Controversies Surrounding Lord Balaji’s Abode Holier-Than-Thou!
World’s richest Hindu temple, which attracts lakhs of pilgrims in a year, is now in news for wrong reasons. It is now mired in religious, political, economic and cultural controversies. Rather than serving the pilgrims who throng the shrine from far-away places the authorities concerned are now busy in infighting with each other. Whether it is a controversy on removing ancient thousand-pillar mandapam or on increasing Christian missionary activities or on Anantha Swarnamayam—gold plating project of temple walls—the list goes on and on.
Maybe these kinds of controversies are not new to the temple, which has witnessed the war between Vaishnavaites and Shivaites in ancient period or the fighting between peetadheepati’s for control of administration. But due to wisdom prevailed upon all of them involved in these controversies, those indifferences were settled without much disturbance to pilgrims. Moreover those controversies has increased the devotional value of the temple. They strengthened bhakti among the people towards Lord Venkateshwara. Those were the wars fought to enlighten Lord Balaji’s divinity.
But the recent controversies and wars are different in nature. They have nothing to do with bhakti or religion or devotion. They are the controversies generated in view of grabbing power of India’s richest temple and to enjoy the benefits. As the political interference has increased day-by-day these controversies for gaining power have also multiplied, due to which now Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams TTD is getting into headlines for wrong reasons rather than its devotional values.
The political intervention in the temple administration now seems to have crossed the thin line that exists between secular government and religious affairs. Politicians appointed as trustees are now trying to influence religious affairs and subverting religious practices. Destruction of ancient thousand-pillar mandapam or subverting the powers of Pedda Jeeyangar Peetham, official religious head of the temple the glaring examples.
It is a pity that now peethadheepatis, who are supposed to fight against these political masters are divided and fighting among themselves. For their own gains, some of them support and some act against these acts. This division has further strengthened the hands of these political masters to create a havoc in the temple administration. This has resulted into more arm-twisting by political appointees in day-to-day affairs of temple including religious matters.
This has further resulted into a situation where trustees are busy in arranging special darshans for business tycoons rather than providing bare minimum facilities to common pilgrims. It is Mallyas, Bachchans, Ambanis who get time to spend hours inside the temple, where the common man is literally pulled away in a split of second from God’s sanctum-sanctorum. Schemes are devised to provide hours of break darshan for VIPs and Seegra Darshanam (small duration of seconds) for the common man. The strict two laddu scheme for a poor pilgrim comes by taking a lot of pains by spending of years savings and unlimited for political patronages.
GOING AT THE ROOTS OF THE SAGA
In the north-east of India, the insurgency and anti-India feelings are realities those pervade every aspect of work and life. And it is not without good reason. The region essentially comprising the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura proudly houses a number of ethnic communities—significantly over 200 tribal and non-tribal groups—living together and often also fighting each other.
The latest controversy with regard to Naga-Meitei-Manipuri conflict revolving around the Naga rebel leader Thuingaleng Muivah’s desire to visit his native village, now in Manipur, therefore is a puzzling jigsaw. The Nagas particularly are a unique tribe with the community spread across states of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and also across the international border in Myanmar.
In Nagaland, more than 17 tribes and sub-tribes have discovered themselves as a community hardly few decades back. A neo-community named Chakhesangs thriving in Phek district in Nagaland- among Nagas has come only with merger of three clans Chakhros, Khejas and
The Tangkhul Nagas, the ethnic community of NSCN (IM) leader Muivah, live mostly in Manipur. Expectedly, there have been mutual suspicions and rivalries between tribes, clans and between tribals and non-tribals. The bigger tragedy of all follies in the context of north-east is the typical official apathy towards the region; and wherever they tried to show some sincerity it was only in a manner of patronisation. This was made further complex by mistakes often repeated.
The seriousness of the half-baked attempts and coupled with blunders could be understood in today’s situation where in the state of Manipur has been led towards a stage of severe violent disintegration. The Nagas of Manipur after a marathon conclave in Nagaland on May 15, 2010 have decided to sever all relationship with the Manipur State Government” and all the dominant organisations and individuals who collude with it. “Until our history and situation are acknowledged and accorded due respect… we shall offer
our all (efforts) for the realisation of an honourable political settlement and for the integration of all Naga areas whereby we will live as a people under one political roof, free from domination and exploitation,” the declaration passed at the end of the meeting read.
New Delhi has rarely shown the inclination of understanding the dynamics of north-east’s insurgency issues. It has generally embarked on a policy of mistakes and then not learning any lesson from those mistakes. Instead over the decades, the pretension from New Delhi rulers civil servants, military commanders and even political masters has been that the Union government was running the affairs as a “benefactor” doing some sort of favour to the far-flung and hitherto neglected corner of the land.
Even at the recent national press conference, the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh spoke at length on how his government has pumped in money for infrastructure developments in the north-east. In effect, what the Prime Minister said was only half truth, he remained totally non-committal on the issue in Manipur.
Even in the past, experience suggests in reality, harsh measures were used that, adding insult to the injury to the people of the region. In fact, right from the beginning when Nagas made initial noise demanding cessation in the late forties, from New Delhi without trying to diagnose the malady, the virtual army rule was clamped. Petrol bombs would sail through the air and smash against the hills setting the entire village on fire. It was later romanticised as “counter
insurgency operations”—but by then permanent damage had been caused and the young children started growing with direct or latent hatred for Indian nationhood.
The same mistake has been repeated in the recent times when the centre agreed to allow the rebel Naga leader Thuingaleng Muivah to visit his native village in Manipur. Even P Chidambaram, the well-informed Home Minister, has failed to gauge the gravity of issue when he said there was nothing wrong in allowing someone visit the place of his birth. Little did the centre realise that by doing so the old bitter issue of “integrity” of Naga contiguous areas has been revived.
The issue of greater Nagaland is hanging fire for decades and no feasible solution seems to be on card unless the Naga people are themselves convinced about the futility of the dream. More than anything else the greater Nagaland or Nagalim, as being billed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), would today affect disintegration of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
In 2001, the Vajpayee government had conceded to an ill-advised suggestion and agreed to extend the ceasefire with Muivah’s NSCN-IM beyond the state of Nagaland. This had put the Manipur hills and valleys into flames and later the government withdrew from its own commitment of extending the ceasefire ground rules outside the state of Nagaland.
Muivah’s Tangkhul tribe living mainly in Manipur hills. The Meitei Manipuris feel Muivah’s visit to his native village Somdal would be linked to the greater Nagaland demand. This moot point was grossly underestimated by the centre. Therefore, as a result, we have landed into a situation when the Congress Chief Minister of Manipur, Ibobi Singh, defying the central government and sparked off the crisis by a cabinet resolution banning Muivah’s visit.
On his part, Muivah finds himself in a no-win situation and therefore cannot announce canceling his visit. The Naga Students Federation and other Naga organisations resorted to economic blockade resulting in much hardship in Manipur for essential commodities and even life saving drugs. On the other hand, the Nagas of Manipur had to flee and a good number of them have taken shelter in Nagaland. The future of Naga peace talks, which began in 1997, is under some kind of cloud with NSCN (IM) leaders threatening to withdraw from the negotiating table.
For Dr Manmohan Singh, this poses an acid test. The last Congress government in the centre, led by P V Narasimha Rao had set the ball rolling and opened the channel of communication with the most potent Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM), ironically it is the Congress-led regime yet again in New Delhi, which has brought the cloud hovering over the prospect of the peace talks. The onus is definitely more on Dr Manmohan Singh as he is also an elected Rajya Sabha member from Assam.
By Swati Deb
Day-by-day these controversial decisions taken by TTD board with the support of political bosses sitting in the state government is creating heartburn among the common pilgrim. These decisions are hurting the religious sentiments of crores Hindus across the world. But these politicians have become notorious as they don’t even care for various court judgments given on these issues. Several times in the past, high courts in India including the Supreme Court have reprimanded TTD trust board. But these political horses have acted in a total disrespecting manner to these judgments. They even tried to
derive their own meanings out of these judgments to continue their subverting activities.
A hue and cry was raised against these acts of political trustees. But the state government seems to have decided to protect their prodigies, rather than rectifying them. These controversies have become more and more after known the late Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy, a christian, became the Chief Minister. During his tenure the appointment of trustees became a purely political affair. Rather than appointing a person known for devotional values, staunch political supporters were given berth in the trust board. To name a few Subbarami Reddy or Karunakar Reddy of Congress or the present chairman DK Adhikeshavulu Naidu, a liquor baron himself.
It was during Subbarami Reddy’s period that a bitter war was fought between Chinna Jeeyar and Jayendra Saraswati over demolition of ancient thousand-pillar mandapam. In this period the special treatment only to industrialists, contractors, and politicians increased. Later under the chairmanship of Karunakar Reddy, these acts reached the pinnacle and woes of the common pilgrim were totally ignored. By the time Adhikeshavulu Naidu became chairman it is only a VIP, who became eligible to have darshan of Lord Balaji. Every act and rule framed is intended in this direction only.
Duly respecting certain programmes such as Dalita Govindam, Venkateswara Kalyanam at different cities and town across the country, mass marriage schemes for the poor undertaken during this period, one cannot keep mum on those irregularities committed to degrade the temple’s sanctity. The disgraceful acts of these political trustees are supported by officials. Every controversy in TTD names Dr YS prodigy and once OSD Dharma Reddy. Whenever his names props up, TTD is quick enough to brush aside those allegations. Some times even executive officers are forced to come for his rescue. Not only Dharma Reddy, activities of famous Dollor Seshadri and temple’s main priest are also questioned by different groups. These issues reached courts and judgments have been delivered in questioning their presence in some activities.
If some executive officer dared to take steps to cleanse the system, transfer orders were issued immediately by political bosses in the state capital. This resulted into a non-secure environment, in which an officer with strict integrity is refusing to take up the job. Whether it is an appointment of executive officer or OSD or chief vigilance officer, all of them are mired in controversy. Recently an officer reprimanded by a court for corruption is appointed the CVO despite objections from executive officer—only due to his alleged wellknown connections within Andhra Chief Mininster’s Office.
If Andhra Pradesh state government will not act in good spirit. Hence, these political missionaries will spoil the holy atmosphere prevailing in Tirumala Hills for centuries. Otherwise now Lord Balaji Himself has to take another avatar to cleanse the system as every one in the system is mired in one or other controversy.
By Kandadai Radha Partha Sarathy from Hyderabad