The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), an autonomous government body which looks after the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala, has issued a notice to its 44 non-Hindu employees and asked the state government to redeploy them in other departments, according to several media reports.
The notice seeks an explanation from the employees as to how they came into the Tirumala temple board's service as the rules bar non-Hindus from working there. A government order issued in 1988 and later modified in 2007 bars non-Hindus from being employed at the temple board, The News Minute reported.
While the 1989 order prohibited all non-Hindus from working in the organisation except in its educational department, the 2007 modification lifted that exemption as well, making employment of an all-Hindu staff mandatory, according to the report.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, temple authorities want to know if any of the 44 employees hid their religious identity to secure a job.
Thirty-five persons got jobs between 1989 and 2007, while seven non-Hindus were employed after 2007, The New Indian Express quoted a report by TTD Chief Vigilance and Security Officer (CVSO) A Ravikrishna as saying.
Non-Hindus are allowed to enter the temple and take darshan of Lord Venkateshwara, provided they sign the entry register declaring they have faith in the Hindu god, the Hindustan Times report added.
Meanwhile, the state government has reportedly agreed to depute these employees at other departments at a similar scale and cadre of their current positions, The Tribune reported.
"We will be sending them to other government departments in the equivalent cadres and scales,” TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal told The Tribune.
In addition to their redeployment, the Tirumala temple board has also decided to make it mandatory for the employees to sport the Thiru Namam (a traditional tilak or vermilion pattern streaked across one's forehead; it is usually a mark of belief in Hinduism).
The issue came to light after a local TV channel conducted a sting operation, wherein a TTD employee was seen using her official car to go to church on Sundays. Her driver also allegedly complaint that he was being made to come to work on Sundays, according to The Indian Express.
The media report spurred protests from Hindu priests and local religious organisations, following which the CVSO conducted an inquiry and found 44 persons of non-Hindu religious beliefs working at the temple board.
However, this is not the first time a controversy concerning religion erupted in Andhra Pradesh temples. In fact, according to the The Times of India, it was in the wake of allegations that evangelist activities were being conducted in temple towns, the government of previously united Andhra Pradesh had brought in the an ordinance banning propagation of other religions in certain places of worship, including Tirumala.
In Andhra Pradesh, in all 20 temples are notified in the list of places where propagating and practicing other religions have been banned. Ten out of these are controlled by the TTD, according to the report.
Updated Date: Jan 11, 2018 17:18 PM