Kolkata: The Jain Community demands that the Office Memorandum (F. No. 11-584/2014-WL) issued by Central Government, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change be implemented by the Jharkhand State Government with immediate effect and issue a Gazetted notification declaring Shikharji Hill as a “PIOUS PLACE OF WORSHIP FOR JAINS”.
SHIKHARJI TIRTH, JHARKHAND
Shikharji is situated on Parasnath Hill, which is the highest peak in Jharkhand. The place is considered one of the most sacred and important pilgrimage by the entire Jain community. In fact, the hill derives its name Parasnath from Lord Parshvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. The significance of Shikharji can be deduced from the fact that 20 of the 24 Tirthankaras attained moksha on this hill. Jain pilgrims undertake a 27 km (sometimes as long as 57 km) long trail as a parikrama (circumambulation) of Shikharji.
In the past, the Jharkhand Govt. issued a “Parasnath Hill Development Plan” to develop tourism in the Shikharji hills (in 2015). The plan included construction of a helipad (alike Vaishno Devi), Theme Park, Tourism Reception Centre, Car Parking centre & Bus Stand in the Madhuban town (which is situated in the base) etc. In 2019 The Union Environment Ministry had declared the area around Shikharji as an “eco-sensitive” zone to preserve the ecologically sensitive Parasnath hill while the Jharkhand government has declared to develop it as a tourist centre, by notifying it as an “eco-tourist” spot.
As these notifications robbed our sacred site of its religious sanctity Jains wanted the hill area to be declared a “place of worship for Jains” to protect its holiness. In India there are numerous hills, lakes, rivers considered as sacred places, places of worship and objects of worship. World at large is also not alien to recognizing the hills and lakes as sacred. Govt have framed rules and regulations including restrictions on scaling hills and construction for protection of piousness and maintaining dignity.
After massive protests by the Jain community across the country, the Central Government modified an eco-sensitive zone notification on Parasnath hill and stayed eco-tourism and all other objectionable activities around Parasnath Hill with immediate effect on 5th January 2023. Issuing an office memorandum, the Environment Ministry directed the Jharkhand state government to immediately take all steps necessary to ensure the ban on tourism and the other activities such as use of liquor, non-vegetarian food items, loud music, unauthorised camping and trekking in the Parasnath hill. Besides, the ministry constituted a committee for effective monitoring of the provisions of the modified ESZ notification. The state government was directed to have two members from the Jain community and one member from the local tribal community as permanent invitees to the monitoring committee.
SHATRUNJAY TIRTH, GUJARAT
Shatrunjay are hills located by the city of Palitana, in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, India. Shatrunjay is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for the Jains who believe that it is on these hills that Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara delivered his first sermon. Every stone of the hill is considered sacred by the Jains. Hence it is referred to as ‘Giriraj’. The Jain’s sacred hill of Shatrunjaya has more than 1,000 temples atop itself and is considered as the world’s largest temple complex. The city of Palitana is perhaps the world’s only fully vegetarian city. On 19th August 2021, the Gujarat HC gave its verdict on the WP PIL 180/2017 which made the demand and permission for night stayover by litigant. In its verdict, the HC said that Giriraj Shatrunjay is a sacred place, that every rock from the foothill to the peak belongs to the Jain community and that no activities happen on it that are against Jain principles. This was further supported by the Supreme Court on 13th September 2022.
On November 25, 2022, anti-social elements vandalized Adinath Prabhu’s ancient and Sacred Footprints at Rohishala in Palitana. This is a direct effect of continuous incitement by one Sharanand Bapu who is creating communal disharmony. Videos of his lectures have been well circulated in the social media space. He has been provoking people under his influence to create illegal settlements in Surajkhand spot on the hill. These miscreants recently destroyed CCTV cameras and notices at Shatrunjaya Hill.
Manabhai Rathod, past leader of the hand barrow (Doli) troupe is involved in extortion. He has also abused and attacked Jain monks and threatened to kill them.
Illegal mining is rampant in Dungarpur, Jivapur, Adpur and other villages on the boundaries of the hill in spite of it coming under reserved forest regions. Many complaints have been lodged with concerned departments but there have been no permanent resolution.
At the Palitana foothill behind Jambudweep, illegal breweries are operating who sell alcohol openly in Palitana and nearby villages. This is despite the fact that sale of alcohol is banned in Gujarat.
Numerous other forms of encroachment by land mafia are happening unrestrained.
The Jain Community requests that the order of the Gujarat HC and upheld by the Supreme Court be implemented and that the anti-social elements be removed.
ABOUT PURVA BHARAT JAIN SANGH
Purva Bharat Jain Sangh is a unified organization representing more than 50 Jain Sanghas and organizations across West Bengal and eastern India. Its endeavour is to protect and preserve the Jain Tirths across India.