New Delhi: The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) on Thursday stayed the Jharkhand government’s bid to develop Sammed Shikhar ji—one of the most auspicious religious places for the Jain community—as a tourist place and develop it for eco-tourism purposes.
Sammed Shikhar ji is located in the Parasnath wildlife sanctuary of Giridih district of Jharkhand. Entire Jain community had resorted to the countrywide protests after Hemant Soren government in the state embarked on the exercise to enforce the 2019 order of the Central government to declare Sammed Shikharji as eco-sensitive zone and approved the proposal to develop as eco-tourist place.
The then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Jharkhand led by Raghubar Das had in 2019 sent the proposal to develop Sammed Shikarji as a tourist place and development the same for eco-tourism purposes, which was approved by the Modi government.
Waking up continued protests by the Jain community, the MoEFCC has directed the Jharkhand government to strictly enforce the relevant provisions management plan of the Parasnath wildlife sanctuary that specifically prohibit damage to flora or fauna; coming with pet animals; playing loud music or use loudspeakers; defiling sites or religious and cultural significance such as, sacred monuments, lakes, rocks, caves, and shrines.
It also asked the state government to enforce ban on sale of liquor, drugs, and other intoxicants etc; unauthorised camping and trekking etc on the Parasnath Hill, housing Sammed Sikharji. Furthermore, in reference to the eco sensitive zone notification S.O.2795(E), dated 2nd August, 2019, issued to protect a buffer zone beyond the sacred Parashnath Hill, the MoEFCC categorically said that provisions of clause 3 of the said eco sensitive zone notification is stayed forthwith, including amongst others all tourism and eco-tourism activities.
In addition, for effective monitoring of the provisions of the above eco sensitive zone notification, the Central government has constituted a monitoring committee. The state government has been asked to have two members from the Jain community and one member from the local tribal community as permanent invitees to this monitoring committee, enabling appropriate involvement and oversight by important stakeholders.
Over the last few days, various organisations of the Jain community had sent several representations to the state as well as the Central government on the issues related to certain activities taking place at Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary that have adversely affected the sentiments of followers of Jain Dharma.
Jain community leaders met MoEFCC minister
A delegation of the Jain community had met Union MoEFCC minister Bhupender Yadav to seek his intervention to end the contentious issue. The representatives turned up in large number and spoke about the current situation at Sammed Shikharji and also about the demands of the community to maintain the piousness of the place.
Sammed Shikharji, atop Parasnath hill in Girdih district, is considered the biggest pilgrimage site by both the Digambar and Svetambar sects of the Jains.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress government led by Hemant Soren argues that the original notifications were done by BJP governments, and that the Centre needs to act. “We respect all religions, and we will decide after properly looking into the matter,” said Soren adding, “I have not yet seen the matter in detail, but it is about a notification by the central government.”
Modi Govt had issued orders to change nature of Parasnath hills
The Narendra Modi government had in August 2019 notified an eco-sensitive zone around the Parasnath Sanctuary and approved eco-tourism on a proposal sent by the state’s then BJP government. Former chief minister Raghubar Das said the wrong decisions taken earlier shall be corrected.
Protests had intensified after a Jain saint, Muni Sugyeya Sagar, who was on a hunger strike in Rajasthan’s Jaipur, died on Tuesday. Community leaders claimed he died as “martyr for the cause”. Demonstrations were carried out in several cities of UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, besides in Mumbai and at the India Gate in national capital Delhi.