International Islamic University for Women etc., near Tirupati
I. The News:
- A news item appeared in the newspapers regarding the construction of a big complex of 7 storeys near Thondavada village about 11 KMs. from Tirupati in the 2nd week of September 2013. The purpose of the building was not mentioned. At the same time a news item was being circulated in the internet on the above complex. It carried the photos of the construction and also provided the background. One Ms. Shaik Nowhera, a self proclaimed business women has undertaken the said construction. This development gave rise to apprehension in the minds of the general public as they had no clue about the purpose of that building. About 8 months back a display board was put up in front of the building with the name International Islamic University for Women and College and School for Muslim Women. This has invariably given rise to serious concerns to several well meaning people and Hindu devotees in India and abroad.
- Ms. Shaik Nowhera is founder and C.E.O. of Heera group of companies. Her website states she was born in Kalluru village (A.P.) in 1973 and that at the age of 19 years she started teaching Quran and Hadith and practicing ‘Dawah’. She started an Islamic School at Tirupati town in the name of ‘Madrasa Niswan’ (under a society registered with the Registration of Societies Act, AP, India, No. 386) with around 150 students. It further states that free education was being given in that school for poor Muslim girls also and that in order to meet the expenditure, she started Heera group of companies. ‘Mission Statement’ of Heera Islamic Group states “it is guided by Imam, following Shariah Law engaged in Halal avoiding Haram. It is on a mission for spreading the knowledge of Allah to the four corners of the world”.
II. The Context:
1. Tirumala Tirupati Divya Kshetram is revered by millions of Hindus all over the world. The temple town attracts about 20 million people every year on a conservative estimate. The threat perception to the temple and town is high according to security agencies. Heterogeneous population numbering millions is highly vulnerable from the point of view of security management. In addition to the above, Tirumala Tirupati witnessed the following threats:
- a Naxalite attack on the former Chief Minister Sri. Chandrababu Naidu on 02.10.2003 near “Alipiri”;
- some Christians were pursuing conversion of pilgrims to Christianity in Tirumala itself;
- a Government Order declaring Tirumala as confined to area covering only two hills and not all the seven hills. It was strongly rumoured that the balance area and the hills were to be given for tourism development and also to build a very big Church. Fortunately, the Government Order was withdrawn after a huge public uproar by Tirumala Tirupati Samrakshana Samithi led by Sri. T.S. Rao (former DGP of AP) and several eminent persons;
- a news item during the 3rd week of September 2013 stating that the 7 storeyed complex was being constructed without approval for establishing an International Islamic University for Women at Thondavada at a distance of 11 KMs from Tirupati on the road to Chandragiri;
- an incident at Puttur, 38 KMs from Tirupati, of police arresting some persons with terrorist links and reports in the newspapers on 05.10.2013 that a plan was revealed by them to put explosives in umbrellas being taken to Tirumala to cause explosions and disturbances during Brahmostavams.
2. Under the above circumstances the Tirumala Tirupati Samrakshana Samithi constituted the present Fact Finding Committee with the following:
Justice S. Parvatha Rao,
former High Court Judge, Andhra Pradesh
Sri. T.S. Rao, I.P.S. (Retd.)
former Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh
Dr. C. Umamaheswara Rao, I.A.S. (Retd.)
3. The Committee had a preliminary meeting at Hyderabad on 14.10.2013 and started gathering information. The Committee visited Tirupati on the 11th & 12th of November, 2013 in order to know the facts on the ground,
4. On 11.11.2013, the Committee visited the area where the building was constructed and saw the site and the building by the side of the road from Tirupati to Chandragiri and the connecting road to Thondavada village and also the newly renovated Gurrappa temple (Shiva temple) by the side of the road to Thondavada, a short distance away from the building in question. The Committee went around the construction site. The Committee found that behind the boundary wall of the building in question on the back side cement pillars were raised and construction was going on in the land. The villagers there have stated that a Mosque is being constructed un-authorizedly in the open land behind the boundary wall of the site in question. The Committee found a lane behind the building in question from the road to Thondavada along the side of Swarnamukhi River. The entire backside of the building was visible from the lane as we walked along it. Each floor of the building had about 19 windows. After the building there is considerable open land with a number of coconut trees within the compound of the building which is enclosed on three sides by a wall of about 12 feet height. The area within the compound wall will be about 4½ to 5 acres. The building site falls within a triangle covered by three temples, namely, Gurrappa temple referred to above, the remains of the ancient Thimmappa temple on the adjoining site by the side of the Chandragiri road, and Agastheeswara temple located by the side of the road to Thondavada.
5. The Committee interacted with the villagers of Thondavada in their village on the same day (11.11.2013). The newly elected Sarpanch and the previous Sarpanch were present in the meeting. After that, in Chandragiri village, the Committee had a meeting in which villagers from Chandragiri and from about 8 villages in Chandragiri Mandal participated. During the meetings with the villagers, it was brought to the notice of the Committee that they had no idea whatsoever about the real purpose for which the building was constructed until a board was put up in front of it about 8 months back indicating that it was for an International Islamic University for Muslim Women. The recently elected (in August) Sarpanch of Thondavada village informed the Committee at the meeting that no permission was given to Ms. Shaik Nowhera or the Society by the Gram Panchayat for constructing the building, in so far he was aware. Sri Satyanarayana Reddy, who was the previous Sarpanch from 2006 to 2011, did not deny this. From 2011 to August, 2013 no elections were conducted for the Panchayat.
6. The villagers of Thondavada who attended the meeting also stated that after the old Gurrappa temple by the side of the road to Thondavada was renovated, a name board for the temple was sought to be put up at the entrance of the road on 11.10.2013, Ms. Shaik Nowhera and her associates vehemently objected to that and brought about 300 women in Burkha in buses who were made to squat on the road for a long time and that only after conciliation by some elders, the board was allowed to be put up. After that, Muslim girls and women were brought every day and kept in the premises and later they were made to stay in the building unauthorizedly even though no occupation certificate and completion certificate for the building in question were obtained.
7. The villagers of Thondavada, Chandragiri and neighbouring villages also stated that some of the muslim workers of the Society have been hiring rooms in private houses in the neighboring villages at exorbitant rents and that, in view of the background of the Puttur incident, they are apprehensive of this development. They have also pointed out that part of the site of the building in question might be located in the Thimmappa temple land and that the building itself encroached the land of Nallas of Swarnamukhi River which is government land. They have also informed the Committee that the Gram Panchayat officials and revenue officials were not being allowed to enter into the premises and that secrecy surrounded the whole activity and that only recently some officials could enter the site and they have reported that the entire building in question was centrally air-conditioned and the flooring was with marble stones and that the fittings in the rooms and in the lavatories were of high quality and very expensive.
8. It was brought to the notice of the Committee that on 19.10.2010 Ms. Shaik Nowhera applied to the Sarpanch of Thondavada for permission to Madrasa–E–Niswan Society Trust for constructing a building in Sy. No. 4/2A/1B in an extent of Ac. 1-49 Cents for poor minority students for which TUDA (Tirupati Urban Development Authority) had given approval. The permission sought from TUDA was only for constructing a building with ground floor and first floor. But when the construction of more floors was going on, notices dated 05.02.2012 and 28.08.2012 were issued by Thondavada Gram Panchayat to stop further construction contrary to the approved plan and that otherwise action would be taken. But the construction was continued up to ground + 6th floor.
9. In the evening on 11.11.2013, the Committee held a meeting in Tirupati in which several prominent persons attended and interacted with the Committee. The members of the Committee narrated to them the information gathered by the Committee from the villagers and about the gross violations in that construction, apprehension of the people, inactivity of the authorities in stopping the construction beyond the first floor contrary to the approved plan promptly by taking appropriate action. They are also informed that the building was centrally air-conditioned and was fitted with very expensive installations and was with expensive marble flooring which clearly indicates that it was not intended for poor minority girls.
10. The Committee met the following officials :
- The Collector and the Jt. Collector of Chittoor District at Chittoor
- JEO of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam at Tirumala,
- Superintendent of Police (Urban) at Tirupati and
- Vice President of TUDA at Tirupati.
11. They confirmed that TUDA gave only technical clearance for the building sought to be constructed by the Society formed by Ms. Shaik Nowhera and as it was only for ground floor plus first floor, the concerned Panchayat Executive Secretary had to give permission for the construction. For buildings beyond ground plus first floor permission has to be obtained from TUDA. The actual construction made by the Society is in flagrant violation of the sanctioned plan. It was also stated that both Chandragiri and Thondavada villages come under TUDA.
III. Findings of the Committee:
1. On 03.02.2010 and 24.02.2010 applications were made by Ms. Shaik Nowhera to TUDA for constructing a building with ground floor and first floor in Sy. No. 4-2A/1B along with the plan for the proposed building. Technical approval to the building was given by the Vice President of TUDA on 08.03.2010 and the same was addressed to the concerned Panchayat Executive Secretary along with the approved plan. Copies of the same were sent to Ms. Shaik Nowhera and building inspector of TUDA.
2. On 19.10.2010, an application in Telugu along with building application form in English signed by her as owner of the land and by licensed building engineer for TUDA, was made by Ms. Shaik Nowhera to Thondavada Gram Panchayat for approval to construct the building. However, from the information gathered by the Committee, no specific approval by Gram Panchayat was given.
3. From the information available to the Committee, after the application was made to the TUDA in February, 2010 only Ms. Shaik Nowhera applied to the Tahsildar, Chandragiri Mandal for conversion of agriculture land in Sy. No. 4-2A/1B of an extent of Ac. 1.49 Cents (5891.34 Sq. Mts.) to non-agriculture land, and the same was granted by Tahsildar in September, 2010.
4. The land within the boundary walls constructed on three sides of the site in which the building in question was constructed is much more than Ac. 1.49 Cents in Sy. No. 4-2A/1B of Thondavada village which alone was converted into non-agriculture land for which application was made for constructing the building in question. The excess land is obviously encroached land. Only if proper survey is made the actual excess land and the survey nos. of the excess land can be ascertained. The villagers of Thondavada, Chandragiri and neighboring villages apprehend that certain extent of Thimmappa temple land is also encroached and is within the boundary walls of the site.
5. Pursuant to letter No. 6/A/2012 dated 06.08.2012 of TUDA, Thondavada Panchayat Executive Secretary issued notice dated 28.08.2012 referring to its earlier letter dated 05.02.2012 stating that the building in question was being constructed by Ms. Shaik Nowhera’s Society contrary and in violation of the plan approved by TUDA and that the construction should be stopped immediately and that otherwise action would be taken.
6. It is well known fact that Tirumala-Tirupati are Divyakshetrams and the most important place for Hindus and crores of Hindus and devotees of Lord Balaji from other regions from all over the world visit the holy places of Tirumala-Tirupati which are surrounded by temples like Srinivasa Mangapuram, Alamelu Mangapuram, Agastheeswara Swamy temple, Kanipakkam, Srikalahasti etc. which are important to the Hindus. Sri. S.V. Badri, a social activist and free lance journalist, and grandson of Kalyanaram Iyengar (Laddu Iyengar pioneer of the internationally renowned Tirupati Laddu) had explained the religious significance of the place. As per the Sthala Purana, Bhagawan Srinivas married Devi Padmavathi at Narayanavanam here. After marriage, Bhagawan with his concerts shifted to Srinivasa Mangapuram (near Thondavada) where a temple for Bhagawan Srinivas and Devi Padmavathi exists. Both Bhagawan and his concerts used to go to a Shiva temple located on the banks of sacred Swarnamukhi River to serve Sage Agasthya. This temple was said to be consecretated by Sage Agasthya and here the deity attained the name Agastheeswara. Bhagawan Srinivas served Sage Agasthya at this temple for six months before shifting to Tirumala. In fact, Sage Agasthya had consecrated five temples along the river Swarnamukhi. It is really strange and disturbing that an Islamic institution is being established in such a great Hindu pilgrimage centre.
7. It is known and acknowledged fact that Tirumala and Tirupati and its neighboring places occupy an important role in the religious life of Hindus. The Government of AP had issued Ordinance No. 3/2007 known as Andhra Pradesh Propagation of Other Religions in the Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Ordinance dated 22.05.2007. Subsequently it was replaced by an Act. The Government of AP issued G.O. Ms. No. 746 dt. 02.06.2007 through Revenue (Endowments-III) Department enumerating the temples which included Tirumala temple. Subsequently, Revenue (Endowments-III) Department issued another G.O. Ms. No. 747 dated 02.06.2007 under which the pathways lying in the Tirupati hills limits. The intention of the Ordinance/Act and GOs is to ensure that Tirumala and Tirupati are places of religious importance. They are safeguarded to maintain the sanctity, public order, tranquility, peace, security and harmony of the holy places of worship in Tirupati and Tirumala. It is well known that many pilgrims come by walk and other modes of transport from the foothills on all sides of the seven hills to visit various temples in and around Tirumala and Tirupati. G.O. Ms. No. 746 specifically mentioned Srikalahasti also. The intention of the said Ordinance / Act and GOs is to ensure that Tirumala and Tirupati would be free of propagation of any other religious activities and to ensure peaceful, safe and tranquil atmosphere for Hindus and for devotees of Lord Balaji as also of the other neighboring temples of Tirumala and Tirupati like Srinivasa Mangapuram, Alamelu Mangapuram, Agastheeswara Swamy temple, Kanipakkam, Sri Kalahasti etc.
8. As per the rules, if the construction exceeds two floors, approval has to be given by TUDA in their notified area. Thondavada village and the construction site fall within the notified area and though a seven floor complex in about five acres of land is being built, no approval has been taken from TUDA by Ms. Shaik Nowhera or the Society. After they applied to TUDA and Thondavada Panchayat for constructing ground floor plus first floor of the building, they began the construction of the building. Contrary to the sanctioned plan, they laid a foundation for ground plus six floors building and proceeded with the construction of the same continuously in spite of notices issued by the Thondavada Panchayat. The Committee therefore finds that there was fraudulent suppression of a very serious nature as the actual undisclosed intention was to construct a building with ground plus six floors even when the applications were made along with the plan for a building of ground floor and first floor.
9. Until the board was put some eight months back showing International Islamic University for Women, the local population did not know the real purpose of the building. The Committee was also told that Ms. Shaik Nowhera also purchased lands in the areas around the building in question. If several Mosques, Minars etc. come up in these places they will cause disturbance to the law & order and will also disturb the harmony of the local population.
10. Apart from the above, the following are the matters of concern:
- A compound wall of 12 feet height has been constructed contrary to condition 5 of the conditions mentioned in the Order dated 08.03.2010 of TUDA which limits the height of the compound wall to 2.5 M.
- Surveillance cameras on public movement along the road to Thondavada by the side of the compound wall of the building in question.
- Construction of a further structure behind the building in question in the open land outside the compound wall which the local population believes is for a mosque.
- Unauthorized occupation of Government and other land within the boundary walls and constructing the building in land in other survey nos. for which no approval and conversion was obtained.
- The lands surrounding the building complex are part of Swarnamukhi River and its various Nallas. The building in question will affectively obstruct flow of water into the river and revival of Swarnamukhi River under Swarnamukhi River Rejuvenation Project will not be possible in the future. The Rejuvenation Project provides for construction of sub-surface dams with a mission of rejuvenating the river. Some NGOs of Chittoor district formed a consortium under the leadership of Rastriya Seva Samathi to take up the project which received support from CAPART, Ministry of Rural Development of Government of India, and TTD.
1. Security agencies should evaluate a possible threat from the newly constructed building which is shrouded in secrecy and initiate action to safeguard Tirumala Tirupati Divya Kshetram and the pilgrims.
2. Investigation should be thoroughly carried out as regards the source of funding under the various statutes and laws of the land.
3. Income tax department should investigate into the income and expenditure of Heera group of companies etc. and in particular this Society and ascertain whether accounts are maintained and audited and whether returns are being filed by them regularly and got assessed.
4. Illegal structure beyond the plan for which technical clearance was given by TUDA vide its Order dated 08.03.2010 should be demolished and encroachments on the govt. lands should be removed after evacuating all persons illegally occupying the premises and the building in question. The remaining structure should be used by the Society only for running educational institutions as per the existing objects of the Society and after obtaining the necessary permissions and building clearances.
5. Alternatively, TTD may be requested to take over the building and use it for its purposes without any compensation for the building because it is an illegal structure and if at all, considering the payment of the cost price of the land purchased by the applicant after ascertaining that the source of money is legal
Alternatively, Padmavathi Mahila University may be requested to take over the building after the government resumes the same for running an educational institution in the area in accordance with their mandate.
6. The illegal structures like pillars behind the rear compound wall of the building in question on the river side have to be removed / demolished.
A country which faces several security threats both internally and externally cannot be over cautious in these matters. Alarm bells are ringing all around. The attack on Aksharadham, the Parliament and in particular the recent incident in Puttur on 05.10.2013 and sleeper cells of terrorists everywhere and several other incidents in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere remind us of the problems abounding. The Committee sincerely hopes that the Government and other concerned authorities would act promptly and decisively in this matter.
Justice S. Parvatha Rao
Former High Court Judge
Andhra Pradesh Former DGP, AP.
Dr. C. Uma Maheswara Rao