TIRUMALA: Security has been stepped up. Checking has been intensified. And on Saturday, all employees of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) took a pledge to protect the sanctity of the Seven Hills and uphold the ‘Sanatana Dharma’. Following the recent ‘expose’ in which a three-member evangelic group was seen allegedly proselytising and vilifying Hinduism on the ghat road while proceeding to Tirumala as well as near the main temple, the TTD authorities have intensified their drive with renewed vigour to stop such activities.
However, to stop such activities will be a near-impossible task, admit officials. In the incident that came to light last week in which ‘anti-Hindu’ campaign was carried out and the same posted on Youtube, TTD officials said it took place in 2011 when during checking at Alipiri, the three persons were found to be carrying books promoting a certain religion. “The security personnel confiscated the books but allowed them to proceed. They later campaigned against Hindu dharma and videographed their preaching on the ghat road and on top and posted the same on Youtube. We were able to piece together all this last week after we were alerted about the video going viral on Youtube,” an %official said.
The ordinance banning non-Hindu activities and preaching on the Seven Hills was promulgated by the YSR government in 2007.
Issued following criticism that several incidents of propaganda of other religions were taking place in the area, the ordinance said the Tirumala Hills area comprising all the Seven Hills, the holy ‘theerthams’ and the abode of Lord Venkateswara, is described as ‘Tirumala Divya Kshetram’ and no other religion should be allowed to be propagated there by words, either spoken or written or by signs or visible representation or by distributing any printed material or other forms of religious literature.
But despite rules and constant vigil, such incidents have occurred repeatedly, including some TTD employees indulging in the same. One such temple employee was caught near the laddu counter at the top with books of other religion a few months ago. In July 2013, vigilance sleuths raided the houses of three ‘sweepers’ in the TTD’s health department and unearthed books and propaganda material related to a certain non-Hindu religion. A few months before that, a nurse working in a private hospital in Tirupati was also found indulging in such similar activities. There have been a few other incidents as well.
On Saturday, additional Special Protection Force (SPF) personnel were deployed at the Alipiri check-point. Bags being carried by the devotees and vehicles were checked thoroughly. “From now on, cases will be booked against any person or vehicle found with stickers or placards of non-Hindu nature,” TTD additional chief vigilance officer Siva Prasad Reddy said. “We will not allow any one with non-Hindu material to enter Tirumala any more” he said. But privately, the TTD officials admitted that preventing such incidents is easier said than done.