Andhra Pradesh BJP leaders on Tuesday targeted chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government alleging encroachment of a famous Hindu religious site at Edlapadu in Guntur district. The administration has, however, rejected the charge, pointing that the Christian religious site was not at the same place as a temple but more than a kilometre away.
The controversy started with a series of tweets posted by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders alleging a Christian Cross was being built on a hillock close to a Hindu religious place at Edlapadu in Narasaraopet block in Guntur district. BJP state general secretary S Vishnuvardhan Reddy was among the first to post a message with some photographs on his Twitter handle, claiming that the “Christian conversion mafia” was encroaching upon the place where goddess Sita’s footprints and carving of Lord Narasimha existed.
“No place for Hindus in AP under @ysjagan govt. Attacks on Hindu temples continue,” he tweeted.
Soon, Reddy’s tweet was retweeted by BJP state president Somu Veerraju, who claimed illegal construction was happening at the Hindu religious place.
“All this is happening with the support of the administration and @ysjagan government. @BJP4Andhra and @RSSorg protested against illegal construction in the past but the administration is in no mood to stand for Hindus,” he tweeted.
Later, BJP national secretary and co-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh affairs, Sunil Deodhar also raised the issue. “See huge illegal Cross in Edlapadu, AP, where once footprints of #SitaMata existed. Carving of Lord Narasimha exists at the back. In Guntur district, Christian mafias have created havoc. @BJP4Andhra and @friendsofrss protested but the administration tacitly supported. #Encroachment4ChristinAP.”
The tweets went viral among BJP and other Sangh groups, evoking loud protests at a time when YSR Congress party is busy campaigning for elections to municipalities and municipal corporations in the state.
A YSR Congress party leader from Guntur, who refused to be quoted, said the controversy over Edlapadu hills was totally unwarranted and the BJP, which has little stake in the municipal elections, was only trying to gain some political mileage.
The Guntur (Rural) police issued a clarification through Twitter on Wednesday. “Fact check: THEY ARE COMPLETELY 2 DIFFERENT HILLOCKS and there is absolutely NO encroachment of the hill where Narasimha Swami idol is there ..(check videos by our SHO) Request to use Twitter to spread love, unity and peace,” the tweeted.
Narasaraopet sub-collector Srivas Nupur said there was absolutely no truth in the claim about the encroachment of the hillock hosting the Hindu religious sites. He said there was an old Mother Mary temple at an adjacent hill at Yerragonda hillock in the same village and local RCM Church authorities sought district administration’s permission to construct steps for the devotees to reach the temple.
“However, even before the government gave any permission, the church authorities started constructing steps and erecting a huge cross. On coming to know about it, the police and revenue authorities went there and stopped the works. Appropriate action would be taken on the directions of the government,” Nupur said.
He clarified that both the hillocks hosting religious sites of the Hindu and the Christians were located at a distance of one and a half kilometre. “So, I request people not to believe in rumours but maintain restraint,” the sub-collector said.