Why do VIPs need to submit a declaration of faith before entering Tirumala Temple?
I, Prof Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu, Professor of Law and Former Central Information Commissioner, would like to write to you the following ten points:
I am a devotee Lord Venkateshwara and believe in the Acts, rules, customs, GOs, and practices for securing good governance with transparency in TTD, which deals with thousands of crores of rupees of the people. I tried to email you this letter, but TTD official website did not disclose your email id. You are inaccessible. It is against the practice of good governance, transparency, RTI Act, and trusteeship.
By virtue of good deeds of your ancestors you secured a great opportunity to serve Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala in the capacity of Chairman Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Trust Board, which you need to remember always. I hope you will sincerely discharge that enormous responsibility.
The law and practice of TTD demands that a person who is employed or who takes over as Chairman or Member of the Trust Board should be a Hindu in letter and spirit. It is not a government institution where anybody can be appointed without discrimination based on caste or religion. It is a religious institution totally run on public funding, which also pays the salaries of Government employees working here including that of Executive Officer, who generally is a senior IAS officer. Hence the rules of religion must be followed.
It is great that there is no bar to any religious persons to enter and have Darshan of Lord Venkateswara except formal signing of a declaration of belief for persons belonging to other religion. Those who do not believe in icons and Vigraharadhana should not come to see the Vigraha. But if they personally want to see a Vigraha, out of their own will, it amounts to belief and they can visit.
Dharma Darshan is for all without even the formal condition of the declaration of belief. Taking trouble of coming to Tirumala itself is a declaration for them.
Only when a person wants to avail of the privileged status of welcome and VVIP privileges he/she needs to declare belief or leave the temple without availing those special privileges. Trustees or officers cannot welcome them unless they know that VVIPs believe in Lord Venkateshwara.
It is an established practice consolidated over a period to secure a declaration signed before the VVIP of a different religion is allowed inside the temple.
It is sad that you have said that there was no need for any such declaration, the reasons for that are best known to you. And then you have chosen to give a clarification of what you have stated to the media on this point. Quite interestingly though this denial, you have confirmed what you said. If any person reads the following will surely understand your meaning: You said: “I did not say that the declaration rule for other religions’ people who come to visit Lord Balaji temple need not be implemented. Your statement says: “Thousands of devotees come from all over the world every day to Tirumala with belief in Lord Balaji. 80,000 to 1 lakh devotees throng the temple on festival days and other auspicious days. There will be many people of other religions in such pilgrims. What I said was that we cannot ask all such people for declaration….. I only said that… Sonia Gandhi and late Chief Minister Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy did not give any such declaration when they had visited the temple and offered prayers. So, present Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy also need not give any declaration. According to TTD act rules, Only Hindus are eligible to have darshan under rule no. 136. Rule no. 137 clearly says that people of other religions who want to visit Lord Balaji temple must submit a self-declaration of their religious status. According to a memo issued by the government in 2014, the temple authorities themselves will ask for a declaration if the visitors possess any identifiable pieces of evidence on them. However, it was not practiced many times when political or other prominent people visited the Lord Balaji temple. Neither did they give any declaration… YS Jaganmohan Reddy had started his historic ‘Paada Yaatra’ only after having Darsan of Lord Balaji. After completion of Yatra, Jagan walked from Tirupati to Tirumala on foot. After YSRCP came to power, Jagan took charge only after having darshan. This evidence is adequate to prove that he is an ardent devotee and believer of Lord Sri Venkateswara. This is why I told him that he does not need to give a declaration. CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy will come to Tirumala on September 23 to offer silk clothing on the eve of Garuda Utsavam on behalf of the public of the entire state. He has the utmost devotion to Lord Balaji. Such a person should not be asked for self-declaration. This is what I had told, but I did not say that the declaration rule is not at all needed. Every day thousands of devotees visit the temple. It would not be possible to identify people’s religion in such a rush. I appeal all not to create such unnecessary and unwarranted disputes as the Brahmotsavams are ahead.”
With the above statement, you have doubly confirmed that there was no need for a declaration. I would like to draw your attention to the visit of President of India APJ Abdul Kalam, who knew this requirement, was waiting for the declaration book to be brought for his signature. He patiently waited for the officers to search, and bring the book, signed it, and then proceeded inside the temple. He is sincere enough about his duty to follow the law of the land. The TTD should have prepared for such eventuality because some VVIPs are very honest and follow the norms. Then another example for your understanding, the Chief Justice of pre-divided Andhra Pradesh Justice Nisar Ahmed Kakru, who just before entering the temple came to know about the declaration and refused to sign that he would believe in Lord Venkateshwara because he would not believe. He is sincere enough to say that he will respect the custom and rule and left without entering the temple. He believes in being truthful and thus refused to file a false declaration. Mrs Sonia Gandhi declared that she was Indian, believes in its culture and tradition hence agreed to declare her belief. Almost all VVIPs respected the TTD norm. It is irrelevant and unwarranted to say that there is no need for signing a declaration. It shows the lack of understanding of the norms and the culture of Tirumala.
I think there is a strong need for you to declare whether you believe in Lord Venkateswara and recognize need to implement norms and rules of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, as you have unnecessarily created confusion and disturbed an established practice. Please declare your sincerity. Those who do not believe in Lord Venkateswara should leave Tirumala Tirupati sincerely like former Chief Justice of AP Kakru.
You are the Chairman of Dharma Karthas i.e, Trustees, which means you must keep up the trust and Dharma. If you are sincere in performing this duty, be forthright, transparent, bring transparency in TTD by brining it under RTI Act, so that you, trustees and employees are answerable to every devotee of Lord Venkateshwara, who donated from Re 1 to an unlimited amount of wealth, from which all of you are being paid. Either believe in Lord Venkateswara like Abdul Kalam or believe in truthfulness like Nisar Ahmad Kakru. Please declare to the people through your official website the norms and practices of signing declaration, which VVIPs visited with the declaration and without it, if some visited without declaration, give reasons for that.
Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu