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"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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tirupati Declaration: Hindus of the world unite

V SUNDARAM
Chennai, July 18:

With Hinduism under siege from various quarters, it was time for a show of unity and purpose. And that is what was witnessed at the historic meeting of Tirumala Tirupati Samrakshana Samiti (TTSS) at Tirupati Saturday last.

The meeting's purpose was simple and straightforward ? to show in no uncertain terms the protest against the rampant and brazen evangelical activities in Tirupati and Tirmula by Christian missionaries.

Led by the two most respectable and revered sawmijis in our midst today, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Vishveshwara Theertha Swami of Pejawar Mutt, the meeting, made a clarion call against the sinister attempts at proselytization by the missionaries and adopted the historical Tirupati Declaration.

The following are the three cardinal Articles of this Historic Declaration:

I) We Hindus assembled here declare that we do not support, directly or indirectly, any group, institution, religion, media, or political force, which preaches, practices or works against Hindu dharma in this country.

ii) We appeal to all the Hindus in this country and elsewhere to subscribe to and support this declaration, the Tirupathi declaration.

iii) We want all the Hindu religious endowments to be managed by Hindu bodies, and not by the government. We want the secular government to release all religious endowments from its hold.

In addition to the above declarations, the following resolutions were also adopted unanimously:

a) Immediate action must be taken to bring under TTD control over 250 sq. kilometre area covering various Theerthams closely associated with the legend of Lord Venkateswara as against the 27.5 sq. kilometres under Andhra Pradesh Government order (G.O.) No.338. In this context, they quoted Mackenzie's manuscript of the year 1801 as per which the Seven Hills extended up to the Swarnamukhi River near Sri Kalahasti in the east, Nagapatala Devarakonda in the west, Yerraguntla Thota in Rayachoti Taluk in the north and Pillari Kanuma near Narayana Vanam in the south. Such a law would ward off any threat of non-Hindu activities on the Seven Hills.

b) Only Hindus by law should be made eligible for appointment in TTD Service.

c) Andhra Pradesh Government should immediately give up its plans to convert Tirumala into a luxury tourist spot.

d) There should be a legal ban on all non-Hindu activities in TTD. medical and educational institutions.

e) TTD funds should be used only for Hindu spiritual activities.

f) The Dharma Prachara Parishad should be renamed as Hindu Dharma Prachara Parishad.

Speaking on the prohibition of non-Hindu appointments in TTD, the Swamijis urged that immediate steps should be taken to deport 40 Christian employees and other non-Hindus at Tirumala.

The Swamijis alleged that the TTD's medical and educational institutions have become centres of proselytisation by non-Hindus. They demanded that the Devastanam should punish those non-Hindus indulging in such evangelical activities and identify the TTD and State Government Officials encouraging them directly or indirectly and to transfer them from Tirupati forthwith.

The TTSS also charged TTD with diverting devotees' offerings to other activities owing to Government political pressure. 'These offerings made by Hindu devotees were meant for running temples, conducting religious festivals and providing pilgrim amenities and propagating Hindu Dharma. They are not meant for the evangelization programmes of Andhra Pradesh Government under a Christian Chief Minister,' they said.

The TTSS also expressed its deep concern over the increase in evangelical activities at Tirumala and Tirupati and cited the documentary evidence adduced by the Five Member Fact Finding Committee appointed by the Pontiff of Pejawar with Justice Bikshapathi, former High Court Judge as its head.

The meet also cited High Court Ruling which said: 'The rights of Tirumala-Tirupati vest with Lord Venkateswara himself and the Trust Board and the EO are only trustees of the property. None can take any measures violating the right. All the Seven Hills fall under Tirumala (W.P. No. 26145 of 1996-97(2) and 59 (DB) dated 7.9.1996).

In conclusion, Pejawar Swamiji categorically told media persons that the Members of the TTSS fervently hope that their legitimate demand would be acted upon before 9 August, 2006 and that further action by the TTSS would be decided after ascertaining the nature, intention and direction of Government response.

A host of other influential Swamijis from different parts of India including Varada Ramanuja Jeeyar from Uttar Pradesh and Members of the Tirupati Fact Finding Committee, T S Rao, former Director General of Police, R. Srihari, former Vice Chancellor of the Dravidian University, Krishniah, State Backward Classes Welfare Leader and other prominent persons also attended the meeting. Several thousand Devotees deeply concerned about the need for protecting the Seven Hills and the Tirupati Temple joined in in the call.

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