Congress accuses the BJP of ‘commercialising’ Jain pilgrimage centres

Congress leaders Pradeep Jain Aditya and Pawan Khera said that the sentiment of the Jain community must be respected by protecting the places sacred to it.

Congress leaders Pradeep Jain Aditya and Pawan Khera said that the sentiment of the Jain community must be respected by protecting the places sacred to it.
| Photo Credit: ANI

A plan to develop the sacred mountain of Sammed Shikharji in Jharkhand into a tourist destination was made under the earlier regime in the State, led by then Chief Minister Raghubar Das, the Congress alleged on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference, former Union Minister Pradeep Jain Aditya and party spokesperson Pawan Khera said the BJP had tried to “commercialise” the pilgrimage centres of Jainism and hurt the sentiments of the community.

They alleged that the BJP had wanted to commercialise the holy pilgrimage centres of Jainism such as Sammed Shikharji, Palitana’s Shatrunjaya hills (in Gujarat), Mount Girnar (also in Gujarat) and make them a medium to “fill the State coffers”.

Giving a chronology, the Congress leaders said that the plan to develop Parasnath and Shikharji hills was announced by the BJP government in Jharkhand on April 14, 2015. The plan included construction of a helipad, a theme park, a tourist reception centre and a bus stand at Madhuban.

In August 2019, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change declared an area of around 25 km around the Parasnath Hills and Topchanchi wildlife sanctuaries in Giridih as eco-sensitive zones (ESZ). However, that did not prevent the area from being developed as a tourist attraction.

“The BJP-RSS has betrayed the Jain community which has contributed immensely in the country’s growth and adopted the policy of non-violence, but the ruling dispensation has deeply hurt their sentiments,” Mr. Aditya said.

The press conference came on a day when the Union Environment Ministry withdrew permission for tourism and ecotourism activities in the vicinity of the Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary after protests by the Jain community.

The Congress alleged that in Gujarat, where the BJP has a “double engine” government, the BJP is making “malicious attempts to pollute the sanctity of two pilgrimage sites of the Jain community”.

“The first site is Palitana’s Shatrunjaya hills near Bhavnagar, where RSS-VHP members have been persistently demanding change of management of 865 Jain temples and pilgrimage centres, which are over 900 years old. This site is considered to be the most sacred pilgrimage centre of the Shvetambara Jain community. The reason for the agony of the Jain community in Palitana is also the illegal commercialisation going on under the patronage of the BJP government of Gujarat and illegal mining by mafia on the Shatrunjaya hills there,” Mr. Aditya said.

Mr. Aditya said that the second place — the Girnar mountains near Junagadh — is considered sacred for the Jain community, which is the ‘karmsthali’ of the 22nd Jain Tirthankar Bhagwan Neminath ji. He said the government has announced that it would be made a tourist destination.

“Why is BJP continuously taking steps to hurt the sentiments of Jain people? Is this under a well thought out political conspiracy?” Mr. Khera asked.

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