The tribal body Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) has announced that it would start a month-long movement on Tuesday to "save" Jharkhand's Parasnath Hills, which the adivasi community calls 'Marang Baru'.
The ASA says its yatra starting Tuesday would be aimed at saving Marang Baru from the “clutches” of the Jain community.
Both the Jains and adivasis lay claim to the area and call it by different names. While the Jains call it Parasnath Hills, the adivasis call it Marang Baru.
Located in Jharkhand's Giridih district, the Parasnath Hills or Marang Baru is a mountain in an adivasi-populated region. There are about 30 temples there dedicated to Jain Tirthankars and monks who attained moksha on the mountain.
During the yatra, ASA activists headed by its president and former MP, Salkhan Murmu, will stage demonstrations in tribal-dominated 50 districts in Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand, said a senior ASA functionary.
Murmu said, "The Marang Buru Bachao Yatra will cover all tribal-dominated districts of the country before ending in the last week of February."
On January 14, Murmu wrote a letter to President Droupadi Murmu appealing to her to restore the sanctity of the place and hand over Parasnath hills to the tribals. Accusing the Jharkhand government of handing over Marang Buru to the Jain community, he said the government has betrayed the tribals.
The ASA will organise a 'Marang Buru-Sarna Mahadharna' besides ‘Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Mahasabha’ in Ranchi on February 14.
Jains across the country have been demanding the scrapping of a 2019 Jharkhand government notification designating Parasnath Hills as a tourist place, fearing this would lead to an influx of tourists who may consume non-vegetarian food and liquor at their holy site.
Even as the Centre stayed the Jharkhand government’s move to promote tourism at the Parasnath hills after protests by Jains, tribals jumped into the fray staking a claim to the land and asking for it to be freed.
The Santhal tribe has a sizeable population in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and West Bengal and are nature worshippers.
Adivasis in the region lay a historic claim to the area.
Outlook's Swati Shikha notes, "For the region's adivasis, these mountains are 'Marang Buru', which literally mean the "eldest mountain deity" in Santhali and Bengali. While the Jain temple is one part of the hill range, and only one hillock regarded as a Jain shrine, several other hills were worshipped by the Santhal Adivasis as Marang Buru, who revere the nature, mountains, forests and rivers as God."
The tribal community in the region also has a range of grievances against the Jains.
Tribals in the area earlier told Outlook that the Jain community often restricts adivasi women from collecting wood from the forests.
Citing local tribals, Outlook's Swati reported, "Kurmis and Muslims are also prohibited from entering the 10kms radius of the mountain range. Previously, the Disab Manjhi Tand Board, denoting the holy site of the Santhals was also tampered with and removed by Jains, and was later reinstalled by the locals, said the tribals residing in the area."
(With PTI inputs)