Giridih (Jharkhand): A large number of members from the Jain community are holding protests in various states. They are protesting against the Jharkhand government’s decision to turn Shri Sammed Shikharji, into an eco-tourism spot. Shikarji is one of the foremost Jain pilgrimage centres in the country,
Jains revere every particle of Shri Sammed Shikharji hill as a temple complex. This is because the area is the place of nirvana of 20 Tirthankaras out of the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism. It is as sacred as Char Dham for Hindus, Vatican for Christians and Mecca for Muslims.
It is worth mentioning the principle of Ahimsa in Jainism in the context of the protests. Jain principles prohibit voilence in any form. It is believed that any act of violence creates bad karma. And just like in Sanatan traditions, one should prevent the accumulation of such karma. If one wants to get liberation from the cycle of births, then one should practice non-violence. Therefore, being vegetarian is a part of practicing non-violence in the daily life of Jains.
As part of the Tourism Policy launched in July this year, the Jharkhand government decided to promote religious tourism at Shikharji. Before this, on 2 August 2019, following the recommendation of the Jharkhand government, the Union Forest and Environment Ministry issued a notification to declare Shikharji (and Wildlife Sanctuary) as an eco-sensitive zone and approved eco-tourism and non-religious activities.
The Shikharji controversy
The problem started with action on this notification. Now, it has snowballed into a major controversy in 2022 on the third day of the new year. On that day, some travelers from Medinipur in West Bengal came to Shikharji, as per Ground Report portal. They were partying and eating fish within one-and-a-half kilometers of Shikharji after entering from the main road.
This sacrilege of the environs enraged the Jain community. The police swung into action and stopped them. Subsequently, the Jain community gave an application to the Giridih administration in this regard.
The Jain community has been constantly protesting the decision, saying that turning Shikharji into a tourist spot will defile the religious sanctity of the place. They want the decision by the union and state governments overturned.
The matter has been raised in the Parliament by various members and on December 27, the Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy, in Parliament, said his ministry was not a part of any such decision, but was in talks with the Jharkhand government over the issue. The Jain community has pointed out that perhaps the Union Minister was unaware of the August 2019 notification of the forest ministry.
Soren govt must concede
All said and done, both the Hemanth Soren led Jharkhand government and central government should respect the sentiments of the Jain community and protect Shikharji as a non-violent, addiction-free, vegetarian-holy area. Soren must overturn the decision of developing the hills as a tourist spot and maintain the religious sanctity in keeping with the sentiments of the community.