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As Jain Community Slams “Tourist Place” Tag For Sammed Shikharji Shrine In Jharkhand, Hemant Soren Taps Center

As Jain Community Slams “Tourist Place” Tag For Sammed Shikharji Shrine In Jharkhand, Hemant Soren Taps Center

Ranchi:

Reacting to protests by Jains over designating their main shrine Sammed Shikharji in Jharkhand as an eco tourism destination, the central government has halted all such activities in the larger Parasnath Hills sanctuary.

It has also told the state to act strictly against banned practices such as consumption of liquor or “defiling of sites of religious and cultural significance” or damage to the ecology.

Jain community leaders, some of whom met Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav today, fear that designating the place as a tourist destination may “hurt its sanctity”.

Earlier today, Chief Minister Hemant Soren wrote to the Center to seek “appropriate decisions” on its 2019 notification. He wrote that the state’s 2021 tourism policy — it is also being opposed by the community — is for forming a management board that can better manage the shrine

Led by the state’s Tourism Secretary, it will have six non-government members who are being chosen from the Jain community, the letter said. It added that the community’s opposition was to declaring Parasnath Hills, where the shrine is located, as an “eco tourism” area.

The letter came days after the Union Environment Ministry wrote to the state asking it to “recommend necessary modifications for further needful action”.

About two hours later, The Union Ministry issued a memo saying that the 2019 notification’s clause dealing with tourism activities be “stayed” immediately. Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy, too, said at a press meet that “nothing will be done to harm anyone’s religious feelings”. He stressed that eco-tourism meant no permanent structures, restaurants and such, in that area.

The Centre’s memo further said that at least two members of the management board have to be from the Jain community.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress government has been arguing that the original notifications were done by BJP governments, and that the Center needs to act. BJP’s Raghubar Das, who was chief minister in 2019, has also said that wrong decisions can be corrected now.

The shrine in Parasnath Hills in Giridih district, home to the highest peak in the state some 160 km from state capital Ranchi, is among the holiest places of the Jains, including for both Digambar and Shwetambar sects, as 20 of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras are believed to have attained ‘moksha’ (salvation) here.

Jains are a small minority — around 1 per cent of India’s population — but have been influential in business and form about 5 per cent of Mumbai City district, considered the country’s financial capital.

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