Nestled in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district, the village of Kesalingayapalli has declared itself a ‘Hindu only’ enclave. The village homes and roads proudly hoist saffron flags and ‘Om’ symbols, which proclaim the village’s religious stand conspicuously. The hamlet of Kesalingayapalli is home to around 3000 Hindus, from approximately 250 families.
Kesalingayapalli boldly asserted its identity as an exclusively Hindu village. Its people actively repel Christian missionary conversion activities. The village proudly displays caution boards bearing the village’s stance to greet visitors. These boards make it clear that other faiths, particularly Christian evangelists, are not welcome to propagate their beliefs within the borders of this village.
Challenge to Conversion Enthusiasts
The prominent caution board is a visual testament to the staunch Hindu belief of the villagers. It declares the no-tolerance ideology of all its residents against the propagation of other religions and conversion enthusiasts. The collective declaration of the village residents, made in 2016, repeatedly captures public attention beyond the village.
Liberals and ‘Sickularists’ raise concerns about the divisive nature of the village’s decision to be ‘Hindu only.’ Additionally, critics argue that this stance could hamper communal harmony and challenge the country’s democratic ideals. However, they forget that repressing the people’s choice against religious conversion is a form of divisive politics. India is a nation of 80% Hindus. Thus, opening doors for conversion enthusiasts should not be the obligation of Hindus in India.
The village’s ‘Hindus Only’ preference is the apt representation of the collective choice of all its residents. This decision should be honored by all those who spout inclusivity, democracy, and secularism in the name of religion-based politics.
Why did the Villagers of Kesalingayapalli take a ‘Hindus Only’ Stance?
A ' Hindus only ' Andhra village with Bhagwa flags and caution boards
Kesalingayapalli has become a 'model village ' as the villagers have openly warned people of other faiths, particularly the evangelists, from entering their village and propagating their faith.
This is… pic.twitter.com/kOfagZ7Bau
— Sheetal Chopra 🇮🇳 (@SheetalPronamo) August 28, 2023
The village’s stance is a response to alleged encroachments by Christian evangelists and missionary conversions. They assert that these conversion enthusiasts offer incentives, including financial aid and medical assistance, to induce religious conversion. Allegedly the primary targets of conversion enthusiasts are the Scheduled Tribes community members. The Balijas, a backward caste, comprises the primary demography of the Kesalingayapalli village. The village also houses several Schedules Tribe families. The village works only with Aikya Hindu Vedika. The Vedika is a Hindu organization that is associated with Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. The Vedika helps the villagers with monetary and material aid for the upkeep of the village temples and Hindu traditions.
The people of this unique village work with nature and prefer organic farming. They adhere to Vedic percepts, on farming, heath, and customs. Their preference is only restricted to conversion-related activities. They do not have any bias towards visitors of other relions. Their ban is srtictly on those that propogate conversion. Their ideology and preference to stay with the religion of birth should be respected and safeguarded.
Kesalingayapalli’s decision is rooted in the villagers’ desire to protect their religious identity. However, its existence opens up conversations about the balance between religious freedom and religious conversion. In a country celebrated for its diversity, the incitement of conversion enthusiasts is prompting Hnndus to take severe measures to maintain their religious freedom. Moreover, understanding the role of freebies in exploiting economic or caste status in Hindus should be included in all discussions on coexistence and inclusivity.
This small village’s story serves as a reminder that harmony amidst diversity almost always makes Hindus pay a heavy price. The cost of secularism is solely borne by Hindus of India. Therefore, the exclusivity practiced by the villagers of Kesanlingayapalli displays the extreme measures Hindus have to take to preserve their religious integrity in the land that is home to 80% Hindus. As India charts its course forward, religious freedom should walk hand-in-hand with protection from conversion enthusiasts and Christian missionary endeavors. Thus, Kesalingayapalli’s journey should prompt introspection in all Hindus about the truths of a pluralistic society where appeasement politics are at play.