Politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) joined a day-long hunger strike this morning to protest the Andhra Pradesh government’s order to auction the land donated to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.
In New Delhi, Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao and Sunil Deodhar, the party’s national secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh with V Muraleedharan, sat on a hunger strike, alleging that the YSR Congress party was trying to sell the property of the temple that they don’t own. “The state government is not the owner, but the custodian of these assets,” Deodhar said, adding that the state government had no right to sell these properties.
Facing stiff opposition, the Government of Andhra Pradesh on Monday suspended the proposed auctioning 50 immovable ‘unviable’ properties donated by devotees of Lord Venkateswara. It asked the hill temple administration to re-examine its decision. The government directed the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to take a fresh decision on auctioning the properties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand after consulting devotees and religious heads among others.
“Keeping in view the sentiments of devotees, the government hereby directs TTD to re-examine the issue in consultation with different stakeholders like religious elders, opinion makers, a section of devotees etc.,” a government order said. It asked the TTD to ascertain whether these properties located in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand can be used by it for construction of temples, dharma pracharam (propagation of faith) and other religious activities.
However, the BJP leader said even after the Andhra Pradesh government cancelled its decision to auction the assets, his party was not calling off the protest. Deodhar asked the Tirumala body to re-examine the decision, as it does not trust the government.
Deodhar said, “We want the government to bring an ordinance that no property of a mutt or a temple under the state government will be auctioned and the details of property, land, money and other assets will be made public.”
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam is the administrative body for the hill temple of Lord Venkateswara (Lord Vishnu) in Tirumala hills. The properties the state government wants to auction include land in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The BJP is not the only party against the sale of properties. Janasena Party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Congress Party and CPI(M) also opposed the state government’s decision to auction the properties to raise funds.
Deodhar said the union government should investigate the allegations against the YSRCP MP that a lot of money is being diverted for the exercise of conversion (to Christianity).
Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is a Christian given to overt displays of his faith. During his father YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s rule, the Andhra Pradesh government had announced a pilgrimage package for trips to Bethlehem.
Another BJP MP Rakesh Sinha wrote to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam president Subbarao Reddy that 63 properties belonging to the devasthanam were sold on the grounds that they were small pieces of land that were unmanageable and “untenable”.
Jagan’s greed for Tirumala property consequence of larger malaise of Indian state
Hindus who care for their heritage have for long been protesting against the state control over their temples, which leads to both corrupt and unethical practices by state functionaries while government greed never ends. On 18 May, the mahants of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple banished former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan who had urged the government to extract gold from the Hindu temples in the country to fight coronavirus.
In the recent years, Hindu places of worship witnessed the introduction of feminist activists who had before that evinced no interest in the spiritual practices associated with shrines like Lord Ayyappa’s in Sabarimala, Kerala, and Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra. The Sabarimala case has gone for a review in the Supreme Court.
If the state ceases to own or control Hindu temples, just as it does not own or control the places of worship of other religions in the country, the activists for Hindu freedom say the executive, legislature and judiciary cannot dictate terms to the community.