The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Houston Hindus oppose Church on sacred Tirumala-Tirupati Hills

Lalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com)
Minneapolis, July 18. 2005

Opposing the construction of a church at the sacred Tirumala Hills, as many as 23 Indo-American organizations based in Houston has urged the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to ask the Andhra Pradesh Government to maintain the sanctity of the religious place, which is a holy shrine for the Hindus world over.

Agitated by media reports emanating from India that the Andhra Pradesh Government was actively considering the application of a religious society to build a church atop the Tirumala Hills, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, these Indo-American organizations held an emergency meeting at Houston on Saturday (July 16) to discuss the issue.

Even though the news has been denied by the Andhra Pradesh Government that no such thing would be allowed at the Tirumala Hills, the Indo-American, mostly Hindu organizations, at the meeting decided to send a representative to Washington D.C. to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister during his visit this week.

Another representative of these Houston-based Hindu organizations would be flying to Hyderabad on Tuesday (July 19) to meet the Chief Minister, Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, to apprise him of the sentiments of the community in the United States.

"We are all agitated and upset following the series of news regarding the Tirumala Hills which is coming from Andhra Pradesh. We want to make sure that such a anti-Hindu thing does not happen," Geetha Donthi, of Prajna - JET USA, which is one of the signatories to the memorandum, told the HindustanTimes.com.

Donthi would meet Reddy in Hyderabad on behalf of these 23 organizations including Gujarati Samaj of Houston, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Chinamaya Mission, Arya Samaj, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu Worship Society, Kerala Hindu Society, Shri Radha Krishna Temple, Ashta Lakshmi Temple, Hindu Student Council, Vallabh Priti Samaj, Esha Vasyam, Param Shakti Peet, Indian Senior Citizens Association, India House, Bhakta Samaj, Friends and Family of Houston, Santhan Hindu Center, LPSH, Houston, Bhram Samaj, Houston Natya Kala Vrund and Center for Global Studies.

"It shocks the conscience of the Hindu-American community of Houston that the Government of India can so cavalierly demolish a structure with a history of 550 years, as if it were yesterday's newspaper being tossed into the rubbish bin," said the petition signed by these organizations on Saturday, which would be submitted to both the Prime Minister and the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

Stating that the Seven Hills of Tirumala, in their entirety, have been considered to be a tirthasthanam and a devasthanam since time immemorial, the petition said: "It affronts the sanctity of the place for the Government to permit the construction of a Christian church." "Consequently, it is incumbent on you, as the Prime Minister of India, to direct the Government of Andhra Pradesh to ensure that the sanctity of Thousand Pillar Temple and the entire Seven Hills of Tirumala remains intact," it said.

The organizations said given the fact that the Central and State Governments, rather than private trusts, controlled the Hindu structures, they have the solemn obligation to maintain these places.

"Despite this, the Andhra Pradesh Government has knowingly permitted the demolition of the 550-year old Thousand Pillar Temple and was considering constructing a Christian church on Tirumala Hills," the petition said adding that this was in direct contravention of the interests of the worldwide Hindu population, including the Hindu-American community of Houston.

Different countries, including the United States, may be the homelands for the worldwide Hindu population, only India serves as their matrubhumi and dharmabhumi, in said.

As such, the Hindu-American community of Houston has a vested interest to ensure that thousands of tirthasthanam and devasthanam which cover the landscape of India remain preserved and accessible to devotees from across the globe, the petition said.

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