Local devotees, deeply saddened by the incident, even expressed their indignation and shock over the irresponsible action of the authorities.
On February 14, 2020, some anti-social elements set the chariot of Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy temple at Konda Bitragunta in Bogolu mandal of Nellore district on fire. There have been serious protests across the state. But the government said the culprit was a mentally unstable person and he has been arrested.
The next day, an intruder demolished the entrance arch of the Ammavari temple in Suryaravupalem, Undrajavaram mandal, West Godavari district. In March 2020, a statue of Goddess Saraswati was demolished by some anti-social elements at a girls' school in Akividu, West Godavari district. In April 2020, a marble statue of Dattatreya was ransacked at Buttaigudem in West Godavari district. On January 21, 2020, 23 idols of six temples in Pithapuram, East Godavari district were destroyed by unknown persons. Here, too, the police arrested a drunken mad man, they claimed that he was the culprit. Also on November 16, 2019, the authorities removed the statue of Anjaneyaswamy on the national highway near Gollapalli village in Cherukupalli mandal of Guntur district. On September 12, 2020, some anti-social elements destroyed the ancient Nandi idol at the Pashupatinath Temple in Lingalabanda, Rayadurg Mandal, Anantapur district. On the same day, some thugs desecrated the idol of Vinayaka in Venkatagiri village under Rajahmundry Mandal Pidingoyi Panchayat in East Godavari district.
When some tombs in a Christian cemetery near Chilakaluripet were partially destroyed, State Home Minister Smt. Mekathoti Sucharitha visited the spot, expressed her outrage over the incident and promised to take strict action against those responsible
On July 4, 2019, the state government issued orders to take over the temple land under the pretext of distributing house plots to the poor. After massive outrage from the public and from various Hindu organisations, it came to know that the government withdrew the proposal. But immediately on August 30, 2019 an order was issued once again stating that the government could forcibly seize the temple lands, if necessary. There have been instances where the authorities have tried to seize the temple land in some places and knocked down with the objections of the local protestors. Although the government seems to be backtracking on this issue at present, it cannot be said that there will be no attempt to reclaim the temple land in the future.
On April 30, 2020 the government issued a public auction notice to sell immovable assets of TTD through an auction. When there was uproar in the public, the government said it had no intention of selling the TTD lands, and had only tried to implement the directives given by the previous government and was suspending the sales due to objections from devotees and public. But some pointed out that BJP leader Bhanu Prakash Reddy was also a member of TTD board which decided to sell TTD lands. However, the then Endowment Minister late Manikyalarao (BJP) clarified that the decision of land auction taken during the TDP regime was not implemented due to the objections of Bhanu Prakash Reddy and himself.
The wooden chariot at Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple set on fire by anti-social elements
There are rumours that discussions took place in the TTD Board and TTD Finance Committee meetings on the issue of withdrawing deposits belonging to the temple from banks and convert them into government bonds in order to earn higher rate of interest for TTD. If that happened, it is sure that there is no chance to recover the money from the government.
An unnecessary controversy was created with regard to the mandatory declaration which a non-Hindu has to make before entering Tirupati temple. The visitor has to declare his faith in Lord Sri Venkateswara to enable him to have darshan. The relevance and amendments to these rules are an internal matter of Hindu society. They do not require the intervention or advice of the rulers. It is the duty of the rulers to help the people and themselves also to follow the religious practices and rules of the Hindu temples. The controversy was sparked by the TTD chairman's earlier announcement that the declaration rule did not apply to the Chief Minister. Are they thinking that the Chief Minister need not follow the rules of Hindu temples? Or are the rulers trying to tell the people that the CM is not a Christian? If so why did Jagan go on a trip to Jerusalem immediately after he became CM? The Hindu community considers it a disgrace that on one hand the CM is adhering to his Christian beliefs and on the other he is violating the rules of Hindu temples.
The burning of the Kalyanothsava (wedding) chariot in the temple premises of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy in Antarvedi has caused outrage in the entire Hindu community. Most importantly, the police's attempt to portray the burning of chariot as an act of a mad man, again they said that it is because short circuit. The fact is that there is no electrification in the porch where the chariot was kept. Later, they said someone tried to fire the honeycomb on the top of the porch which would have ignited the chariot. The reckless attitude of government and police has left behind many suspicions. Many people have also commented that handing over the case to the CBI, without making a sincere effort to catch the culprits is an evidence of government’s irresponsibility.
About 3,000 devotees from various parts of the state gathered to protest the burning of the chariot at Antarvedi. Government authorities have no sympathy for the concerns of the devotees. Surprisingly the government arrested and prosecuted 39 people, who were protesting peacefully when a church window pane was broken by a stone thrown by someone.
Although more than 25 temple destruction activities have taken place in the state, no serious action has been taken to book the culprits. Adding insult to injury, Kodali Nani, Civil supplies and consumer affairs minister, said: "What is the harm to Anjaneyaswamy if the idol's arm is broken? What if Narasimha Swamy chariot is burnt, it will be re-built?"
When some tombs in a Christian cemetery near Chilakaluripet were partially destroyed, State Home Minister Smt. Mekathoti Sucharitha visited the spot, expressed her outrage over the incident and promised to take strict action against those responsible. Despite the number of attacks on Hindu temples and idols and the burning of chariots, a lenient attitude is being adopted by the government. No specific measures were taken up by the government to alleviate the pain of Hindus.
Hindus were shocked when they saw Christian religious symbols at SVIMS Hospital run by Tirupati-Tirumala Devasthanam trust. Although SVIMS officials removed them, there was much hue and cry in the media
Although Hindus around the world have been expressing their concern over rising onslaught on temples, the Chief Minister is yet to make a statement or take action against it. No action was taken against the minister for hurting Hindu sentiments. Anti-Hindu elements continue to carry out their nefarious activities without any fear.
The government should take full responsibility for what has happened. If anybody criticizes the government, they are being attacked verbally and physically. The police force is being used to intimidate RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists. If the ongoing attacks on Hindu temples, properties and idols are considered to be the acts of insane people, then why should the government hand over the Antarvedi case to the CBI? If it is considered as a conspiracy of the opponents, is the government not in a position to crack those conspiracies? But these questions have not been answered by the government.