Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L V Subramanyam recently announced that non-Hindu employees working in Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala hill, one of the richest Hindu temples, will be sacked.
He added that those who had converted their religion while in employment, it is fine as it is their choice. However, they shall not be allowed to continue with their employment, he had added. Subramanyam had said that their continuing their employment will hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. He even added that surprise inspections would be conducted at the residence of those working with TTD if needed. There have been reports suggesting that the vigilance wing of the TTD has already started identifying non-Hindu employees.
Last week, after facing severe flak from the Hindu pilgrims for the advertisements of Jerusalem and Hajj pilgrimage on Tirupati Bus tickets, the administration had withdrawn the tickets and ordered probe. Andhra Pradesh CM YSR Jaganmohan Reddy was on the receiving end of criticism and the fact that he is a Christian fuelled it further. The BJP in the state and other smaller organisations have criticised that when YSR Jaganmohan Reddy’s father was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2009 over two terms, the Christian evangelists were given a free hand in Tirupati. Moreover, YS Reddy also used to go to Jerusalem for pilgrimage before election results. In fact, back in 2009, Andhra Pradesh had also announced subsidy for pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
However, this controversy is not new. In January 2018, a video had surfaced when a senior temple official was seen visiting a church. An inquiry was ordered which led to revelation that the lady officer who had visited the church was appointed in 1986 whereas the order banning recruitment of non-Hindus in temple administration was passed in 1989.
In 2007, another order also banned employment of non-Hindus in educational institutions run by the TTD. Despite the orders, there were reports that over 40 non-Hindus were appointed for managing the affairs of the temple.
In 2018, following the video controversy, 44 non-Hindu employees were identified and removed from religious duties. They were given non-religious profiles like that of gardener, driver, etc. This decision was challenged in the High Court and they secured a stay on the order in February 2018. The stay order is still in place.
It is believed that the new order by the Jaganmohan Reddy government seems to be a ‘damage control’ after the Jerusalem ads on bus tickets to Tirumala.