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Jain protests fuels as priest on fast dies, task force employed in Gujarat

A lot of unprecedented turmoil has erupted since the controversial announcement of developing Sammed Shikharji temple as an ecotourism spot by Jharkhand government. The hill temple is a very important site of both spiritual and religious worship for the Jain community. Following the announcement, a never seen before kind of outcry from the Jain community has been witnessed, something which has only been increasing since then.

According to the Jain scriptures, 20 of the 24 Tirthankars including Lord Parshvanath, the 23rd Tirthankara had attained their spiritual salvation (moksha) at the holy site of Sammed Shikharji on Parasnath hills in present-day Giridih district of Jharkhand. The Jains are dead against this decision made by Jharkhand’s JMM-led government arguing that the promotion of tourism will lead to the consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian food by the tourists at their holy site.

The protests were further fuelled up when another report of disregard for the sanctity of a distant holy site in Gujarat surfaced at Shetrunjay hill in Palitana, where instances of vandalizing of a shrine, illegal encroachment, and sale of liquor took place recently.

The two instances have brought more than five lakh people out on street across metropolitans and other cities. Concurrently, a Jain delegation met at Pragati Maidan where it staged a mega protest and later marched to the Presidential palace where it handed over a letter to President Droupadi Murmu expressing concerns over the two incidents.

The community is putting all its efforts to be heard. On Tuesday, Sugyeyasagar Maharaj a prominent Jain priest passed away after a nine-day-long hunger strike protesting against the Jharkhand government’s proposal. Bhagchandra Jain, President of All India Jain Bankers Forum said, “He has sacrificed his life to save Sammed Shikharji. He was very attached to the scared place.”

Similarly, taking cognizance of the situation the Gujarat government employed a Special Task Force (STF). The STF will investigate the grievances of the community and will include officials from the departments of police, revenue, and forest as well as the officials of local nagarpalika.

The recent protests have however brought political rivals like Owaisi, Mayawati and the BJP on the same wavelength. While Mayawati in her support to the Jain community by saying that their protest is a matter of great sorrow and concern, Owaisi on the other hand extended support to the protestors and said that the Jharkhand government must reconsider its decision. BJP MP Nishikant Dubey also that if the UPA government does not give heed to the community’s demands, then the BJP will also join and protest against this move. A result mining response from the Jharkhand government is yet awaited as the number of peaceful protestors grows by the minute.

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