During the month of April, 2006, it was reported in the press and electronic media that certain activists of Christian community have been carrying out undesirable activities at the holy places of Tirumala Hills and Tirupathi and these acts have been severely hurting and agitating the religious feelings of the multitude of devout Hindus. Therefore, taking into consideration the seriousness of the situation, His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Visweswara Theertha of Pejavar Mutt, Udipi, requested us viz., Sri Justice G. Bikshapathy, Sri Justice K.B. Siddappa, former Judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court, Sri T.S. Rao, former Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Smt. Dr. P. Geervani, former Vice-Chancellor of Sri Padmavathi Mahila Viswa Vidyala and Sri Dr. R. Shrihari, Former Vice-Chancellor of Dravidian University, Kuppam, to function as a Fact Finding Committee under the Chairmanship of Sri Justice G.
Bikshapathy to ascertain the factual position as regards the activities of Non-Hindu religious communities in Tirumala and Tirupathi and to furnish a report to His Holiness for considering the steps to be taken to prevent undesirable activities of the Christian and other Non-Hindu Communities.
On an analysis of the information furnished by the members of the public before the
Committee, the following facts emerge.
(i) Members of the Christian Community distributed religious pamphlets and copies of Bible to the students who were returning after writing the EAMCET examinations conducted at various centres inTirupathi in May, 2006. Apart from other persons, who deposed before the Committee, this information was also disclosed by the son of Sri Prabhakara Acharya, Secretary of Vaikhanasa Ashram at Tirumala, who appeared for the EAMCET examinations. This activity of the Christians led to serious tense situation in Tirupathi. It was also revealed to the Committee that large number of women and men, dividing themselves into several groups, distributed Christian religious material at various places including EAMCET centres. Some student organizations protested against these activities. Police had to intervene to maintain law and order.
(ii) On 9th of April, 2006, two Christians by name Balaraju (pastor) and Babu while coming down from Tirumala to Tirupathi in bus bearing No.AP 11Z 1130 distributed pamphlets propagating Christianity to the pilgrims travelling in that bus. One of the passengers by name Sri Arvind of Hyderabad complained the matter to the AV&SO Sri S. Sivananda Kishore, who after enquiry gave a report dated 11.4.2006 to the Vigilance and Security Officer, TTD (Copy of the report is enclosed as Annexure-III). Basing on his report, a case in Crime No.8/2006 (copy of FIR dated 11.04.2006 is enclosed as Annexure-IV) was registered against S. Balaraju and P. Babu, residents of Tirupathi and the police took up investigation.
On the basis of the said complaint, Sri R. Sivananda Kishore (AV&SO, Sector-III, TTD, Tirumala), in his report recommended as follows: "In the light of instant case, the following recommendations may be considered to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future.
As per Rule 197 of APCHR and E Act 1987 the population living in Tirumala shall adhere to the norms and shall follow the sentiments of Hindu Religion. As such thorough probe has to be taken up to verify the antecedents of Non-Hindu Employees who are working in TTD as well as Government departments i.e., Police, Fire Services, Commercial Taxes and etc., who are staying in Tirumala. The identified employees and their families shall be shifted from Tirumala.
Some of the family members of the TTD employees such as wife, children are practicing Christian ideology and inviting the Pastors to conduct prayers in their houses at Tirumala. The above aspect may be carefully examined and steps taken to prevent the above activities in Tirumala.
In the Rule 198 of APCHR & E Act 1987 the following activities shall be prohibited at Tirumala :-
Carrying and possession of Holy books of other religions like BIBLE, QURAN etc.
Any kind of propagation of other than Hindu religion by way of distribution of pamphlets, Literature, Brochures, Stickers, Banners, Flags, including prayers and speeches etc."
(iii) It is reported that two Christian women belonging to Chilakuluripet were found in the TTD queue complex and they were caught red-handed on 26.4.2006 distributing religious pamphlets to the pilgrims in the queue and were handed over to the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Tirumala by the pilgrims themselves. The Committee was informed that the Vigilance personnel took into custody these two Christian women and produced them before the DSP, Tirumala. The Committee was told that the Special Officer got released those two women after questioning them and arranged special darshan and gave Prasadam. When the Committee met the Executive Officer on 22.06.2006, Special Officer Sri Dharma Reddy was present and he told the Committee that those two women came from an old age home run by a Christian Mission and they stated that as per the wish of some of the inmates of the old age home who were suffering from AIDS, they came to get Prasadam for distributing it to those inmates, and on that representation of the two women, he permitted them to have darshan after signing the requisite declaration and gave them the Prasadam. No name of the Old Age home was disclosed. It is highly unlikely that a Christian would travel long distance to visit Tirumala to collect Prasadam offered by a Hindu Religious Temple to be given to the inmates of an old age home run by a Christian Mission. It should be noted that the two women did not disclose to the concerned TTD officials before entering the queue complex that they were Christians, and they got into the queue complex without signing the requisite declaration and obtaining permission of the concerned TTD officials.
(iv) Two Christians viz., David (pastor) and Kumar, were found propagating Christianity in Tirumala and they were handed over to police. The police seem to have registered a case and kept them for two days on remand. Those two persons admitted that they committed a mistake. The EO, TTD who stated that the two were indulging in religious propaganda, also confirmed this. However, strangely the Special Officer, Sri Dharma Reddy, stated that they did not indulge in any Christian propaganda. The two Christians were eventually released without taking any action against them. On 21st May 2006, Special Officer Sri Dharma Reddy held press conference in which he stated that no Christian religious propaganda was going on in Tirumala. It is evident that he is not taking a serious view of these objectionable activities of the Christians at the holy place of Tirumala.
(i) Educational institutions at Tirupathi were established on TTD land and with TTD funds. It is brought to the notice of the Committee that in the colleges and hostels at Tirupathi, Christian religious propagation is rampant. The Christian students themselves are acting as propagators. Sri Deva Sangeetham, Principal of S.V. University College is openly indulging in propagating and converting the students to Christianity by making them go to Church, reading Bible and creating disaffection towards Hindu religion. After Sri Deva Sangeetham has taken charge as Principal, the practice of garlanding the portrait of Lord Venkateswara was stopped.
(ii) After Smt. Veena Noble Das took charge as Vice-chancellor of Padmavathi Mahila University, she got removed the photos of Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi from all the institutions of the Mahila University and she also got removed the portrait of Lord Venkateswara from her office and discontinued the practice of garlanding the portraits of Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi everyday. Instead she kept a portrait of Jesus Christ and the Cross n her office table. She is sending batches of students in the University buses to the church. It is also stated that in the Mahila University, the students are not allowed to have tilak on the forehead now a days and that students putting tilak are being discriminated.
It is brought to the notice of the Committee that only Hindus have to be appointed as employees in the TTD. However the EO stated that for some period this was not followed with the result that some Muslim personnel came to be appointed. He further stated that steps are being taken to shift them to some other places gradually. It is further brought to the notice of the Committee that some employees in the TTD are also professing Christianity and that in the police quarters also congregations and prayers are being conducted regularly. There are about 40 Christian families residing in Tirumala and they are holding religious congregations at their houses on Sundays. It is stated that even in the Annadanam Complex there is one employee viz., Sri Ananda Raju belonging to Christian community, working as superintendent. The EO has stated that he will enquire and take action. It is also stated that one Christian lady is also working in the electrical department. Gopinath, Garden Superintendent also belongs to Christian community.
It is brought to the notice of the Committee that many people from Christian and Muslim communities were being employed in the TTD and some of the Hindu employees were even converted as Christians and they practice the Christianity. About 40 families in Balaji Colony are Christians. They hold congregations and prayers on Sundays. The Committee is informed that Gopinath who was posted on deputation as Garden Superintendent is a Christian and that he criticizes worshipping Lord Venkateswara saying why should a black stone be decorated with garlands, and that he indulges in criticizing Hindu Religion. Considering the above facts and circumstances, the Committee is of the opinion that the propagation of Christianity with an ulterior motive of conversion is taking place in Tirupathi and Tirumala. Since the EO has categorically has assured the Committee that no such incidents will be allowed to take place, the matter has to be reviewed periodically.
In the queue complex number of Scouts and Guides are deployed to regulate the pilgrims. It is understood that details of the religion of the persons who are so engaged is not verified and that some of them belong to non-Hindu communities. The Committee also observed that the Scouts and Guides are allowed into the main temple and to have Darshan. The Executive Officer has informed the Committee that he would take appropriate measures to prevent non-Hindus being deployed as Scouts and Guides in Tirumala.
It is brought to the notice of the Committee that there are number of hawkers who belong to Muslim community. Two instances are given. Shop Nos. 192 and 72 in the Shopping Complex are run by Sri Jamal Khadar and Maithri. When this is brought to the notice of EO he assured the Committee that he will look into the matter and take appropriate action. It is also further brought to the notice of the Committee that unauthorized hawkers are taken out of Tirumala by midnight and left in interior Bakrapeta forest area. Even in this process also, mainly Hindus are targeted and Muslims are rarely touched. Opposite to Lepakshi Emporium, there are about 50 Nepali shopkeepers who are Christians and they also offer prayers on Sundays, reading Bible and other Christian religious material in Tirumala. About 40 Muslim shopkeepers also are there in Tirumala. They offer Namaz on Fridays in Tirumala. There are also some Muslim hawkers mostly from Kadiri (Ananthapur District).
The Committee is informed by the Executive Officer that on account of prohibition of recruitment in a number of departments like Health & Sanitation, Kalyanakatta, Roads and Buildings etc., workers are being engaged in those departments through contractors. Some of the contract workers so employed are Christians and Muslims and there is no check to see that only Hindus are engaged and to prevent non-Hindus being so engaged. . In this connection, TTD also stated that they did not verify the religion particulars of the contract labourers and also scouts and guides. The EO has assured that he will take necessary steps in this regard.
Even though the EO has stated that dress code and tilakam were prescribed for the employees, these were not being strictly implemented. The Committee impressed upon the EO to implement it these strictly.
(i) The Committee is informed that various illegal activities both at Tirumala and Tirupathi are going on, such as sale and consumption of liquor, sale and consumption of meat, flesh trade, gambling etc.
(ii) It is also brought to the notice of the Committee that cow slaughter is also going on in down hill at Tirupathi near D.R. Mahal and that the meat is being transported to Tirumala clandestinely.
(iii) It is further brought to the notice of the Committee that TTD Kalyana Mandapam at Nagalapuram is being used by the Christians for their prayer congregations and for performance of Christian marriages. Near Sree Rama and Siva Temple in Tirupathi, Christian prayers and propagation of religion are taking place intercepting the Hindu devotees visiting the temples and persuade them to join Christianity.
(iv) It is also brought to the notice of the Committee that the newly constituted Specified Authority in place of the Board of Trustees, (the term of which has expired) is being headed by Sri D. Rosaiah, I.A.S. who is said to be a Christian.
(v) The Tourism Department is going to take up erection and operation of Rope Way from Tirupathi to Tirumala. It is also learnt that the Tourism Department plans to establish Multiplexes, Food Courts and other Entertainment and Recreational Spots on Tirumala Hills. The Committee feels that in order to facilitate the activities of Tourism Department on the hills, the area of TTD is restricted to two hills covering an area of 27.5 sq.kms.
The EO was handed over a copy of the Judgment of a Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court reported in 1997(2) ALD Page 59 (DB) - Tallapakam Koppu Raghavan Vs State of A .P. (Copy of the Judgment is enclosed as Annexure-V). The Division Bench has observed in that Judgment as follows:-
"Although there is no documentation available as the origin is lost in antiquity, there is no attempt made before us to question the ownership of the Lord Venkateswara of Seven Hills. This being true and a real concept the Board of Trustees, the Committee or the Executive Officer are only administrators of the property of Lord Venkateswara. They can have no right of ownership in themselves and they cannot thus decide to do anything against the interest of the right of the owner i.e., in the instant case, Lord Venkateswara. Once the ownership is resolved and the right to administer is deemed to vest as provided under Article 26 of the Constitution of India in the plurality of the devotees and regulated by the provisions of the Act and Rules framed thereunder, no administrator, whether appointed under the Act or otherwise can take liberty to destroy the sanctity and Holiness of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams and domain, as we have already held, extends to all the Seven Hills called 'Tirumala'."
The Committee is of the considered opinion that restricting the area of TTD to only 21 KMs covering 2 hills, runs counter to the ancient texts and age old traditions and practices of the temple and that the Hindus always considered Sri Venkateswara as Lord of the Seven Hills and lakhs of devotees climb the Seven Hills with utmost devotion and reverence bare footed chanting the names of Lord Venkateswara. The Committee further feels that opening the Seven Hills to the Tourism Department will destroy the sanctity, serenity and spirituality of the Seven Hills and will seriously hurt the feelings of the Hindus throughout the Country and the World.
It is brought to the notice of the Committee that previously Hindu Dharma Parirakshana Samithi was organizing various activities like Harikathas, devotional lectures and concerts in religious music and dance by eminent artists. Now, the name Hindu has been removed and a Dharma Prachara Parishad is in its place which is hardly conducting any religious discourses by eminent Hindu spiritual leaders and is not conducting any religious cultural activities by prominent artists. The members of the public further expressed that eminent Hindu spiritual leaders should be invited to give discourses regularly at important places through out the country and even abroad. They are of the further opinion that contributions of the devotees running into Hundreds of Crores should be utilized only for Hindu Religious and Dharmic activities and various service activities in the name of Lord Venkateswara only. The funds should not be diverted to other activities.
The Committee was informed that the Devasthanam has donated considerable land to a Muslim organization for construction of Mosque which has seriously hurt and agitated Hindus and arousing their religious sentiments. Several persons have expressed that more than 35,000 temples in the State are not having any means for performing daily poojas and donating for other religions is wholly unwarranted.
It is the general view of the public that TTD Board and its Committees should comprise of eminent devout Hindus who have contributed to the development of the Hindu faith and spirituality and Government of the day should take the advice of the Hindu Dharmacharyas and Hindu Spiritual Leaders in making such appointments.