Historically, cases of temple destruction were reported following the defeat of a king and the annexation of his territory. Symbolic structures built by the king were often pulled down to symbolize his defeat.
At Antarvedi, a six-decade-old teakwood chariot was the main attraction during the annual procession of the presiding deity. Last month, the chariot went up in flames, igniting protests across the state and drawing nation-wide condemnation. While this wasn’t the only incident, it brought pent-up public anger over a series of similar incidents to a boil.
It has been alleged, even at times by members of his own party, that Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ascent to power has seen large-scale evangelical proselytization of the marginalized communities in the state. There also have been allegations of these conversions being “state-sponsored.” Whether it’s the propagation of Christian faith through its website or the plan to auction its properties, controversies surrounding The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam have evidently outraged devotees. The state has since seen several attacks of vandalism, especially the desecration of idols.
Furthermore, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s steadfast refusal to sign the faith-declaration at the Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati has reduced his visits to the temple to a mere act of political convenience and laid bare his disregard for traditions practiced by faiths other than his own. The wide-spread protests and political slugfest following the charring of the Antardevi chariot weren’t spontaneous. The YSRCP government has been stung by outrage on many occasions.
The people in Andhra Pradesh do not see any of these incidents and choices as mutually exclusive. While the Andhra Pradesh police would like the people to believe these incidents were “one-offs”, far too many of them had occurred to discredit the pattern theory. In the eyes of the police, the protests are downright communal, but attacks are not.
According to the latest data released by the NCRB, crimes against women in Andhra Pradesh have increased by 7%. Brutal sexual assaults on women and girls have made national headlines repeatedly as have atrocities against Dalits. Heads of Dalit men are being tonsured for not wearing a mask in a state where the CM doesn’t care about wearing one. While the police were busily tonsuring a Dalit man’s head for not wearing a mask, the State earned the dubious distinction of standing (or falling?) eighth state in the country in terms of the highest crime rate. All this while a deadly pandemic rages through the state, uncontrolled and unchecked. Dasara celebrations are marked unsafe and prohibited while mask-less YSRCP leaders can repeatedly gather large-crowds and indulge in celebrations. Laws, it seems, have now been reserved for purposes of vendetta in the state.
Aside from a plunging economy, unemployment, and a raging pandemic, deteriorating law and order has emerged as a bigger threat to the State, especially to its social fabric. However, one wonders if a deteriorating law and order was a bigger threat than having state machinery contrive with those in power to achieve political autocracy.
Historically, cases of temple destruction were reported following the defeat of a king and the annexation of his territory. Symbolic structures built by the king were often pulled down to symbolize his defeat. More than a year on, Jagan Mohan Reddy has continued undoing of his predecessors’ legacies, at times, at the cost of the state’s social fabric, which shows that he has yet to believe he was in power. This crusade fuelled by an abuse of power is the real threat to Andhra Pradesh today.