Sunday, October 2nd, 2022 15:49:51

Islamic University At The Foot Of Thirumala!

Updated: November 16, 2013 12:48 pm

World’s busiest pilgrimage centre, 100 per cent Hindu in character and identity, great religious, cultural and educational hub, plenty of Hindu temples and educational institutions, this is Tirupathi! Ancient temples and the sacred Swarnamuki River assert the character and identity of this magnificent place. People owe their existence to Bhagwan Venkateswara and everything is done in Bhagwan Balaji’s name only.

However, now it is feard by the local people that the pilgrimage centre is on the verge of losing its peace and piety due to the attempt of a Muslim business group to establish an Islamic University at the foothills of Thirumala. Heera Islamic Business Group, which has its Head Office in Hyderabad, is constructing a massive seven-storey building in a village called Chandragiri in Tondavada Panchayat, which is just 13 km away from Tirupathi town. Named as Heera International Islamic College, the construction has caused huge concern in the minds of the local populace and it is feared very soon the town may witness a series of protests and legal wars, thanks to the government authorities, who have allegedly given permission for its construction. It is really shocking that an Islamic Institution is being established in such a great Hindu pilgrimage centre.

Heera Islamic Business Group

The “Mission” statement of Heera Group says, “It is guided by iman, following Shariah Law engaged in halal avoiding haram. It is on a mission of spreading the knowledge of Allah to the four corners of the world.” The history of the group and its CEO is very interesting in the sense that such a phenomenal growth in just a decade is unimaginable. Shaik Nowhera is the Founder and CEO of the Heera Group. Her profile given in her official website
(http://nowherashaik.com/index.php/ about-nowhera) says that Shaik was born to Shaik Nanne Saheb and Shaik Bilkis in 1973 and that her grandfather Shaikh Kolkar Madaar Saheb started “SNS Transports” in 1920 and soon became successful in the wholesale business of fruits, vegetables and textile products. She inherited the religious, cultural and business traits from her father and started an Islamic school for women in Tirupathi by name “Madrasa Niswan” in 1998 with 150 students, most of whom from poor families.

Then she started “Heera Gold Exports & Imports” in the year 2008, in order to meet her expenses, which increased along with the increase in number of students. Then within five years, she started many more enterprises under the banner of “Heera Group of Companies”—Heera Jewellers, Heera Pure Drop, Heera Textiles, Heera Granites, Heera Rice, Heera Electronics, Heera Real Estates, Heera Developers, Heera Foodex, and so on!

The Protests

While the construction of the Islamic university has been talking place silently in the Chandragiri village, the Bharatiya Janata Party is the first to smell it locally. The official spokesperson of the State Unit G Bhanu Prakash convened a press meet and demanded an explanation from both the central and state governments on the proposed establishment of an Islamic university at the most sacred town of the Hindu. Stating that the temple town and the hill temple have been on the terrorist radar, he questioned the need for such a university especially when the local Muslim population is only 0.9 per cent.

Another organisation by name Adi Hindu Parirakshana Samiti also registered its protests, releasing a press statement. Kalluri Chengaiah, organisation’s president, questioned the need for setting up such a university in the sacred temple town, particularly when it is on terrorist radar.

Another well-known organisation Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, which is based in the United States, working with a mission of preserving and protecting Hinduism and Hindu temples, is very much concerned about the proposed Islamic university coming up in Tirupathi. Prakasarao Velagapudi, who is one of the Directors in its Board, spoke to this writer and conveyed his deep concern and anguish over the development in Chandragiri village. He said, “We have got much information from our contacts in Tirupathi about the construction, which is going on there. It seems it is being built on a temple land and that it also violates the rules and regulations of TUDA (Tirupathi Urban Development Authority). Tirupathi is a sacred temple town for Hindus worldwide and apart from the world famous Venkateswara Temple at the Seven Hills and the Padmavathi Temple at Thiruchanur downhill, we also have several ancient temples in and around the town. When the Muslim population is almost zero in the town, we don’t understand the need for such a university there and we suspect there is more to this proposal than what meets the eye. We appeal to both the central and state governments to stop the construction immediately. We have given all the information, which we got from various sources, on our website—www.savetemples.org. We are deeply hurt by this development and hope the authorities would put an
end to the proposed project realising the consequences.”

The Opinions

Surprisingly, while the Heera Islamic Business Group, with 19 companies spread in several countries, has its registered office at Tirupathi, the locals seem to be totally unaware of construction of such an Islamic University in their town.

Prasanna Kumar Reddy, Congress Party politician and former Municipal Chairman of Tirupathi said, “Muslims who live here are few in number and they revere Lord Venkateswara greatly. They mingle with us as brothers and sisters and this place is absolutely peaceful. However, this kind of an institution may bring students and faculties from outside, and over a period of time, if they start indoctrinating the locals and impose Wahhabism on them, then it would greatly affect the harmony and lead to untoward incidents, resulting in division among people along communal lines.”

Adikesavulu Reddy, a local leader of YSR Congress and District President of the party’s Farmers Wing, said, “Tirupathi is an important education hub of Andhra Pradesh. Sri Venkateswara University has a lot of technical and academic institutions under its belt apart from primary and secondary schools. We have the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth also here. The local Muslims, who are just 0.9 per cent of the town’s population, are truly satisfied with the available schools and colleges and their curriculum, and they live in harmony with us. So, there is no need for an Islamic university here. Moreover, it looks like the Heera Group has not obtained permission from Board of Intermediate Education and the University Grants Commission to start either a college or a university. It must also be checked if it has violated the TUDA rules while constructing the building and there are allegations that it has usurped the temple lands to construct their college.”

Shamir Basha, a market contractor for over thirty years, said, “We are living peacefully here. Local Hindus also participate in our festivals. We have not heard of this lady or her business group until she started constructing this college. The local Muslims will not accept such an institution, which is shrouded in mystery. We do not want any controversy and I feel controversies may erupt when outsiders start coming and settling here. We are blessed by the Lord of Seven Hills and this beautiful town should not lose its peace because of outsiders.”

Manoharan, Tahsildar of Tondavada, was participating in an agitation programme against the separation of Telangana. In the midst of the protest meeting, when enquired about the proposed Islamic university, he said that permission was given for construction as the land is a patta land. He said the Tondavada Panchayat has given a No Objection Certificate.

The Press Meet

This writer had no idea about the “press meet” convened by the Heera Group when he visited Tirupathi on September 17, 2013. After meeting the locals and collecting information from them, this writer proceeded to Chandragiri village accompanied by S V Badri by about 2.30 pm in the afternoon and was surprised to learn that a press meet had been convened at 3 pm by the Heera Group.

The press meet was a stage managed and well-rehearsed programme. Hundreds of chairs were put under a shamiana and an overhead Projector was set up with a big screen to show audio visuals. Buses came in succession bringing hundreds of burka-clad girl students who took their seats obediently. The media persons were given seats and they were provided with a bottle of “Heera Pure Drops” packaged drinking water. Suddenly, the overhead projector and the screen were removed without giving any reasons. Nowhera Shaik came with two women and two men and addressed the media people continuously for about half an hour. She spoke in Telugu.

Right from the word go Nowhera Shaik attacked the BJP spokesperson saying, “Bhanu Prakash of BJP has made a lot of baseless allegations against us. We have not done anything illegal. We are a big business conglomerate with 19 companies operating internationally. I am a local person; I hail from Tirupathi. In fact, my grandfather had started a transport company by name SNS Transports here in 1920 and I inherited the business from my father and diversified and developed it to the present level.”

Then Ms. Shaik went on talking about Hindu-Muslim unity, secularism, human rights and her love for Indian government, which takes care of the minorities. She said, “I can start a university abroad or wherever I want. But, I want to serve the Muslim girls of India and I would like to start from Tirupathi, my native place.” She denied all that was said by the BJP without showing any credible evidence.

Conclusion

BJP spokesperson Bhanu Prakash demands a Commission of Enquiry, headed by a serving High Court Judge, to find out the authenticity of the Heera Group, antecedents of Nowhera Shaik, group’s financial resources, fund sourcing for the construction of the college and accounting and IT returns, etc. He said the College would not be allowed to come up and that widespread protests would be undertaken until the government stops the Heera Group’s proposal. Kalluri Chengaiah, President of Adi Hindu Parirakshana Samiti, also conveyed similar sentiments.

By BR Haran from Thirumala

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