Amid Jains across the country demanding the scrapping of a 2019 Jharkhand government notification designating Parasnath Hills as a tourist place, a top official claimed that the move will lead to the development of the area. Jain leaders in the state, however, feared that designating Shri Sammed Sikharji in Parasnath Hills as a tourist destination will lead to the consumption of liquor and non-vegetarian food by visitors, hurting the religious sentiments of the community.
Jharkhand Tourism Secretary Manoj Kumar told PTI that the state government, in the 2019 notification, designated 200 locations, including Shri Sammed Shikharji, as a tourist destination for administrative convenience. These locations have long been identified nationally and internationally as tourist places and attract pilgrims and visitors from across the world, he said. The notification has a provision for establishing an authority, with representatives from the Jain community, to frame rules for better management of Shri Sammed Shikharji, the official said.
He said the state government is also ready to amend the notification and include 'Jain religious place' in it, for Shri Sammed Shikharji. Shri Sammed Shikharji in Parasnath Hills in Giridih district, home to the highest peak in the state some 160 km from Ranchi, is among the holiest places of the Jains, including for both Digambaras and Shwetambars sects, as 20 of the 24 Jain tirthankaras attained 'moksha' (salvation) in this location.
Kumar said Parasnath Hills is not like any other normal tourist place as it comes under the jurisdiction of a wildlife sanctuary and even for small construction, permission has to be sought from wildlife authorities and not much development has taken place there. "Actually, I am of the contrary view that the notification is in the favour of the Jain community...Parasnath Authority has already been formed but it was not functional. We are now trying to operationalise it. The authority can implement rules that they are trying to enforce there," the official said.
He said six non-official directors can be roped in the authority and the deputy commissioner concerned has already sought names from the Jain community. "If we withdraw the notification, there will be no authority to enforce the rules framed by it," he said. He said the government is even ready to amend the notification by mentioning Parasnath Hills as a 'Jain religious place', although it is already recognised as a Jain religious location and the Centre notifies tourist places under various categories such as religious or cultural.
"We have proposed before the higher-ups to amend the notification by adding 'Jain religious place' in it. We will follow whatever directions are issued from higher authorities," he said. The Jain community, however, is adamant over its demand that Parasnath Hills not be designated as a tourist place, apprehending that hotels, bars and restaurants will come up there destroying the sanctity of the place.
"The government's proposal to include 'Jain religious place' in the notification is just eyewash. We are a minority community that contributes significantly to the economy. We demand that the notification be scrapped," said Padam Kumar Chhabra, a Jain community leader in Ranchi. Jain community members marched to Raj Bhavan in the state capital on Tuesday, demanding the withdrawal of the 2019 notification.
Another community leader, Amit Jain, feared that giving tourist status to the Parasnath Hills will lead to the consumption of liquor and non-vegetarian food in the area, which will hurt the sentiments of the community. Asked why the community did not protest when the notification was issued in 2019, the agitators claimed they came to know about it only recently.
A 72-year-old Jain monk who was on a fast against the Jharkhand government’s decision died in Jaipur on January 3. Sugyeysagar Maharaj had not eaten anything since December 25. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has spoken to his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren over the issue. The notification was issued by the BJP government before the Hemant Soren administration came to power.