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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Attack on Hindu interests in AP are growing

Every Hindu worth his faith would have been moved by video images of a profusely weeping priest of the 11th century Ramatheertham Sita Lakshmana Kodandarama temple in the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh (AP) following its desecration on December 28. The severed head of the murti (idol) was found in the temple tank prompting the priest to lament that not even Shri Ram was safe in the country.

Apparent in the priest’s lament was the bitter reality that if Hindu interests were not safe in a country where they are in overwhelming majority, the future of the community was bleak if not also doomed. Little did the priest know that his comment would trigger a temple ruination run.

Three days later while secular Hindus woke up to the Christian new year, a murti of Sita was vandalized at the Sitaram temple in Vijayawada. The same day a murti of Lord Subhramanya was found pillaged at the temple of Lord Vigneshwara at Rajamundry. And on January 5 came news that the murtis of Lord Saraswati and Lakshmi were vandalized at the Lord Shiva temple at Muniguda in Odisha. Co-incidentally, the temple is located near the AP border.

Hindu temples have also been harmed in Tamil Nadu and Kerala but their numbers are fewer when compared to AP. The Organizer reported a shocking incident last June in which the police razed the Kattuppasathy Madasamy temple at Tenkasi (Tamil Nadu) on a complaint filed by radical Islamists belonging to the Popular Front of India. Six months earlier the same magazine also revealed the mowing down of a temple at Kozhikode in Kerala by a bunch of hoodlums probably also from the Muslim community.

Either way precious little by way of protestation has been heard from organizations claiming to protect Hindu interests. The point needs to be stressed. Because had the wall of a mosque or church been as much as scratched with a bargepole, the vicious Lutyens media and their Left-Liberal cousins in the West would have raised a stink. False and malicious reports about attacks on churches in Delhi had indeed made the rounds in February 2015. Nuns and priests carrying crucifixes and placards scrawled with the message “Rights for all religions” came out on the roads. They demanded that the Modi’s government speak out against the attacks.

“We are feeling insecure since the Modi government has come to power. The police refused to take our complaint seriously,” a Catholic priest said. Later the whole drama turned out to be stage managed with the pilferage of holy relics being the only substantive charge whose veracity was also suspect.

Which begs the question: why has no Hindu body cared to stage a silent march if not a noisy protest in the vicinity of the Christian chief minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s official residence these last few days, or court arrest? Lack of political will or plain disinterest. A bit of both from the look of things. Going by the abnormal rise in the number of attacks on temples, the Union Home ministry ought to have sent a stern warning to the YSRCP regime long ago.

Every evidence points to the free hand given by Jagan to the Church to proselytize and convert. Complicity of the state is a key factor for the uptick in attacks on Hindu temples in AP. The ransacking of the Ramatheertham temple built during the Chola era was not the first of its kind. Hindu places of worship have been ravished in Chitoor, Nellore, and Guntur ever since he came to power. The September 6 incident in which a chariot was found burnt in the temple town of Antarvedi in East Godavari district caught public attention. The culprits have still to be apprehended.

Pointing an accusing finger at the “Opposition” (read C. Naidu) comes easy but carries little weight. Some temples, admittedly, were uprooted during the TDP era, but strictly to make way for developmental projects like the Krishna riverfront. Minority appeasement was never the objective per se.

The big picture, however, is depressing. The reality of a conscious anti-Hindu onslaught in AP cannot be denied. Facts and figures furnished on social media by the former CBI director, M. Nageshwara Rao, a Telegu bidda, claim that land belonging to nearly 25,000 temples has been under illegal occupation of the government, the bulk of which dates back to the tenure (2004-09) of Jagan’s father, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Twenty temples have been attacked since his son was voted to power 15 months ago.

The CM lobbed a rhetorical query in defense. Who will gain out of damaging murtis and temples? Even the dumbest person knew the direction in which his guns were trained. The sole objective behind the despoilation of Hindu places of worship, he said, was to demean and defame the government. Common sense would suggest otherwise. Much as Naidu may want to create problems for Jagan, there is nothing he stands to gain by taking the temple destruction route. It would be foolish to suggest that alienating Hindu voters would serve his party well regardless of their caste identity.

The existence of a Church-State nexus in AP is hard to deny. Foreign funded NGOs like the India Rural Evangelical Fellowship actively canvassed for the YSRCP to ensure a pro-Christian government. Christ’s soldiers have been the principal beneficiaries of Jagan’s welfare measures. Financial help for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other Biblical places were raised by 10-20k; pastors were given plots as well as monthly honoraria of 5k; provisions put in place to meet the wedding cost of Christian girls; and sizeable grants for the building and repair of existing churches, including a crore for the renovation of the Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Vijayawada.

AP may well be the only state with a dedicated body known as the State Christian Finance Corporation for the promotion of the community’s welfare and culture, a euphemism for conversion by stealth. The irony is that Christians have the best of both the worlds. Most possess Hindu caste certificates which keeps them outside the radar of detection. They enjoy the benefits of schemes which rightly belong to the backwards. Barring registered Christian voters, it is difficult to get any new convert to admit shifting their allegiance to Christ. The phenomenon is pronounced in the coastal areas where most of the conversions are reported to have occurred.

The most sinister part of the Christian plot is to foment divisions in the running of the prestigious Thirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the body which runs the Tirupati temple. The Jesus worshipping YSR was not above influencing the affairs of Bharat’s richest temple under the influence of missionaries. The annual contract for supply of provisions to the temple went to a Christian company during his rule. He also had a political understanding with the Maoists operating in the state. They helped him win the 2004 state polls, and he in turn permitted them to flourish by establishing the Red Corridor.

In June 2019 Jagan appointed his uncle Y V Subba Reddy chairman of the temple’s trust which is responsible for the management Lord Venkateswara’s holy shrine. A former MP, he is also the general secretary of the YSRCP. Though he has been at pains to assert his Hindu identity, doubts persist given the environment of distrust.

A major controversy had erupted in 2016 over the working of non-Hindus in the TTD. This was after a TV sting operation showed a senior woman functionary not only praying at a Tirupati church but also participating in evangelical activity. Thirty-five non-Hindus were appointed between 1988 and 2007 in various positions despite a ban on non-Hindu appointments. Seven non-Hindus were again recruited after 2007 in violation of rules.

To make amends, 45 non-Hindu employees were removed from the TTD’s payroll in 2018 on the orders of the state chief secretary. This did not have the slightest effect on the Christian lobby which continued to fish in troubled waters. An advertisement in August 2019 of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the back of a bus ticket of the AP Road Transport Corporation en route Tirupati raised temperatures.

Nothing has changed since. Things, in fact, can only get worse unless local Hindu bodies decide to rise to the occasion rather than expect the Centre or RSS to bail them out. The options are severely limited when the CM’s brother-in-law (Anil Kumar) happens to be the state’s foremost evangelist and there are pastors who brag on camera about kicking Hindu deities and establishing hundreds of Christ villages.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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