Thursday, August 1, 2013

Andhra Pradesh divides and strikes

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This map shows Telengana/Andhra Pradesh split.
Telengana lies northwest, including Hyderabad, the proposed 
capitol of both states until a new capitol
is created for Andhra Pradesh.

Just days after climbing into military lifeboats to help soldiers rescue villagers from floods surrounding his mission at Yerravaram, Fr. Varghese reported that "AP is divided." In his state of Andrah Pradesh, there is "no power, no proper communication...everything is in chaos."

On Tuesday, the ruling Congress party in India proposed creation of the new state of Telengana, carved from Andhra Pradesh. In protest, the non-Telengana region went on strike, with "no buses, no hospitals, no educational instutions, etc," wrote Fr. Varghese. "No shops, no government offices are opened. I went to the post office yesterday. Another seven days it will be like this, they say."

The India Times, BBC News and other outlets reported protests throughout Andhra Pradesh and across India, as statehood requests intensified in other regions. For decades, statehood issues have led to hunger strikes, students immolating themselves on college campuses, and clashes between locals and police.

But a missionary's life is to bless, and as tensions flared, Fr. Varghese continued his ministry.

On Wednesday, he said he "went out for a house blessing. While coming back, a few parishioners on the way invited me to their homes for a simple visit. So I covered 10 houses." Villagers were "happy that I prayed and blessed them. Some gave me milk to drink."

The next day, Fr. Varghese presided over a wedding.
Image of Godavari River from NASA.
Photo under public domain.
The Godavari River
slices through Andhra Pradesh
and the proposed new state of
 Telengana. Struggles over river
rights cause tension in a region
that lacks irrigation systems
for crops. 

The bishop back in Fr. Varghese's home diocese in Kerala has invited him for a visit, and Father's parents there have not seen him in more than two years. The missionary hoped to visit soon, but needed to use funds a well-wisher sent him for train tickets to help supply safe water to flood victims.

Father and volunteers from his Holy Family Mission spearheaded efforts to unite other locals in bringing tankers of fresh water to Yerravaram twice daily for several days, until the government could step in and take over.  These and other rescue efforts carried on by volunteers from his mission reached thousands and helped save many lives, said Fr. Varghese.

In the local paper, however, credit was also given to Hanuman the monkey-god, whose statue in Yerravaram is the largest in all India. Floodwaters lapped Hanuman's toes but rose no further, prompting the paper to publish thanks to Hanuman for stopping the floods.

In the meanwhile, Fr. Varghese and his volunteers brought needed food and clothing to the suffering, and cared for 12 families who sought refuge in the mission church in Yerravaram.

Now the flood situation is under control, reports Father, but prayers are needed for peace, as all India wrangles.

Before Telengana State becomes official, the resolution must pass in the Indian parliament and the state assembly. Please pray that justice and peace may reign across all India, and that monsoon season unfolds uneventfully.

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