Tirumala temple's non-Hindu employees must quit: Jagan govt
The Andhra Pradesh government has ordered that the employees of the Tirumala temple who converted to non-Hindu religions should quit as they can't continue in their posts.
Authorities were directed to check the antecedents of all the employees of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the world's richest Hindu temple atop Tirumala.
Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam, during his visit to the temple early this week, said if necessary surprise checks would also be conducted at the houses of the employees to ensure that they are not practising non-Hindu religions.
"There are employees have converted to other religions. It's their choice. Nobody can stop them from doing so but they can't continue in their jobs in the TTD. Nobody should hurt the religious sentiments of others," he said.
Subrahmanyam said while every individual was free to follow and practice the religion of his choice, no non-Hindu can continue to serve in the TTD.
"Such people should come out and speak with courage and leave," he added.
There are an estimated 48 non-Hindu employees in TTD and they came under scanner amid concerns being expressed in some quarters over increasing proselytization in Tirumala.
Last year after a video of a TTD official praying at a Church had gone viral, the higher-ups had removed some non-Hindu employees.
The Chief Secretary also assured measures to strictly implement orders issued in the past banning propagation of other religions in Tirumala.
The latest move by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government comes amid controversies and mounting criticism by the opposition, especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dubbed him "anti-Hindu".
Advertisements for Jerusalem yatra and Haj pilgrimage on bus tickets in the temple town of Tirupati had sparked a row last week.
The advertisements were found on back of tickets of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). The government ordered a probe and promised to take action against the officials for their lapse.
BJP national Secretary Sunil Deodhar, who is also co-incharge of party affairs in the state, termed the advertisement of Jerusalem yatra as "unnecessary, unacceptable, communal and insult to Lord Balaji".
The BJP had also targeted Jagan Reddy for allegedly not lighting a lamp at a ceremony during his recent visit to the US.
Some BJP leaders alleged that Jagan Reddy, a Christian, visited Hindu temples during elections only to garner votes.
However, leaders of the YSR Congress Party clarified that safety rules in the US do not permit lighting of traditional oil and wick lamps especially in auditoriums. They claimed that there was an electric lamp at the event attended by the Chief Minister.