Vandalism of a 400-yea-old murti (consecrated idol) of Lord Rama at the Ramateertham temple in Andhra Pradesh has triggered massive protest by the opposition against the ruling YSRCP government in the state led by Chief Minister YS Jagan Reddy.
On 29 December morning, priests found the doors of the ancient Sita Lakshmana Kodandarama temple on the Bodikonda hillock in Ramatheertham broke open and the murti of Rama in the sanctum sanctorum without the head.
The severed portion was retrieved from the nearby temple pond on 30 December.
“At a time when the construction of the temple of SriRama is going on at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, the murti of Lord Rama is destroyed in our state. Separating the head of the murti cannot be an act of an insane person. It is an act of some religious maniacs,” Janasena Party chief Pawan Kalyan said in a statement on 30 December.
The gutting of temple chariots in Bitragunta (Nellore) in February, Antarvedi in September, and violation of several Hindu murtis at Pithapuram in January are some of the prominent malicious acts reported this year.
In some cases like Antarvedi, where the six-decade-old, 40 feet high wooden ratham of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha went up in flames in wee hours under mysterious circumstances, the Andhra Pradesh Police had initially put the blame on demented vagrants.
Following the public and political pressure, the YSRCP government referred the Antarvedi matter to the CBI.
The vandalised Rama murti now has further enraged Hindu devotees and organisations while allowing the TDP, BJP and the Janasena to sharpen their attack on Andra Pradesh Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy government, accusing his indifference towards earlier incidents as encouraging more such occurrences.
“The destruction of murti of Rama at the four centuries old Ramatheertham temple is resultant of the negligence of the ruling party. In the last 19 months, over 120 temple attacks took place in a premeditated manner. And for reasons unknown, the CM remained a silent spectator to these attacks,” accused former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.
BJP activists staged a protest at the temple on 29 December night. Andhra Pradesh BJP chief Somu Veerraju demanded the government to act sternly and punish the culprits.
Meanwhile, the Vizianagaram district police are investigating the case, forming five special teams.
“We are probing from all angles to know if this is an act of treasure hunters or involves communal angle or a miscreant act. We have not made any arrests so far,” Raja Kumari, SP, Vizianagaram said.
Pawan Kalyan, an ally of the BJP, has called for Union Home Ministry’s attention and a CBI probe covering all the temple incidents in Andhra Pradesh.
“Why is the CM not responding to the spate of onslaughts on Hindu temples? He may have faith in any religion, but he should respect sentiments of other religions,” Kalyan said.