Antarvedi, a famous pilgrim centre in East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh is in the boils after a 62-year-old chariot of presiding diety Sri Lakshmi Narsimha was burnt to ashes at 1 am on Sunday (6 September).
Reportedly, at the time of the incident, the CCTV cameras were not functioning.
Antarvedi is one of the most revered Vaishnavite religious centres in Andhra Pradesh.
The devotees as well as Hindu activists gathered amidst a police lockdown to protest what they allege is yet another act of arson against Hindu temples by Christian missionary groups.
The incident one among a series of similar incidents on attacks on Hindu temples in the state this year. The people fed up by administrative apathy to hate crimes against Hindus took to the streets to protest.
Reportedly, heavy police force was deployed in the area to stop the protesters from reaching the temple.
Bangalore Mirror quoted the Hindu seers and activists as saying that the Jaganmohan government was giving lame excuses in the incidents of attacks on Hindu temples.
“Last time, when the chariot was targeted in Nellore district, the police said that some mentally unstable persons had done it. Now they are saying short-cut is the reason. But there is an organised attempt to attack Hindu temples in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” said Dr C S Rangarajan of Chilkur temple.
Rangarajan was referring to a similar incident of a chariot being burnt down using an accelerant in Prasanna Venkateswara Temple in Nellore in February. This was just a few days before the Brahmaratotsavam and a Chariot Festival.
The same month, idols of the deities at the Sri Venu Gopala Swamy temple were destroyed in Rompicharla village in Guntur District. The idol of Sri Ganesha was reportedly stolen.
In January, unknown miscreants were reported to have desecrated many idols of Hindu god and goddesses in Pithapuram city in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. They also burnt down the banners which had images of Hindu gods printed on them.
Pithapuram is one of the 18 Sakti Peethams and the goddess here is known as Puruhutika Devi. The town is also called Datta Kshetram and Paada Gaya Kshetram.
In March 2019, two old Hindu temples in Suryaraopeta, Kakinada Rural mandal of East Godhavari District, Andhra Pradesh were demolished using a JCB machine by the pastor of a nearby church. He also took away the antique idols of the presiding deity of the temple.
There were several other similar incidents.
One would assume there would be an outcry against the blatant destruction of an ancient temple, yet there was scant media coverage. There have been several other similar incidents in the state, but the national media, intellectuals as well as political parties are silent.
Contrast this to how India is quickly branded as ‘intolerant’ over an incident of theft in a Christian church in Delhi — CCTV cameras are installed in over 100 churches; SHOs of all police stations in Delhi are ordered to regularly patrol around churches, and PCR vans, ERVs and motorcycle patrols are deployed outside these establishments, along with a “nodal officer” dedicated to issues related to churches and its educational institutions.
BJP Andhra Pradesh head Sonu Veerraju asked why only Hindu temples were becoming targets of mentally unsound persons. “Ever since YS Jagan Mohan Reddy came to power, there have been attacks on various temples, causing a lot of anguish among the Hindus,” he said.
The TDP supremo and Leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu said that the burning of Antarvedi temple chariot in East Godavari district was not a mere accident.
He alleged that attacks on idols and properties of Hindu temples across Andhra Pradesh have increased in the past 15 months of the YSRC rule.
Referring to how more than 23 idols were destroyed in six temples in Pithapuram in January, he said the TDP has taken a serious view of the ongoing attacks on the temples. It was unfortunate the deities were vandalised at Anjaneya Swamy temple, Seetharamanjaneya Swamy temple, Mutyalamma temple, Someswaramma temple and Kanaka Durgamma temple, he said.
Soon after the Jagan government assumed power, it ran into a controversy regarding appointment of a family member in the Tirupati temple board. The chief minister Jaganmohan belongs to a devout Christian family.
Devotees also alleged that the staff of the boards of Hindu temples were being filled by Christians. 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.
In August last year, Hindu pilgrims travelling to Tirupati were greeted with photographs of Hajj and Jerusalem advertisements on Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) bus tickets.
This advertisement selling a “holy Jerusalem tour” for Christians was published by the Andhra state minority department. As per the advertisement, the tour was available at just half the price. Another ticket sorted an advertisement about the annual Hajj pilgrimage for Muslims offered by the state government.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) under the state government ran into a controversy after it was revealed that a book published under its grant had pages referring to Jesus Christ and Christianity.
Last December, another controversy occurred when the name of Jesus Christ was displayed on the link to the official page of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.
A senior BJP leader said, "the people from other faith who are managing to still work in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam are wilfully resorting to such acts, damaging the sanctity of the age-old Hindu institution. They must be punished for such acts".
While the ruling party politicians have promised swift justice in the incidents, neither YSRCP, nor any other political party active in the state has been reported to have denounced ideological hatred of Hindus and crimes motivated by it against them.
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