on Nov. 22, 2008
In a bid to turn the twin Indian cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad into a London or New York overnight, the Andhra Pradesh Government invoked the Land Acquisition Act on ISKCON Secunderabad this November 5th.
The Act, which would affect the temple and most of its land, was invoked to widen the main street on which the temple sits. Yet no other religious structures on the same stretch received a similar demolition notice. Devotees pleaded with the government to revoke the order, but were ignored. Displaying total lack of tact, officials even entered the temple without permission to measure it.
Devotees from Secunderabad and Hyderabad decided to make their grievances public. Extensive propaganda across the city quickly drew the attention of Hindu groups such as Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajarang Dal, RSS, BJP, and Shiv Sena. Indian Opposition leader and Hindu sympathizer Mr L.K. Advani, who was in town to address a rally, set aside his engagements to meet the devotees. A press conference was called to announce the launch of a state-wide “Save The Temple Movement.” Media sprang on the story and announced November 19th as the date for a massive demonstration against the government’s harassment and discrimination.
On D-day, at 9.30am sharp, three thousand chanters poured into the Collector’s office. The crowd included devotees from ISKCON Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Rajamundry, Anantpur, and Tirupati as well as many Hindu sympathizers. A veritable who's who of Hindu organizations arrived with their full entourages. Traffic came to a standstill as police cordoned off the main thoroughfare.
Every TV channel telecast the demonstration live, while newspapers ran the story on their front pages. Some showed photos of Hindu and political leaders putting on tilaka, dancing with cymbals and savoring the sacred food that was being handed out. Even the police present thoroughly enjoyed the chanting and prasad. Occasionally, as the chanting slowed down, police would indicate with their hands, “Keep going, keep going!”
Although the event had been planned to last only one hour, it was seven hours before the protest finally ended, and the government bowed out. The Collector told police that he would not go to meet devotees, but devotees were insistent. Finally the Collector had to come out and assure devotees and Hindu leaders that the demolition would not happen.
Secunderabad devotees say the threat been averted, or at least postponed, for an indefinite period. However, they remain on their guard and request the worldwide community of devotees to stay tuned in and to lend their sympathy and support if the need arises.