Why Are Jain’s Protesting?

The Jain community in India is participating in a silent protest march against the Jharkhand government’s decision to designate the Shri Sammed Shikharji, the faith’s holiest site, in Giridih District as a tourist destination. 

Both the Digambara and Svetambara sects value the sacred site on Parasnath Hills, the tallest mountain in the state of Jharkhand, where 20 of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras, along with monks, obtained moksha.

What is Sammed Shikharji?

Sammed Shikharji, which is situated on the Parasnath hill in the Giridih district of Jharkhand, is regarded as the most important pilgrimage site by both the Digambaras and the Svetambaras, which is why the community values it so highly and does not want it to become an eco-tourism destination. 

It is thought that there, through meditation, 20 of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras—spiritual leaders of the Jain religion—and numerous other monks attained moksha,’ or liberation. 

The state of Jharkhand’s highest mountain is renowned throughout the nation as Parasnath Hill. Shikharji is a name that means “venerable summit” by itself. It’s interesting to note that the name Parasnath is derived from Parshvanatha, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara who obtained moksha in this location. 

Shikharji is regarded by the Jain community as one of the “Svetambara Pancha Tirth,” or the five main pilgrimage sites, along with Ashtapad, Girnar, the Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu, and Shatrunjaya. 

Palganj on Giridih Road, where there is a modest shrine dedicated to Parshvanatha, must be the first stop on every journey to Shikharji. Then, at the foot of Parasnath hill, they can give some offerings to the Madhuban temples. While walking around Shikharji, pilgrims must travel a distance of roughly 27 kilometers.

Protests have been seen in Mysuru, Karnataka, and Jharkhand. The community has also started a letter-writing campaign to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to stop turning the area into a tourist attraction. 

Protest in Mysuru 

The recent decision made by the Jharkhand government disappointed the Jain community in Mysuru. 

On December 18, MR Anil Kumar, secretary of the Sri Digambar Jain Samaj, said to reporters, “It is a spiritual place for the community. However, it’s amusing that the Jharkhand government has designated it a tourist destination. As a result, people will be able to visit the holy site for amusement and fun, which will compromise the location’s holiness.

We request that the government reverse its decision right once and take steps to prevent tourists from disturbing the holy site’s surroundings. 

In order to deliver a message to the Jharkhand government, hundreds of members of the Mysuru community took part in a quiet, nonviolent protest march from Gandhi Square to the DC Office through Ashoka Road, Irwin Road, and JLB Road. 

Protests in other Karnataka regions 

The Dakshin Kannada district’s Jain community participated in a silent protest march on Tuesday from Thousand Pillar Basadi to Swarajya Maidan in Moodbidri. 

Reporters were informed by former minister K Abhayachandra Jain that “Sammed Shikharjbachao” will lead a quiet march.

Last Friday, members of the Jain community protested the Jharkhand government’s decision at Saidapur, Yadgir district, by participating in a silent march. 

Shrenik Kumar Dokha, a former vice-president of the Zilla Panchayat, organized the protest march and claimed that turning the area into a tourist destination would upset the tranquility and ‘holiness’ of it. 

Later, the demonstrators gave the local authorities a memo addressed to the Prime Minister and the President. 

Protest in Bhopal 

Last week, Jain community members marched in silence through Rajwada to express their 

opposition to Sammed Shikharji’s designation as a tourist destination in Jharkhand.

As part of the worldwide “Save Shikharji” campaign, Jain community members demonstrated in the cities of Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Narmadapuram, Gwalior, Sagar, and Khandwa. 

A similar demonstration organized by the World Jain Organization took place in Bhopal earlier in December. 

The march, which began in Rajwada and ended at Regal Crossing in front of the Gandhi statue, included hundreds of Jains from both the Digambar and Shwetambar sects, according to Digambar Jain Samaj President Narendra Ved and spokesperson Manish Ajmera. The men in the parade were dressed in white clothing, while the women wore saffron garb.

Bharat Modi, Narendra Ved, Sanjay Patodi, Ashok Mandlik, JK Jain, the leader of the World Jain Association, Swapnil Jain, Anil Banjal, and Nirmal Patodi were among the leaders of numerous Jain organizations and social groups who took part in the demonstration. 

What happened in Gujarat? 

The Jain community staged a protest in Gujarat to demand action against opportunistic individuals they claim are desecrating the revered Shetrunjaya Hills. Shetrunjaya Hills near Palitana city, which are home to 865 Jain temples and are a sacred site for Shwetambara Jains, is located on the banks of the Shetrunji river at the height of around 164 feet above sea level. 

Since the “charan paduka” of a Jain saint was vandalized at a temple on the hills on November 26, 2017, members of the community have conducted more than 85 rallies in various locations across the state. 

The neighborhood has raised the issue of unlawful construction and is calling for action against illicit mining on the hills, disrespecting the area’s purity.

Hearing on the matter 

A hearing will be held on January 17, 2023 at 3 p.m. by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) regarding the denotification of Parasnath Parvatraj Giridih (Jharkhand) as an eco-tourism center and the declaration of the location as a holy place.

Earlier on November 28, a letter was sent to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Jharkhand requesting that he consider the proposal and designate the Sammed Shikharji as a holy place alone since it is the highest site of Jain pilgrimage. 

The neighborhood claims that so far, nothing has been done.

Important Protest updates – 

  • On January 1, 2023, the Jain community organized large-scale protests in Delhi, the nation’s capital. 
  • In Madhya Pradesh, the Jain community demonstrated against the decision made by the Jharkhand government. 
  • The Vishva Hindu Parishad has also spoken out against the Jharkhand government’s move, declaring its intention to uphold the reverence of all Indian pilgrimage sites. 
  • According to the VHP, the area should be designated a holy area, and no tourist activities involving meat or drugs should be allowed. 
  • On Sunday, hundreds of members of the Jain community demonstrated in Ahmedabad in protest of the vandalism that resulted in the desecration of the revered Shetrunjaya Hills.
  • Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of AIMIM, has also offered his support to the demonstrations and demanded that the Jharkhand government reverse the decision. 
  • 50,000 members of the Mumbai Jain community demonstrated in favor of a ban on illegal mining and the selling of alcohol in Palitana, Gujarat.

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