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Sammed Shikharji: Centre directs Jharkhand govt to protect holy Jain site sanctity, stays tourism activities

Sammed Shikharji updates: Sammed Shikharji, located on the Parasnath Hill in Giridih district of Jharkhand, is the biggest pilgrimage centre of the Jain community. Members of the community had been protesting against the state government's move to promote religious tourism at Parasnath Hill.

Edited By: Sheenu Sharma New Delhi Published on: January 06, 2023 7:52 IST
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Image Source : PTI. People belonging to Jain Community take part in a protest against the decision declaring Shri Sammed Shikharji a tourist place in Jharkhand, at Azad Maidan, in Mumbai, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.

Sammed Shikharji UPDATE: The Centre on Thursday (January 5) stayed all tourism activities at the Parasnath Hill where the Jain religious site Sammed Shikharji is located and also directed the Jharkhand government to immediately take all steps necessary to protect its sanctity.

The Union Environment Ministry sent an office memorandum to the state in this regard following directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said sources.

The development comes after Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav met representatives of the Jain community over the issue on Thursday and assured them that the government is committed to maintain the sanctity of 'Sammed Shikharji Parvat Kshetra' which is a holy place not only for the Jain community but for the entire country.

Know more about Sammed Shikharji: 

Sammed Shikharji, located on the Parasnath Hill in Giridih district of Jharkhand, is the biggest pilgrimage centre of the Jain community. Members of the community had been protesting against the state government's move to promote religious tourism at Parasnath Hill.

  
In August 2019, the environment ministry had notified an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around the Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary and approved eco-tourism activities in pursuance of the proposal submitted by the state government.

The ministry, in a statement, said it has received several representations from different organizations representing the Jain community about the issues related to "certain activities taking place at Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary which have adversely affected the sentiments of followers of Jain Dharma".

"The grievances mention the faulty implementation of provisions of the ESZ notification by the Jharkhand government. It has been mentioned that such negligence by state authorities has hurt their sentiments," the ministry said.

ESZs act as "shock absorbers" to protected areas by prohibiting, regulating and promoting activities around them.
 
"The ESZ notification is not intended to promote uncontrolled tourism, and definitely not to promote all kinds of development activities within a sanctuary boundary. Declaration of ESZ is in fact to restrict or regulate activities surrounding the sanctuary and, therefore, outside its boundary," the ministry clarified.

In the memorandum issued to the additional chief secretary of the Jharkhand government's forest department, the ministry said the "implementation of provisions of clause 3 of the said eco-sensitive zone notification is stayed forthwith, including amongst others all tourism and eco-tourism activities".

The state government is directed to immediately take all steps necessary to ensure the same, it said. Meanwhile, representatives of different Jain groups held a press conference to thank Prime Minister Modi for the decision which, they said, will ensure that the sanctity of their most sacred pilgrimage site is maintained.

"Our concerns have been addressed and the issue has been resolved to our satisfaction," they said in a statement. The environment ministry said the Central government recognizes the sanctity of Sammed Shikharji Parvat Kshetra and "significance for the Jain community as well as the nation at large; and reiterates its commitment towards maintaining the same".

"In this regard, the state government is directed to immediately take all steps necessary to strictly enforce the provisions of clause 7.6.1 of the Management Plan of the Parasnath Wildlife Sanctuary which protects the whole Parasnath Hill; categorically prohibiting amongst others, activities such as the selling of liquor, drugs, and other intoxicants," the memo read.

The state government should also strictly enforce the ban on the sale and consumption of liquor and non-vegetarian food items on Parasnath Hill, it said.

The implementation of the management plan will also prevent people from playing loud music or using loudspeakers; defiling sites of religious and cultural significance such as sacred monuments, lakes, rocks, caves, and shrines; damaging flora or fauna; causing environmental pollution; committing injurious acts to forests, water bodies, plants, animals, or disturbing the natural tranquillity of such sites; coming with pet animals; and unauthorised camping and trekking on the Parasnath Hill.
 
For effective monitoring of the provisions of the ESZ notification, the Centre has also constituted a monitoring committee which will have two members from the Jain community and one from the local tribal community as permanent invitees.

(With agencies inputs) 

ALSO READ: Parasnath Hill protests: Know significance of this holy site for Jain pilgrims

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