Madhuban/Parasnath: “Sammed Shikharji is the main pilgrimage centre for Jains, the kind of satisfaction we get after our pilgrimage, we did not get anywhere. It is a difficult ritual. Today we started our journey in the early morning around 2.30 am and it is almost 12 hours when we are returning from the tonk (the Jain religion temple situated at the peak of Parasnath hills), said barefoot doctor Ruchi Vishal Patni, a pilgrim from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, after returning from the visit to Shikharji Temple, situated at the top of Parasnath hills. It took her 12 hours to reach there and return. Dr Ruchi also mentioned that she was doing the vandana (prayer) walking barefoot.
Dr Ruchi who was doing the vandana for the third time, claims that a lot has changed in recent times, as now tourists are frequently moving using two-wheelers in the hilly area.
“The decision by the central government to declare Sammed Shikharji a tourist centre should not be done. Here twenty Jain Tirthankars took salvation. It is a very sacred land for Jains. It should remain a religious place” said Anupeksha Jain, a pilgrim from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh.
Abhay Jain another pilgrim reacted, “We do not need any facility from the government and it should remain a sacred place.”
Dr Ruchi, Anupeksha and Abhay Jains are not only a few but from Giridih to the national capital Delhi, Jains are on road and protesting against the Modi government’s decision to declare Sammed Shikharji a tourist place.
Spread out in the Madhuban village and on the hilly terrain of Parasnath hills, the highest mountain of Jharkhand. Jain religion’s around five crore followers believe that their 20 Tirthankars, out of 24 got salvation here. Now it has several temples, kothis and hotels for the pilgrimage of the Jains.
The community which believes in non-violence and eats only vegetarian foods stresses hygiene and cleanliness. Recently, on the order of the Jharkhand government, the Giridih district administration has banned the drinking of alcohol and meat eating in the area. The police force has been deployed to check every person who goes to hilly areas where Jain pilgrims also do their vandana.
Community leader’s strong objection
Pramansagar told eNewsroom, “It is an unacceptable decision and the Jain community is angry over it. If it will be a tourist centre, it will become a place of mauj-masti (fun and frolic). Whereas, it is a very sacred place for us.” He also pointed out that it is the responsibility of the governments whether the centre or state to rectify it.
Tara Ben Jain of Swetambar Samaj said straight that, “Jain religion will not survive and Sammed Shikharji will become a tourist centre. It is a place of faith and that will become meaningless with the tourist activities.”
“Everything is not for business. Sammed Shikharji is our soul and if its sanctity gets affected, our body will get affected. Everyone knows about religious centres and tourist places. Let it be a religious centre and declare so,” Manju Jain, secretary (female wing), Digambar Jain Panchayat said with folded hands.
The notification of the Union Tourism Ministry to declare Sammed Shikharji, a holy place for the Jain religion people, has angered the community.
“It has been a sacred place since ancient times. And in 2019, it has been recommended by the state government to make the centre a tourist destination. Now, Jain Samaj requests the governments to immediately take back their decisions and not distract us,” Lokesh Jain, secretary, Digambar Jain Panchayat.
A silent protest march will also be held in Giridih on Thursday by every sect of Jain and they will submit memorandum to the Prime Minister through Deputy Commissioner.
Decision by BJP governments
The decision to declare Sammed Shikharji a tourist place was announced in the state gazette on August 2, 2019, when Raghubar Das-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was in power in the state. Now, in the National Gazette, the central government has announced after which Jains hit the streets to register their protest.
The Jain community also need to help others especially tribals of the region
Local shopkeepers like Kolkata Pan Bhandar owner feel it will be good for them if the government declares it a tourist centre.
Like Jains, Parasnath Hills is also sacred for the Tribals, as they pray Marang Buru (a tribal god) there. It is also said that the tribals never interfered in the Jain religion’s activities.
Ritesh Sarak, Founder Trustee of Sarak Prachin Jain Mahasangh, Shikharji while demanding that the piousness of the Shikharji should not be disturbed. But as the forest area is for everyone and especially for Tribals, it is the responsibility of the Jain community to take care of the locals too.
“When we say we do not need development by the government, we should also think how much development work different Jain sects and their committees have done in the Madhuban and Parasnath areas so far. There is no significant community work done for the locals,” said Sarak.
“As most Jains are influential and economically well off, huge funds come to Shikharji’s different trusts there should have been a good hospital and boarding school for visiting pilgrims as well as for the locals. Few days back a pilgrim died from cardiac arrest while climbing the mountain. You may not find ambulance on time to bring emergency patient to Giridih town. The Nyas Board of Swetambar Samaj is defunct, Digambar’s Nyas Board has not much community work to show.”
JMM seeks apology from BJP
“The recommendation was done by the Raghubar Das government and it has been implemented by the Modi government, so it is their conspiracy against Jain Samaj. I ask Babulal (Marandi) Ji and Deepak Prakash (BJP state president), whose government was at that time, when it was done?” JMM spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya told newsmen in Ranchi in a press conference.
He further claimed, “But, the Hemant Soren government did not go ahead on the orders of the centre. The Jain community should understand this. The Gazette notification by the centre could not be cancelled by the Hemant Soren government, it can be done by them only. But we want the sanctity Jain pilgrims should not be disturbed so on December 21, we have ordered a ban on liquor and meat eating in the area.”
He pointed out, “Also, Babulal Ji and Deepak Prakash did not utter a word when a temple of Jain religion was destroyed in Palitana (Gujarat) on December 12. No national BJP leader either said anything about the protest rallies being held in Delhi and Gujarat on Shikharji.”
“BJP should apologize for it and cancel the Gazette notification as it can not be done by the state government,” added the JMM spokesperson.