Save Shri Samed Shikarji! – The Sacred Pilgrimage of Jains

By Sulekh C Jain & Dr Palakh Jain 

You open any WhatsApp group of the Jains nowadays and what is trending is “Save Shri Samed Shikarji”. Yes, every Jain household is lending thought to this cause which is close not to the heart but soul of every Jain – by birth or by karma!

Jainism is a religion existing since time immemorial. Jains constitute less than 1 percent of India’s population but contribute the maximum to personal taxes. Jains have contributed immensely to the growth of India since ancient times. Jains are a minority community. However, they never ask but share their resources and wealth for the welfare of the nation as a whole.

Jains constitute the richest community with a strong belief in the doctrine given by Lord Mahavira – Jiyo aur Jeene do (Live and Let Live). History talks of the practice of non-violence preached and lived by Jains. Even during the bloodshed of the 1947 partition, Jains were not harmed by the Muslim community. The Muslim community said that the Jains have never encroached upon our property etc. Hence, we will let them live in peace even when the two nations were experiencing bloodbath at every nook and corner. This is not all, Jains are known to be philanthropists, the most successful business community, and connoisseurs of art and culture.

Today the issue is to Save Shri Samed Shikarji – the most sacred pilgrim of Jains. It is believed that 20 out of the 24 Tirthankars have attained Moksh/Nirvana/ liberation from this place. If the government doesn’t interfere in the religious places of other religions, then why those of Jains- just because they are followers of peace and a minority in India? Also, the uncanny underlying issue is that the Jain community was not consulted before taking this decision at any point. It is a forced decision that is against the Constitution of India which shouts about the freedom to practice religion.

This sacred place is under threat because the “Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change” has issued a notification dated 02.08.2019 vide no. S.O. 2795(E) under the Gazette of India interalia notifying an area to an extent varying from zero kilometers to 25 kilometers around the boundary of Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary in Dhanbad district the state of Jharkhand as the Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary “Eco-Sensitive Zone”. It is also understood that vide said Gazette Notification, the intent of the government is to permit Eco-Tourism and other non-religious activities at the ancient holiest Jain Teerth “Shri Samed Shikarji” “Parasnath Hill” (Census 2011 village code 352856 of 16,035 acres) and Madhuban (Census Village code 352856 of 794 acres), Pirtani in the district of Giridih of Jharkhand. Through this notification, not only the sanctity of the sacred place under threat but also the religious sentiments of the Jain community is hurt at large.

Such an act of conversion of a holy place in democratic India raises questions. The Jain community is appealing for the following in the most peaceful way possible:

  1. De-notify the boundary area around the Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary

  2. Declare Shri Samed Shikarji as “meat and liquor sale-free area”

  3. To provide basic facilities such as registration of pilgrims, medical facilities, security check posts with scanners etc to maintain the sanctity and independent identity of Shri Samed Shikarji

A hill where Jains do not walk with shoes is today infiltrated with tourists who are destroying the sanctity of the sacred place by eating meat and drinking alcohol – the two taboos in the Jain tradition. A nation that fails to preserve its cultural and religious roots cannot go far. It is time that the appeal by the Jains is taken seriously by the government authorities.

Dr Sulekh C Jain, Founder/Co-Founder of more than a dozen organizations and institutions in North America that deal with Jainism

Dr Palakh Jain is Associate Professor at Bennett University and Independent Director on Board of NSE Listed Company.

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