Centre yields to Jain protests, stays tourism at sacred religious places

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, January 5: Following a spate of protests against tourism at sacred Jain religious places, the Centre on Thursday strayed all tourism activities at ‘Sammed Shikharji Parvat Kshetra’ in Giridih, Jharkhand. The Centre has asked the Jharkhand government to stop the tourism activities forthwith.

Jains had been protesting against tourist activities at ‘Sammed Shikharji Parvat Kshetra’ in Giridih. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had washed off his hands from the controversy, accusing the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government for formulating the tourism policy at the temple, which is sacred to both Digambar and Shwetambar stream of Jainism.

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Bhupender Yadav on Thursday met several delegations of Jains. The Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) had also called for a relook in the tourism policy at the Jain temples. “Over the last few days has received several representations from different organizations representing Jain Samaj about the issues related to certain activities taking place at Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary that have adversely affected the sentiments of followers of Jain Dharma,” said the Ministry in a statement.

The grievances mention about the faulty implementation of provisions of the notification of Eco Sensitive Zone of Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary by Govt of Jharkhand. It has been mentioned that such negligence by state authorities has hurt their sentiments, added the Ministry.

“The representatives were apprised that while the Parasnath WL Sanctuary was established by the erstwhile State of Bihar in 1984 under the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Eco Sensitive Zone(ESZ) was notified by the Government of India in consultation with the State Government of Jharkhand in 2019 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” added the Ministry.

Eco Sensitive Zones act as some kind of “shock absorbers” to the Protected Areas by prohibiting, regulating and promoting activities around Protected Areas. ESZ notification is not intended to promote uncontrolled tourism, and definitely not to promote all kinds of development activities within a Sanctuary boundary, added the Ministry.

Yadav specifically mentioned that this Ministry recognizes the established fact that Sammed Shikharji Parvat Kshetra is a sacred Jain religious place not only for the Jain community but for the entire country, and the Ministry is committed to maintain its sanctity. “Consequent to the meeting it has been decided that Jharkhand be directed 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; and sale of liquor, drugs, and other intoxicants etc; unauthorised camping and trekking etc on the Parasnath Hill. State Government of Jharkhand has been directed to strictly comply with these provisions,” stated the Ministry.

The state government has also been directed to strictly enforce the ban on the sale and consumption of liquor and non-vegetarian food items on Parasnath hill.

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