Many parts of the country have witnessed an unusual sight of late, and it has been taken note of by those ruling the country. From Ahmedabad to Jain-dominated Ghatkopar in Mumbai to the cities and towns in faraway Jharkhand, scores of Jains are marching in protest.
Jains are known for their non-violent ways, vegetarianism, and business skills. Protests and morchas are something not even remotely associated with them. Then, why is the community angry?
In Gujarat, the unrest was triggered by the vandalism of a Jain shrine near Shatrunjaya Hill last November. The community in Gujarat has been protesting commercialisation and mining of the revered Shatrunjaya Hill for years.
Also Read: Jains Protest In Ahmedabad
In the past few weeks, Jains across the country protested the Jharkhand government’s decision to declare Sammed Shikharji, a major Jain pilgrimage site, as a tourist destination.
Sammed Shikharji is located at Parasnath Hills in Jharkhand’s Giridih district. Twenty out of the 24 Jain Tirthankars attained salvation at Sammed Shikharji. Year after year, hundreds of thousands of Jains undertake the 27 km trek to worship where 20 Tirthankars attained salvation. Parasnath Hills themselves are named after Lord Parasnath, the 23rd Tirthankar who attained salvation here.
Parasnath Hills were notified for religious tourism in 2019 but there was no action taken to that effect till July 2022. Jharkhand’s current Chief Minister Hemant Soren on July 22 last year launched a tourism policy and roped in National Geographic channel as a partner to promote the state as a global tourism destination.
Jains are worried that the Soren government’s decision could disrupt Sammed Shikharji’s sanctity. The community says that Sammed Shikharji is not a tourist destination, but a pilgrimage centre, and the state government must understand this essential difference.
Jains fear the pilgrimage centre will be defiled by the influx of tourists who could consume alcohol and eat meat there.
While the Jharkhand government has said that it will ensure that Jains’ religious beliefs will be taken into account, Gujarat too has taken steps to pacify the community. The Gujarat government on Tuesday announced a Special Task Force (STF) to look into the community’s grievances.
Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi said, “Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has decided to form a Special Task Force to look into the grievances of the Jain community people and take action. The task force will be formed on Wednesday itself and it will have officials from departments of police, revenue and forest apart from the officials of local nagarpalika.”
Meanwhile, the Bhavnagar district police augmented staff at a police post in the Shatrunjay foothill to boost security at the site. A release from the Bhavnagar district police stated that Shatrunjay Parvat Police Chowky, a police post, is being activated with immediate effect to tighten security at Shatrunjay hill, a religious place of Jains, overlooking Palitana town of Bhavnagar district.