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Current Affairs

Islamic University At The Foot Of Thirumala
By B R Haran, [haran.br@gmail.com]

Chapter :

The  world’s busiest pilgrimage center; hundred per cent % Hindu in  character and identity; great religious, cultural and educational  hub; rich in Hindu Temples and educational institutions - that is  Tirupati! Ancient temples and the sacred Swarnamuki River assert the  character and identity of this magnificent place. People owe their  existence to Bhagwan Venkateswara and everything is done in Bhagwan  Balaji’s name only.

Now  the pilgrimage center is on the verge of losing its peace and piety  due to the attempt of a Muslim business group to establish an Islamic  University at the foothills of Thirumala. Heera Islamic Business  Group, which has its head office in Hyderabad, is constructing a  massive six storey varsity in a village called Chandragiri in  Tondavada Panchayat, just 13 kms away from Tirupati town. Named Heera  International Islamic College, the construction has caused huge  concern in the minds of the local populace and the town could soon  witness a series of protests and legal wars, thanks to the government  authorities who have allegedly given permission for its construction  without application of mind.

Religious  significance of the place

SV  Badri, a social activist and freelance journalist, and grandson of  late Kalyanam Iyengar (“Laddu Iyengar”, pioneer of the  internationally renowned “Tirupati Laddu”), explained the  religious significance of the place: “As per the Sthal Purana,  Bhagwan Srinivasa married Devi Padmavati at Narayana Vanam near here.  After marriage, Bhagwan with His Consort shifted to Srinivasa Manga  Puram (near Tondavada) where a temple for Bhagwan Srinivasa and Devi  Padmavati exists. Both Bhagwan and His Consort used to go to a Shiva  temple located on the banks of the sacred Swarnamuki River to serve  Sage Agastya. This temple was said to be consecrated by Sage Agastya  and hence the Deity attained the name Agastheeswara. Bhagwan  Srinivasa served Sage Agastya at this temple for six months before  shifting to Thirumala. In fact, Sage Agastya had consecrated five  temples along the river Swarnamuki. It is really shocking that an  Islamic Institution is being established in such a great Hindu  pilgrimage center”.

Heera  Islamic Business Group

The  Group’s Mission Statement says, “It is guided by Iman, following  Shariah Law engaged in Halal avoiding Haram. It is on a mission of  spreading the knowledge of Allah to the four corners of the world.”

The  history of the group and its CEO is interesting in the sense that  such a phenomenal growth in just a decade is unimaginable! Ms Shaik  Nowhere is the Founder and CEO of Heera Group. Her profile, as per  her official website, says that Ms Shaik was born to Shaik Nanne  Saheb and Shaik Bilkis in 1973 and that her grandfather Shaikh Kolkar  Madaar Saheb started “SNS Transports” in 1920 and soon became  successful in the wholesale business of fruits, vegetables and  textile products. It adds that she inherited the religious, cultural  and business traits from her father and started an Islamic School for  women in Tirupati by name “Madrasa Niswan” in 1998 with 150  students, most of them from poor families.(Click Here To View)

Then  comes the mindboggling information that she started Heera Gold  Exports & Imports in 2008 in order to meet her expenses which  increased along with the increase in the number of students. Within  five years, she started many more enterprises under the banner of  Heera Group of Companies – Heera Jewellers, Heera Pure Drop, Heera  Textiles, Heera Granites, Heera Rice, Heera Electronics, Heera Real  Estates, Heera Developers, Heera Foodex, and so on…

Nowhere  in her official website are her educational qualifications mentioned;  there are no details about her early life in school and university.  However, under the title ‘Islamic Scholar’ there is mention of  her starting a madrasa with six girls at the age of 19 to teach the  Quran and the Hadith. This madrasa now supposedly has around 300 girl  students.

At  the same time, Shaik Nowhera’s rise as a business entrepreneur is  stupendous. While there is absolutely no information regarding her  grandfather’s transport business, which he supposedly started in  1920, her father’s continuation of it and the other wholesale  business of vegetables, fruits and textiles on the Group’s official  website (Click To View Website),  her diversifying from Islamic teaching to gold trading is mentioned.

Having  ventured into gold trading in 2008, she diversified further into many  other fields (mentioned above), establishing branches in states such  as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi,  Gujarat, West Bengal, and countries such as China, Canada, the Gulf  and west Africa - 19 Companies in just five years!

While  the web domain for the group was created only in December 2012, each  company in the group has its own website. But none of the companies  gives us details regarding turnover, balance sheet, etc. All websites  carry the profile of CEO Shaik, but nothing, absolutely nothing,  about other officials or board of directors. This gives a feeling of  a sort of dubiousness about the business conglomerate.

Ms  Shaik has a Facebook account (Click To View Facebook )  since August 2013, where she blows her own trumpet, showing  photographs of her sitting at the head of a table surrounded by men  and women.

Protests

While  construction of the Islamic College was going on silently in  Chandragiri village, the Bharatiya Janata Party was the first to  smell it locally. The official spokesperson of the State unit, G.  Bhanu Prakash, convened a press conference and demanded an  explanation from both Central and State Governments regarding the  proposed establishment of an Islamic University at such a sacred  Hindu town. Stating that the temple town and the hill temple have  been on the radar of terrorists, as per various intelligence reports,  he questioned the need for such a university when the local Muslim  population is only 0.9%.

Another  organization, Adi Hindu Parirakshana Samithi, also issued a protest  statement. Its president, Kalluri Chengaiah, questioned the need to  set up such a university in the sacred temple town particularly when  it is on terrorist radar. He felt it amounts to buying trouble.

The  US-based Global Hindu Heritage Foundation’s Prakasarao Velagapudi  conveyed deep anguish over the development in Chandragiri village,  “We have got much information from our contacts in Tirupati about  the construction going on there. It seems it is being built on a  Temple land and that it also violates the rules and regulations of  Tirupati Urban Development Authority. Tirupati is a sacred temple  town for Hindus worldwide and apart from the world famous  Venkateswara Temple at the Seven Hills and the Padmavati temple at  Thiruchanur downhill, we have several ancient temples in and around  the town. When the Muslim population is almost zero in the town, we  don’t understand the need for such a University there and we  suspect there is more to this proposal than what meets the eye. We  appeal to both the Central and State Governments to stop the  construction immediately.”

Surprisingly,  while the Heera Islamic Business Group with 19 companies in several  countries, has its registered office at Tirupati, the locals seem  totally unaware of such a big business conglomerate operating from  their town. Congress politicians and former Municipal Chairman of  Tirupati, Prasanna Kumar Reddy, said, “Muslims who live here are  few in number and they revere Lord Venkateswara greatly. They mingle  with us as brothers and sisters and this place is absolutely  peaceful. However, this kind of an institution may bring students and  faculties from outside, and over a period of time if they start  indoctrinating the locals and impose Wahhabism on them, it would  greatly affect the harmony and lead to untoward incidents resulting  in division among people along communal lines”.

Adikesavulu  Reddy, district president of YSR Congress farmers’ wing, said,  “Tirupati is an important education hub of Andhra Pradesh. Sri  Venkateswara University has lot of technical and academic  institutions under its belt apart from primary and secondary schools.  We have the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth also here. The local  Muslims, who are just 0.9% of the town’s population, are truly  satisfied with the available schools and colleges and their  curriculum, and they live in harmony with us. So, there is no need  for an Islamic University here. Moreover, it looks like the Heera  Group has not obtained permission from the Board of Intermediate  Education and the University Grants Commission to start either a  College or a University. It must also be checked if they have  violated the TUDA rules while constructing the building and there are  allegations that they have usurped temple lands to construct their  college.”

Shamir  Basha, a market contractor for over thirty years said, “We are  living peacefully here. Local Hindus also participate in our  festivals. We have not heard of this lady or her business group until  she started constructing this college. The local Muslims will not  accept such an institution, which is shrouded in mystery. We do not  want any controversy and I feel controversies may erupt when  outsiders start coming and settling here. We are blessed by the Lord  of Seven Hills and this beautiful town should not lose its peace  because of outsiders.”

Manoharan,  tahsildar of Tondavada, participating in an agitation against a  separate Telengana, said permission was given for construction as the  land is a patta land. He said the Tondavada Panchayat has given a No  Objection Certificate.

Heera  Group press meet

This  writer visited Tirupati on September 17, 2013. After meeting the  locals, the writer proceeded to Chandragiri village accompanied by SV  Badri and was surprised to learn that a press conference had been  convened by the Heera Group the same day. This was a stage managed  and well rehearsed program. Hundreds of chairs were put under a  shamiana and an overhead projector set up with a big screen to show  audio visuals. Buses came in succession bringing hundreds of  burqa-clad girls who took their seats obediently. Media persons were  given seats and provided with a bottle of “Heera Pure Drops”  packaged drinking water.

Suddenly  the overhead projector and screen were removed without giving any  reasons. Ms Shaik Nowhera came with two women and men and addressed  the media for about half an hour, in Telugu.

She  attacked the BJP spokesperson, “Bhanu Prakash of BJP has made a lot  of baseless allegations against us. We have not done anything  illegal. We are a big business conglomerate with 19 companies  operating internationally. I am a local person; I hail from Tirupati;  In fact, my grandfather had started a transport company by name SNS  Transports here in 1920 and I inherited the business from my father  and diversified and developed them to the present level. While  focusing on business development on the one side, we pay our  attention for the empowerment of Muslim women on the other side. As I  belong to this place, I personally want to help the educational  empowerment of the girl children. As there are 3.5 lac Muslims in the  voter list of Chithoor district, we would like to serve at least 6  lac girls in this college. The BJP is making empty allegations. We  are constructing this building on patta land which we bought and  registered in our name. This is not temple land. We have got  permission for construction. We will go step by step. The education  which we impart in our Madrasa is equal to Secondary School  Certificate, as we teach other subjects like Maths, Science, History,  etc apart from Urdu and Arabic. We have value addition of Islamic  tradition and culture. We also impart training in Nursing, Computers,  etc.”

She  went on and on, talking about Hindu-Muslim unity, secularism, human  rights and her love for the Indian government which takes care of the  minorities. She said, “I can start a university abroad or wherever  I want. But, I want to serve the Muslim girls of India and I would  like to start from Tirupati, my native place”.

A  woman sitting next to her, introduced as the “Principal” of the  institution, carried a bunch of papers and showed them whenever Shaik  prodded her during the course of her speech. The girl students  applauded at regular intervals by clapping. However, nothing was  given to the media persons; no printed press statement was issued  even after asking for it several times. And no explanation was given  for not showing the audio visual.

Shaik  failed to give convincing answers to pointed questions by the media.  The journalists asked her why she was not popular locally despite  being a native and owning such a huge business group; how she arrived  at the figure of 6 lac Muslim girls from 3.5 lac Muslim voters; about  the courses being offered; whether permission was obtained for  construction of a college or simply a madrasa? She gave evasive  answers. Asked about her educational qualifications, she first  refused, but later said she studied in an Islamic school in Chennai.

Media  persons were surprised to note that she could not speak even a few  words in English despite being CEO of such a huge business  conglomerate. One reporter commented privately, “Was it really Ms  Shaik who addressed us? We have never seen her before. Had they shown  the audio visual, we could have identified her. But now, we are not  sure if the one who addressed us was the CEO of Heera Group”.

A  State Intelligence Official who came to the meeting said she was not  known in Tirupati at all until 2008 and that she had grown too big in  too short a time, which could be possible only due to her Gulf  connections.

Temple,  Land, Water

Sorakayala  Krishna Reddy, an academician and historian based in Tirupati,  revealed that, “You could have seen the dilapidated temple tower  very close to the college. This temple was built during the 16th  century (1542), by Shri Thiruvenkata Nathudu, grandson of the great  musical saint Annamacharya. The presiding deity was Bhagwan  Venkateswara and this temple was later destroyed by the Islamic  invader Hyder Ali in the 18th century (1782). The college which is  being constructed now actually stands on the temple’s pond. It is  not clear how the land got into the hands of this Heera Group. A  transparent investigation must be done”.

Just  outside the 12-foot high compound wall, the institute has placed a  name board: ‘Heera International Islamic College’ and ‘Women’s  Arabic College’. However the Group’s emblem has the abbreviation  ‘HIIU’ meaning ‘Heera International Islamic University’.  Below the name board stands a signage made of stone reading,  “Swarnamuki River Rejuvenation Project – Construction of  Sub-Surface Dam, Chandragiri”.

The  project was undertaken with a mission to rejuvenate the Swarnamuki  River. Some NGOs of Chithoor district formed a consortium under the  leadership of the Rashtriya Seva Samiti (RASS) to take up the  Swarnamuki River Rejuvenation Project. The project received support  from CAPART, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India and  Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD).

RASS  website (Click To View Website)  says, “The implementation of the Swarnamuki River Rejuvenation  Project is expected to bring about the augmentation of drinking and  irrigation water in 400 habitations in nine mandals of Chithoor  district; augmentation of drinking water supplied to important  pilgrim towns like Tirupati, Tirumala and Sri Kalahasti, increase in  bio-mass in 49,411 hectares of un-cultivable area; assured irrigation  of 70,799 hectares of cultivable area and stabilization of  agriculture; increase in per capita income and employment generation.  This innovative project got afforestation not only in the country but  at international level also.”

So,  the main allegation that the land could not be a patta land cannot be  ruled out. There is a possibility of manipulation of documents and  the onus lies on the government to find out the truth behind the land  on which the college is being constructed.

Conclusion

BJP  Spokesperson Bhanu Prakash demands a Commission of Enquiry headed by  a serving High Court Judge to find out the authenticity of the Heera  Group, the antecedents of Ms Shaik Nowhera, the group’s financial  resources, funds for the construction of the college, accounting and  IT Returns, etc. He said the college would not be allowed to come up  and widespread protests would be undertaken until the Government  stops it. Kalluri Chengaiah, president of Adi Hindu Parirakshana  Samithi conveyed similar sentiments.

This  issue is similar to the situation which prevailed in 2006 when the  then Chief Minister Samuel Rajasekhar Reddy, who was encouraging  Christian missionary activities in Tirumala-Tirupati, released a GO  saying Bhagwan Venkateswara’s assets were only two hills covering  an area of 27.5 sq. kms., and the other five hills would be taken  over by the government for converting them into a picnic spot with  multiplexes, food courts, commercial, sports and entertainment  infrastructures, including a rope-way to reach the top of the hills.  He was forced to beat a retreat after fierce agitations by several  Hindu organizations. The AP High Court also quashed the Government  Order.

Rayalaseema  and Coastal Andhra are already volatile with protests against the  separation of Telengana. In this scenario, the onus lies on the  Government to act decisively on this communally sensitive issue, as  several questions remain unanswered.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirupati_(city)
http://www.statscrop.com/www/heeraibg.com
http://www.apsmfc.com/ministry-population-cenus.html
http://heeraibg.com/heeraibg/
http://www.savetemples.org/2013/09/14/international-islamic-college-coming-near-Tirupati-is-there-a-plan-to-silence-the-bells-and-stop-aarathi-at-balaji-temple/
https://www.facebook.com/nowherashaik
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/furore-over-establishment-of-islamic-university-in-tirupati/article5126602.ece

First published Click To View Link

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[2] Comment(s) Posted
  1. Comment By - seema burman Date - 31 Oct 2013 Time - 2:35AM
  2. But what can you do about it? We are a secular country. Going by that this is justified. If anyone wants that HIndu pilgrimages be untouched then the only way out is to declare it a Hindu country which is impossible. So let things be. Allow Islam and Christianity to blossom. Let Hindu temples be only in hearts.

  3. Comment By - Ramasubramanian Appadurai Date - 28 Oct 2013 Time - 1:04AM
  4. Heera`s surname is "Nowhera", which means she is from nowhere or she is probably `nobody` or a fake. It seems the entire episode seems to be the handiwork of Islamic miscreants!


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