Save Temples of Andhra: Report of my visit to India May-June 2007

published on July 4, 2007

From,


 


Prakasarao Velagapudi, President of Global Hindu Heritage Foundation


 


Dear Friends:


 


          Here is the summary of my visit to India.   I am very happy with the way things turned out. With God’s grace every thing went well.


 


Mysore


            In Mysore I met with Sri A. Ramaiah, former MP and S. Pille and explained the formation of Global Hindu Heritage Foundation and they were happy that Hindus in foreign counties are taking lot of interest in preserving the Temples. In fact they explained their efforts in preserving and restoring selected Temples in Karnataka .


 


            Also I met with Sri Girdhar Gomingo, MP from Bhuvaneswar, Orissa who was equally concerned with the Hindu Temple lands. In fact he is trying to introduce legislation banning the sale of Temple lands at the central government level.


 


            I was very happy to meet and talk to Sri Vasudeva Dikshutulu who works as a Media Analyst in Hyderabad. In fact he was the Editor of Andhra Prabha for about 20 years. He also serves as Political Advisor and confidant to some of the political leaders. We became very close. He feels that we have a rare opportunity to pursue this matter from USA and feels that we will be able to work without being influenced by any sort of pressure from the government.


 


Then we met with His Holiness Sri Datta Vijayananda Teerdha Swamy, the junior Pontiff of Avadhuta Datta Peetham, who discussed the issue of the preservation of Hindu Temples. He enthusiastically encouraged and blessed us to pursue our cause.


 


Finally we met Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji, Peethadhipathi of Avadhuta Datta Peetham, who mentioned about the characteristics of Kali Yuga and the difficulties of taking up the cause.   He then blessed us to pursue the matter and said we will succeed in efforts.


 


Bangalore


 


            In Bangalore we met with Sri Vasant Hedge, Lawyer , who has been working on the Endowment Act in Karnataka for a number of years. He spent nearly two hours talking about their successful efforts in challenging the Endowment Act. As many of you know that in August 2006 the High Court of Karnataka decreed the Endowment Act illegal and unconstitutional. Following the verdict that the Karnataka State government appointed a 15 member Apex Committee with Sri Rama Jois as Chairman to revise and revamp the Endowment Act in the same fashion as Wakf Board of Muslims and SGPC of Sikhs. That means that the government would not interfere with the operation and maintenance of Hindu Temples. Dharma Mandal or an organization with similar name would be eventually appointed to manage the Hindu Temples with no interference from the government.


 


            Sri Vasant Hegde elaborated the efforts done by various Hindu groups to bring awareness among the people. Swamijis and Peethadhipatis in Karnataka were united in bringing changes in the government; all of them met on one platform and demanded changes in the Endowment Act. To this effect peaceful protests were conducted in front of Tahasildars offices at Taluk level. Also Styagaraha on rotation basis was also done to protest the government interference in the Temple matters. Later on the protests were moved to District level in front of Collectors offices. Finally a mass rally was organized at the state level in Bangalore to bring about changes in the government policy where Swamijis and Peethadhipathis were involved along with other groups of people.


 


            A team of lawyers are discussing and developing guidelines to amend the Endowment act simultaneously. They even proposed a state level Apex Committee to draft a new Endowment Act with committees at District level and Temple level.


 


            We also met Sri R. Sridharan, a lawyer, who agreed to help us in whatever way he can to challenge the Act. We had an opportunity to meet Sri K. R. Niranjan, an IAS officer, who agreed to help secure the needed information from the government offices. We also met Sri P.  N.  Benjamin, President of BIRD (Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue) who is fighting the Christian establishment on the issue of religious conversion.  


 


            I also had a rare opportunity to meet with Honorable Sri Rama Jois who explained the workings of the State level Apex Committee. He said he will do his best to help other states and share their own experience. He even called one of his colleagues in Hyderabad and introduced me to Sri Subramanya Sharma, Lawyer,   on the phone.


 


            Then I met Smt. Nisha Rathi, a business lady, who arranged a meeting with about 20 people who are concerned about the welfare of the Temples. We had a very fruitful discussion with them who volunteered their help for the cause.


 


            A meeting was arranged with His Holiness Sukhabodhananda by Nishaji . We spent about one hour explaining the plight of Hindu Temples in all the Southern states. He was surprised at the government’s policies toward the Temples and how they are being exploited. We shared all the information we had with him so that he will have enough information to browse through. He indicated that from now onwards he will try to include the plight of Hindu Temples and status of Hinduism in his discourses. We came out with a very positive attitude toward our meeting with Sri Sukhabodananda.


 


Vijayawada


 


            We met a number of Datta Temple executives such as Sri Kolli Gopalakrishna, Sri Jagana Mohana Rao, Sri Tummala Sivanarayana from Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Ashram of Vijayawada, Sri N. Subba Rao from Gandigunta, Sri U. Shivaji from Gannavaram and Sri Ramachandra Rao from Machilipatnam to discuss about our mission. They promised to help us obtain signatures for the preservation of the Temples.


 


Tirupati:


 


            We met with Sri Ramana Chary who is the Executive Officer of TTD only briefly as he had a very tight schedule. We mentioned the reason for coming. He invited us to attend a meeting he scheduled with a group of people from Hyderabad, A host of issues were discussed to advance the cause of dharma in the vicinity of   Hyderabad – bhajans mandals, medical services,  dalit communities’ activities, etc. The meeting was impressive and was done professionally. The next day we met with Sri Karunakara Reddy , the chairman of TTD.  He mentioned about Kalyanamastu project and intended plans to introduce educational institutions for members of Dalit community.


 


            When we went to Padmavati Temple to have the darshan of Devi, unexpectedly we met Honorable Sri Nadendla Manohar, MLA with whom I had been communicating on the phone without knowing him personally. We both were surprised to see each in the divine presence of Padmavati. He promised that he shares our sentiments in protecting the Temples. He also remembered the Chicago protest to save our Temples.


 


Hyderabad


 


            I went to meet Sri M. Kamal Kumar for the first time, who works very hard to save and protect the Temples from the government interference by visiting numerous villages to help them challenge the government decisions to either occupy or sell Temple lands. Office in Musheerabad has enough space for our activities.  Over my one week stay in Hyderabad, I met most of the Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samiti office bearers and committee members who have been working tirelessly for the preservation of the Hindu culture.


 


            We both were very busy planning and preparing for our Public Function on June 16, 2007, at Satya Said Nigamagamam to bring awareness to the public about the plight of Hindu Temple. We had a Press Meet on June 12 where we officially announced the upcoming Public Function. Nearly 20 leaders were invited with different backgrounds from different organizations. We personally met and invited Honorable J. Ratnakar Rao, Minister for Endowment, and Sri I. V. Subba Rao, IAS, Secretary of Endowment Department, to the Public Function. We also invited Sri Sundar Kumar, Commissioner of Endowment Department, and many other people. Nearly 800 people attended the function. Some of them came from nearby cities also to participate in the event. The Function was adequately covered by news and visual media on the day. About 18 dignitaries spoke on the value of preserving Hindu Temples and Hindu religion on the occasion. The program lasted about four hours.


 


            We also met   Smt. Uma Gurkha, who advised us to be very specific and focused in developing the program for the Public Function.   Sri R. Ananthanarayana of Thermopads who initiated the Public Function and helped coordinate the public event. He was involved from the inception to the conclusion of the program.  


 


            We met Sri Nadella Manohar, MLA, in his office and talked about our mission. He talked about the Amendment Act which was intended to provide resources to Dhupa Deepa Naivedyam to selected Temples and also the salaries of the Priests. At present the Act is referred to Select Committee. We requested him to help pass the Act as soon as possible. He was willing to take us to the Chief Minister’s office. Unfortunately, CM was out of town the whole week we were in Hyderabad. Hence we could not meet him personally.


 


            We met with Honorable Sri N. Chandra Babu Naidu who is the president of Telugu Desam Party. We presented our request to help repeal the Endowment Act so that Hindu Temples would be free from government control and will have same freedom as other two major religions are enjoying. He said that every issue has positive and negative points. He gave an example of a Temple in North India which is very dirty, and where devotees are constantly pressured for dakshinas as well as to do pujas. Their experience of visiting Temples was so unpleasant that very few people return to these Temples . Hence he said that we have to be very careful.   But he also said that we have to put pressure to bring any changes in the government.


 


            Gemini Interview:  Sri Dikshitulu was helping a lot in establishing contacts with TV stations for interviews on the mission of our organization, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation. I was interviewed on Gemini TV for half an hour which was relayed three times on June 16, 2007.We express our appreciation to Nagesh and Madhavi of Gemini TV coordinated the Guest Hour very professinally. TV9 people scheduled a TV interview but due to an emergency, the interviewer could not schedule it before I left Hyderabad. However, he promised that he would cover our activities at TANA meetings in Washington DC.   


 


Lawyers


            I met with Sri Sreenivasa Murthy Konda and Sri P. Balaji Varma , the two lawyers we have been working with on other related cases. We had a two hour discussion with them about various aspects of challenging the Endowment Act in the High court. We also briefly talked about Karnataka Endowment Act. We all agreed that it is a high time that we take appropriate measures to prepare the case to challenge the Endowment Act in the High Court. I also met Sri Subramanya Sharma, lawyer, at the Public Function. He was the one suggested by Sri Rama Jois. He said that he will be happy to help the legal team to work on the Temple issues.


 


Two Ordinances:


            During our visit to Hyderabad, two significant ordinances were issued by  the government of Andhra Pradesh.:


 1) The Government said the “Tirumala Divya Kshetram”, the name of the holy place, shall comprise the seven hills of Seshadri, Garudadri, Venkatadri, Narayanadri, Vrishabhadri, Vrishadri and Anjanadri, right from the foothills, the holy theerthams and the main shrine. Roads and footpaths leading up to the temple, including the first and second ghat roads between Tirupati and Tirumala, and the motorable road from Tirumala to Papavinasanam were declared part of the kshetram.


    2 Andhra Pradesh Government has finally issued an ordinance empowering the state to prohibit propagation of other religion in places of worship. The Government with a view to maintain public order, tranquility and serenity of a place of worship or prayer, prohibit propagation of a religion other than the religion traditionally practiced at such place, by words, either spoken or written or signs or by visible representation or distribute any printed material or other forms of religious literature.


 If you need any information or clarification, please let me know. Thanks


V. V. Prakasa Rao


601-918-7111 Cell


Link for the interview conducted by Gemini TV with Mr Prakasa Rao in Hyderabad (in telugu).  


  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6260659503313213353&hl=en

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