Andhra Pradesh police have rubbished a viral claim that a huge cross was erected on a hillock in Guntur district to replace marks of a Hindu shrine. Guntur police took to Twitter to debunk the viral claim and also posted a video to show that the cross was on a different hillock and does not encroach on two Hindu shrines - markings of a Hindu goddess Sita and the the carving of deity Narasimha.
The claim was first made by Sunil Deodhar, national secretary Bharatiya Janata Party from his verified handle on Twitter. Deodhar who is also the co-incharge for the BJP in Andhra Pradesh, tweeted, See huge illegal Cross in Edlapadu, AP where once foot prints of #SitaMaa existed. Carving of Lord Narasimhama exists at back. In Guntur Dist Christian mafias have created havoc. @BJP4Andhra & @friendsofrss protested but administration tacitly supported.
The claim quickly went viral with right wing websites OpIndia, Swarajya and Organiser publishing stories based on the same claims. OpIndia in its story headlined 'Andhra Pradesh: BJP alleges evangelists built a Christian cross-shaped structure at Hindu holy site, police 'clarifies', leaves crucial question unanswered' claimed "A huge Christian Cross-shaped structure has been allegedly constructed by evangelists in Edlapadu, Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, where footprints of Maa Sita once stood, the BJP has alleged". Swarajya's piece on the issue said, "It is alleged that a top district official who is a christian has extended support to missionaries by ignoring the objections raised by BJP and RSS" and further added, "The growing visibility of christian conversion activities and the attack on Hindu temples of AP is raising serious concerns among the people."
Both OpIndia and Swarajya cited Organiser in the story who alleged that the cross was being constructed after YS Jagan Mohan Reddy was elected as the Chief Minister of the state and claimed that "District Magistrate Samuel who is a Christian extended support to the evangelicals. With his support, they started creating havoc and finally dug up the entire hill and levelled that and finally installed a huge cross."
Following the viral claim, Guntur police tweeted that the claim was false and the cross and the spot where the idol of Hindu deity Narasimha is located are on two different hillocks with several smaller hillocks present between both the spots.
Guntur police replied to Deodhar's tweet with a video shot by the Station House Officer of Edlapadu village where the hillocks are present. In the video, the police officer explains the topography of the area and asking people to not spread false claims. The tweet by Guntur police said, "They are completely two different hillocks and there is absolutely no encroachment of the hill where Narasimha Swami idol is there ..(check videos by our SHO)"
The Guntur District Collector also rubbished the claim and said, "The hill with Sita Maata footprints is different from the hill which has the Cross."
The DC office further replied to Deodhar saying, "Local tehsildar and SHO enquiring into the matter and action will be taken as per law. Status quo to be maintained till further enquiry."
We further sourced a video from a local reporter which clearly shows the two shrines located on two different hillocks. The video shot by a Edlapadu police officer shows him pointing to the cross located at a distance and then saying, "the one that we can see is the cross that is under construction. There is mining happening on the hills after the hill on which there is the cross. Then comes the hill we are standing on. After passing this, nearly half a kilometer away is the hill where the Narismha Swamy Padalu (shrine) is located. There is mining happening near that too. Both the hills are unrelated, atleast there is over half km distance between both the hills and in between there are two three hills too"
Watch the video below
The News Minute also quoted the sub inspector of Edlapadu who denied the claims and said, "The hillock on which the cross was erected is around half a kilometre away from the hillock on which the idol of Narasimha Swamy is present. The hillock on which the cross was erected is known locally as the Rahadari Mata shrine."
Claim Review : Christian build a cross on the existing shrine of a Hindu deity
Claimed By : Sunil Deodhar, BJP Andhra Pradesh Incharge
Fact Check : False