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Jains protest at India Gate against the Jharkhand government’s decision to turn Shri Sammed Shikharji Tirth into a tourist spot

The Jain community is concerned that the move to turn Shri Sammed Shikharji Tirth into an ecotourism destination will tarnish the religious sanctity of the site and 'secularise' one of the few holiest pilgrimage sites that Jains have closely guarded for thousands of years.

On January 1st, 2023, members of the Jain community staged a protest in the national capital against the Jharkhand government for turning Shri Sammed Shikharji, one of the prominent Jain pilgrimage sites, into an eco-tourist spot. Earlier, the Jharkhand government led by CM Hemant Soren had declared that Shri Sammed Shikharji will be a tourist place.

Protestors also raised “Sammed Shikhar Hamara Hai” slogans.  Besides, the peaceful protestors could also be heard chanting mantras in several videos that are doing the rounds on social media.

It is notable that the Jharkhand government, as a part of its tourism policy launched in July 2022, decided to promote religious tourism at Parasnath Hills, the region that nestles the revered Jain pilgrimage centre from where 20 of the total 24 Tirthankars attained salvation. Every year, thousands of Jains from across the world undertake the 27 km long trek to reach the summit that houses the salvation shrines of 20 Tirthankaras. Besides, the hills are also considered holy by the members of the Santhal tribe, who regard it as ‘Marang Buru’ and hold an annual festival here in mid-April.

The members of the Jain community are also protesting against the alleged vandalism of a temple in Gujarat’s Palitana. It is notable that the Gujarat government ordered an inquiry into the matter. Besides, the Mahant of the nearby Shiv temple clarified that no vandalism took place, only the iron poles with CCTV cameras that were set up were removed.

Reportedly, the dispute arose after the pole near the temple which had a CCTV camera on it was moved. For a long time, there were protests for a Shiv Temple on the holy hill. Mahants from across the country participated and asked for the government’s intervention. However, some miscreants had damaged the poles which had CCTV cameras at Surajkund.

Maharashtra Minister MP Lodha, who joined the protestors in Maharashtra, told ANI, “We are protesting against the vandalisation of the temple in Palitana and the Jharkhand government’s decision. The Gujarat government has taken action, but we want stricter punishments against those who vandalised the temple. More than 5 lakh people are currently on the streets.”

In Mumbai’s Borivali, Jains took out a rally against the Jharkhand government and their decision to convert Shri Sammed Shikharji Tirth into a tourist place.

Notably, the Hindu rights organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has extended support to the protesting Jain community. In a statement issued by the VHP, it is stated that the organization is bound to protect the sanctity of the pilgrimage sites of India. The entire Parshwanath hill should be declared a holy site (teerth), and no tourist activities involving meat or drugs should be permitted.

“The Ministry of Pilgrimage should be established in Jharkhand immediately so that the development of Siddha Kshetra Parshwanath mountain and all other pilgrimage sites there is in accordance with the followers of the Jain faith. The relevant notifications should be amended as needed so that Siddha Parshwanath mountain and Tirtharaj Sammed peak are never turned into tourist destinations,” the VHP statement read

VHP statement (Image tweeted by @VHPdigital)

Ever since the Jharkhand government decided to turn Shri Sammed Shikharji Tirth into a tourist spot, Jains have been carrying out peaceful protests across the country.

On December 21st, 2022, members of the Jain community observed a one-day bandh as a mark of protest.

The Jain community is concerned that the move to turn Shri Sammed Shikharji Tirth into an ecotourism destination will tarnish the religious sanctity of the site and ‘secularise’ one of the few holiest pilgrimage sites that Jains have closely guarded for thousands of years.

Members of the Jain community today took to the streets in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and several other states, demanding that the Soren government reverse its decision to open the Shri Sammed Shikharji pilgrimage to tourists.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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