India Tribune: Andhra Pradesh CM’s supporter attacks ‘Save Hindu Temples’ demonstrator

17 May 2007 2112 Views

source:  India Tribune

By J.V. Lakshmana Rao -- Chicago: What could have been a peaceful demonstration to draw the attention of the visiting Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy towards the “misuse of Hindu temple lands and funds,” turned out to be an ugly show of unwarranted muscle power by one of his NRI supporters at the Rosemont Convention Center, the venue of a reception hosted by ATA, TANA, and other organizations on May 6.

The demonstrators numbering about 200, led by Save Hindu Temples organization and Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, who sought police permission, were demonstrating peacefully at the allotted place. Some of them were stated to have come from New York, New Jersey, California, Mississippi and other neighboring states of Illinois. As they were displaying some placards, raising slogans and distributing booklets, a group of four people approached the demonstrators. According to an eyewitness, one of the demonstrators, Dr. Aruna Pal, a physician from New Jersey, gave the booklet to one of the four persons. When the person, who received the booklet, questioned why it was given to him, an associate of Dr. Pal, Pravinchandra Gandhi, requested him to give it back if he was not willing to receive it.

Enraged at that without any provocation, Jayachand Pallekonda, president of Federation of Indo-American Christians of Greater Chicago, who was among the group of four, allegedly threw some abuses and forcefully held Pravinchandra Gandhi by neck and tried to lift him chocking his throat. At that point, the Rosemont police jumped into action, overpowered Jayachand Pallekonda, handcuffed him and led him along with Pravinchandra Gandhi to police facility. Later both were released by the police posting the case for hearing on May 23. Later Jayachand Pallekonda joined the reception to the Chief Minister and felicitated him with a plaque.

According to Pravinchandra Gandhi, who did not feel the impact of the assault at that moment, went home, but the pain in the neck began increasing in the night and became severe and unbearable by the time he reached his engineering office in the morning on May 7. Colleagues at the office summoned an ambulance and rushed Pravinchandra Gandhi to emergency room of Resurrection Hospital, where he was treated and fitted with a collar to keep his neck in position and lessen the pain. Later, he was discharged from the hospital.

Contacted on phone, Pravinchandra Gandhi narrated the sequence of the happenings and attack on him, but Jayachand Pallekonda declined to talk anything about it. Several NRIs, including Dr. Bharat Barai, Prakasha Rao, and Madhu Patel, denounced the attack on the peaceful demonstrator, terming it as an unprovoked “hate crime.”

In response to a phone inquiry, the Rosemont police officer, Sgt. Kania said that Jayachand Pallekonda was charged with “battery under local ordinance” and released on a bond of $75. Almost at the time of the unpleasant incident taking place outside the reception venue, the Chief Minister received at his Hyatt Regency Hotel room the leaders of the agitation, Prakasha Rao, head of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, and Prasad Yelamanchi of Save Hindu Temples Organization. They submitted a 20-point memorandum to the Chief Minister, demanding repeal of the Hindu Endowments Act, proper use of Hindu temple funds and protection of Hindu temples and their lands.

According to the leaders of the protest, members of several organizations such as ISKCON, Christians against proselytism, Indian American intellectual forum, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad also joined the protest. One of the protesters, Durga Prasad from Arizona, was on fast starting from May 4 night till the protest ended. Earlier, a small group of separate Telangana agitators also demonstrated at the venue.

The leaders of ATA and TANA, who could not succeed in dissuading the organizers in holding the demonstration, worked to facilitate a meeting between the Chief Minister and Prakasha Rao along with his colleague Prasad Yelamanchi.

According to Prakasha Rao, the Chief Minister told him and Prasad Yelamanchi, that the Andhra Pradesh government had recently identified some 30,000 temples in the state, whose annual earnings were less than Rs. 50,000 each, and ordered to grant Rs. 2,500 each per month under a special “Dupa, Deepa, Naivedyam Scheme.” He said that all the Shirdi Sai Baba temples in the state were handed over back for their maintenance to their trust boards. The state government also promulgated an ordinance banning activities by other religions near temples, mosques and churches. The Chief Minister assured Prakasha Rao and Prasad Yelamanchi that he would further look into the demands raised in the memorandum and see what best his government could do with them.

However, later at the reception, the Chief Minister, answering a question from the media regarding the agitation outside, said that he was unaware of it. He also did not mention about the meeting he had with Prakasha Rao and Prasad Yelamanchi.

Earlier in the day, when the Chief Minister arrived at the O’Hare airport, there was chaos and near-stampede created by a section of the crowd consisting mainly people from Hyderabad. 





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