The YSRCP MLA said that the BJP was raising such issues as it was trying to communalise the upcoming Tirupati bye-poll election.

YSRCP MLA from Srisailam Silpa Chakrapani Reddy on the left with folded hands and YSRCP party cloth BJP MLA from Goshamahal Raja Singh on the right with saffron capFile Photos/Facebook
news Controversy Sunday, December 27, 2020 - 15:21

Yet another controversy over a Hindu temple has been stoked in Andhra Pradesh. Controversial BJP MLA from Telangana Raja Singh, has raised accusations of illegal encroachments and cow slaughter in Srisailam, one of the major temples in the state after Tirupati. Taking strong objection to Raja Singh’s statements, YSRCP MLA from Srisailam Silpa Chakrapani Reddy challenged him to an open debate to prove his allegations. He also said that the MLA was making these allegations for gains in the upcoming Tirupati bye-election. “The BJP is making temples an issue to grow as a party in Andhra Pradesh since they haven't found anything else. They are targeting all temples, like Tirupati, Srisailam and Kanaka Durga, for political gains,” the MLA said. 

Raja Singh, who has several cases booked against him for hate speech, had alleged that a local YSRCP leader Razaq was involved in helping Muslims “illegally occupy the area around the Srisailam” by setting up temporary shops. The legislator went on to claim, “The YSRCP MLA has formed a team, including a man named Razaq, who is increasing the number of (illegal encroachments by) Muslims in Srisailam. Locals have complained to me in this regard.” 

He also alleged that under the management of Razaq’s wife, a Brahmin woman, around 300 cows in the Srisailam goshala (cow shelter) had died. He asked Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy to “save Srisailam, and ensure that “not a single Muslim” is present in the town. “Your party MLA and other people are conspiring against the temple. It’s your responsibility to stop this. If we get involved, things will be different,” Raja Singh said.  

Read: Facebook bans BJP MLA Raja Singh, named in hate speech row report

Making a similarly threatening statement, BJP Nandyal parliamentary constituency in-charge Srikanth Reddy alleged irregularities in the affairs of the Srisailam temple, and demanded that action must be taken against the temple Executive Officer (EO). “Or else, ‘Chalo Srisailam’ program will be held and the EO will be attacked,” he said. Srikanth Reddy was in the news earlier in September for barging into the Mahanandi temple in Kurnool district and abusing temple authorities using foul language, after he was stopped from entering the inner sanctum of the temple shrine as per COVID-19 guidelines. 

Objecting to the allegations of Muslim encroachers, MLA Silpa Chakrapani Reddy said that the people living near the temple practicing non-Hindu religions have been there for several years, and had even obtained a Supreme Court order in their favour, to continue working there. “These people have been living here for 60 to 70 years. I have been in politics for nine years. Who am I to ask them to leave?” he said. He also refuted allegations of cow slaughter at the cow shelter. “Razaq’s wife is a Brahmin woman and a devout Hindu. Why would she kill cows?” he said. 

The MLA said that the BJP leader was attempting to stoke antagonism towards Muslims, adding that he would not succeed in doing so. “In the recent Hyderabad (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) elections, they (BJP) made gains by provoking people, by talking about Muslims. In Andhra Pradesh, that is not possible. There is no antagonism here towards Muslims,” Silpa Chakrapani Reddy said. 

Read : From four seats to 48: How the BJP has grown in the Hyderabad municipal polls 

Razaq, the local YSRCP leader, also objected to the allegations and questioned Raja Singh’s involvement in Srisailam. “What does a Telangana MLA have to do with our Srisailam? Come here and find out the facts,” he said. 

Raja Singh has also alleged that Muslims are being favoured for jobs related to the temple. 

Earlier in August 2019, Srikanth Reddy of BJP, along with members of Bajrang Dal, had staged agitations against the allotment of shops near the temple to non-Hindus, and complained about non-Hindus being employed under the temple as well. Following this, the temple EO was replaced, and according to reports, raids were carried out at the employees’ residences to check which religion they practiced in their homes. 

A few months later, in another incident, four men were nabbed by Srisailam police for reading the Bible at a park close to the Srisailam temple. 

Read: Will BJP’s Telangana strategy work in Andhra for Tirupati bye-polls? Experts weigh in

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.