I read with great alarm and dismay in today's The Telegraph (Calcutta) about the "Hindu-only" zone that is going to be enforced around Tirupati, the place in south India where the Venkateswara (Balaji) temple is located. Tirupati is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus.
As an Indian, and as someone born in a Hindu family, whose family deity is the one in whose name this is purportedly being done - I am shocked and shamed. This also violates everything that I have understood the sacred deity (whose name my family bears) to signify.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: “... whenever a decline of dharma occurs, and an uprising of adharma, I then manifest My Self. To deliver the saintly and vanquish the evil-doers, to re-establish dharma, I appear in every age.”
Tirupati Hindu zone
Hyderabad, July 28: The constitutional guarantee of free religious expression will now be suspended across a 322.68-sq-km (80,628-acre) area around Tirupati's Balaji temple.
No other religion can be preached - and no mosques or churches built - in this area spread across seven hills, the Tirumala Tirupati Dewasthanam said yesterday. The Dewasthanam till now controlled a 6,600-acre area that includes Tirumala - the small temple town housing 10,000-15,000 people, mostly temple workers - and the ban applied there. The Andhra government has now handedover to the Dewasthanam the rights to an additional 74,000 acres of surrounding hilly land, mostly a reserved forest. The move followed a report by a panel of religious heads and retired judges that Christian missionaries were distributing pamphlets and cassettes in and around Tirumala.
A.P.V.N. Sharma, temple executive officer, said the entire area will be declared a religious and autonomous township. "Non-Hindus will no longer be employed in the service of Balaji," he added. The committee reported that 42 non-Hindus, living just outside Tirumala, were now engaged in peripheral temple-related services, such as transport and accommodation.
Non-Hindu visitors will virtually be barred from the temple. "Even VIPs of other religions will have to sign a declaration that they have faith in Hinduism to gain entry," a spokesman said. The Dewasthanam took control of the earlier 6,600 acres six years ago by getting the state to forcibly resettle Tirumala town's 2,000 hereditary residents. Their properties have been converted into lease land for the temple.