» 07/27/2012, 00.00
Andhra Pradesh: religious freedom can be violated in the Tirumala temple area
A 2007 ordinance bans propagating other religions in the area. Three Christians are arrested for possessing propaganda material after temple authority find Christian posters and material in their homes. For the Global Council of Indian Christians, the action is unconstitutional.
(AsiaNews) - On the hill town of Tirumala (Andhra Pradesh), it is legal "to
violate one of the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution, namely
religious freedom," said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of
Indian Christians (GCIC), after the Tirumala
Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD),a trust that runs local Hindu temples, arrested
three Christians on charges of religious propaganda. Under a ban issued in 2007,
non-Hindus are not allowed to propagate their religion in Tirumala temple area.
three men arrested are Eswaraiiah, Krishnamma and Yasodamma. They work for the
TTD, but apparently no one knew that they were Christian. Last Monday, TTD
agents searched their homes and found posters, religious literature and other
The three were suspended from their job, arrested for
involvement in missionary activities, and interrogated. Under the Worship or
Prayer Prohibition Ordinance 2007, they could get up to three years in jail and
a 5,000 rupee fine.
For Christians, the ordinance is unconstitutional. Not
only does it prohibit disseminating non-Hindu religious beliefs, but it also
violates freedom of movement. The local government has not however heeded such
arguments and repealed the ordinance.
Built on seven hills, the city of Tirumala is a major
pilgrimage site. It is home to the famous Hindu temple of Venkateswara,
the most visited place of its kind in the world with 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams is an independent
trust set up in 1932 to administer all (economic or not) activities associated
with the temple area.
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Legal actions are expected against the state ban on non-Hindu religions in a Tirumala and other areas in Andhra Pradesh. The measure violates constitutionally-guaranteed rights and will affect Christians’ freedom of movement and livelihoods. Father Thumma laments that since a Christian has become chief minister, Christians face more problems.
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Only one religion allowed in Tirumala: Hinduism
The government of Andhra Pradesh issued a ban last Friday against religions other than Hinduism in Tirumala. Violators risk three years in jail, fines of up to 5,000 rupees, or both.
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