How Devout Christian, Missionary Family Of CM Jagan Mohan Reddy Has Built Church-State Nexus In Andhra Pradesh
YSRCP, a party centred around the devout christian family of CM Jagan Mohan Reddy, has a long history of open nexus with the church and foreign-funded Christian organisations. Jagan’s brother-in-law Anil Kumar is a powerful televangelist with his own ministries.
Andhra Pradesh has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Yesterday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets after a 62-year-old chariot of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple was gutted in fire.
The incident was one in a series of attacks on Hindu temples in the state. A short while ago, in a similar incident, a temple chariot was burnt in a temple in Nellore district. Just this year, there have been multiple incidents of arson, desecration and destruction of Hindu temples in the state.
While the devotees see a missionary design, the state government has remained silent.
The allegation is that since a devout Christian family-centred YSRCP came to power, the evangelical organisations not only got a free hand in carrying out mass conversions, but are actively supported and subsidised by the state with Hindu taxpayers’ money for it.
The YSRCP government, headed by Jaganmohan Reddy, has been in the limelight for providing special treatment to his own community — Christians — since the very beginning of his term.
In November last year, Jaganmohan government enhanced financial assistance to Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem in Israel and other Biblical places from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 (for those with annual income up to Rs 3 lakh), and from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 (for those with annual income over Rs 3 lakh).
The burden on the state exchequer by Jaganmohan and family’s personal trip to Jerusalem also drew ire.
Reportedly, the government was also preparing to fulfil other promises for the Christian community — like plots and house construction for pastors, and financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh for wedding of Christian girls, among others.
The Jaganmohan government also announced monthly honorarium of Rs 5,000 to the Christian pastors in the state.
The Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF) found that that 70 per cent of the Christian pastors benefiting from this held Hindu caste certificates, thus, not only benefiting from the schemes intended for Christians, but also usurping what rightfully belongs to the backward castes.
As Jagan’s tenure began, videos flooded social media allegedly showing evangelical activities as being carried out in village/ward secretariat buildings inaugurated by the YSRCP government.
It is important to note while churches and the madrassas are managed by the respective community themselves, the Hindu temples fall under the state control. Devotees also alleged that the YSRCP government was filling the state-appointed staff of the Hindu temples by Christians who were using their position to undermine the former as well as evangelism.
Sai Akash N writes about the church-state nexus in Andhra Pradesh. The state has a dedicated body - State Christian Finance Corporation - which looks after the implementation of welfare policies meant for the Christians. One of the schemes they implement is the “Financial Assistance to promotion of Christian Culture”.
Under a scheme of the government which provides financial assistance for construction/renovation/repairs to churches, Rs 15 lakh was sanctioned for church construction in Guntur district on 27 December 2019. Same year in March, Rs 30 lakh was granted for repair works in Kadapa district. A whooping sum of Rs 1 crore was sanctioned for the construction of St Pauls Basilica Church in Vijayawada in February 2019.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media and intellectuals who complain about more visibility of Hinduism in politics are dead silent on the church-state nexus in Andhra Pradesh. In 2019 elections, India Rural Evangelical Fellowship (IREF), a foreign funded group released a video asking Christians to vote for the YSRCP.
Gautam Sen, who taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for more than two decades, describes the phenomena of ‘conversion by stealth’.
Sen points to the persistent anecdotal evidence of mass conversion of ordinary Andhra citizens to Christianity, despite their Hindu names and no outward signs of their newly acquired Christian faith.
These demographical changes, despite being significant, are not captured by the census or any other reliable source of data. Christian evangelical organisations, meanwhile, continue to claim high number of converts.
For example, the Pastor Praveen and his ‘Sylom Pastors League’ group claims to have baptised around 600,000 persons in 2015. The same pastor was caught on camera gloating about how he had kicked idols of Hindu deities while establishing hundreds of “Christ villages”.
In fact, an MP from the YSRCP itself said on a national channel that large scale conversions are happening in the Andhra Pradesh with the money power of the Christian missionaries.
Sen says that the census data on the number of Christians is suspect “because it is suggesting a decline in the Christian population which is simply untrue”.
“..this is happening in Nepal too, with the census showing decline in the Christian population during the past two decades when anything up to a third have converted, according to a former Prime Minister of Nepal.”
According to Sen, converts are told to hide their new faith by the church in order ensure that conversions can proceed by stealth.
This way, conversion can be carried out without alerting the community targeted for obliteration, in this case, the Hindus.
In addition, the converts want to continue to illegally benefit from the schemes and policies meant for the backward castes. This way, not only they benefit from the lavish handouts as part of the schemes for Christians (like the ones given by YSRCP), but also usurp the benefits actually meant for the backward castes.
“My inference is that conversions have occurred on a significant scale in Andhra Pradesh, with the coastal belt now dominated by Christian communities and a majority in some tribes have also converted to this religion.”
Sen also points to the target of the Christian missionaries to convert the leading and prominent persons and families in Andhra Pradesh, for example, the filmstars.
“Money and other services are clearly being offered and the Jagan government’s intervention in favour of Christians is fuelling the spate of conversions. Jaganmohan Reddy has proved to be a stronger evangelist than his father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy,” says Sen.
Y S Rajasekhara, Jaganmohan’s father, had a political career spanning three decades as a Congress party leader. His tenure was filled with "widespread corruption that was beyond the pale even for India".
But the devout Christian Y S Rajsekhara’s tenure was also known for rampant evangelical activities and mass conversions. Christian organisations openly called upon their followers to vote for him in elections.
In a 2009 article, B R Haran, details the church-state nexus that grew during YSR’s regime: encroachment of temple lands by missionaries, selling assets of Hindu temples, state funds for construction of churches, church planting, aggressive proselytisation in Hindu pilgrimage centres, including Thirumala Thirupati, that resulted in an agitation by the Hindu masses.
YSR was accused of mismanagement of Thirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s affairs under influence of the missionaries. The TTD’s commodities contract went to a Christian company by name JRG Wealth Management.
A fact-finding committee under Justice G Bikshapathy validated the concerns of Hindus regarding missionary aggression.
YSR’s son-in-law Anil Kumar, and current chief minister Jaganmohan’s brother-in-law, is an evangelist with his own ministries who claims to be a preacher with anointing of holy spirits, powerful and authoritative teacher, revealer of Kingdom’s principles, warrior of faith and a healer through miracles doing wonders in the name of Jesus.
When Anil Kumar organised a mammoth congregation, YSR allegedly deployed the whole government machinery to make it successful. When confronted by the media on the use of official machinery to promote his son-in-law, YSR had quipped, “What is wrong in that?”
Brother Anil Kumar, on the other hand, was accused of using religion as an instrument to solicit votes for his in-laws. Kumar was allegedly conducting religious meetings all over the state and distributing pamphlets titled "Prayer for Elections" before the 2004 elections.
YSR’s understanding with Maoist and PWG (Naxal) groups was another notable feature of his tenure. The Christian missionary-Maoist nexus in India is already well-known.
The support from Maoists allegedly helped his victory in the 2004 elections. As per the understanding, he stopped the anti-Naxal operations and allowed them to grow and strengthen the Red Corridor.
Not only foreign Christian organisations were deeply involved in state’s affairs in YSR’s tenure, when YSR died in a helicopter crash, they published articles falsely blaming ‘Hindu Nationalists’ for the attack!
Meanwhile, several countries around the world grappling with deceitful Christian evangelical activities have been forced to take stern steps. Earlier this year, Israel shut down a US-based evangelical Christian TV channel ‘GOD TV’ for hiding missionary agenda.
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