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Why trifle with anyone’s feelings?

   By Vijay Darda | 09-01-2023

The core issue regarding Shri Sammed Shikharji concerns neither religion nor faith; it is a matter of safeguarding culture

Vijay Darda

In the aftermath of the strong nationwide protest by the Jain community members, the Central government has banned the sale of liquor, meat and loud music in the Shri Sammed Shikharji mountain area, but the notification to remove this entire holy area from the list of tourist places has not yet been issued by the state government. Although the state government will have to remove Shri Sammed Shikharji from the list of tourist places, the biggest question is whether the Jharkhand government did not care about the sanctity of this place? Did it not take into account the sentiments of the Jain community? Or, was it done deliberately?

Shri Sammed Shikharji situated on the Chhota Nagpur plateau in the Giridih district of Jharkhand has immense importance for every devout Jain across the world. Twenty out of 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism attained Nirvana here. That’s why it is also called Siddha Kshetra and Teerthraj. Every year, lakhs of Jain devotees from all over the world reach here with devotion for worship, darshan and parikrama. Just as followers of the Hindu religion have the desire to do all pilgrimages once in their lifetime, in the same way, every devout Jain has a fervent feeling that he must visit Shri Sammed Shikharji, Pawapuri, Palitana and Rajgir. It is but natural for the sentiments to get hurt if any tampering is done with such a holy place.  In 2019, at the request of the state government, the Central government declared the entire area of Shri Sammed Shikharji as an eco-tourism destination. The Jain community members immediately objected to it. The Centre should not have followed the state at all. In February last year, the state government issued a notification declaring Shri Sammed Shikharji an eco-tourism destination. There are even allegations that a nefarious attempt was made to convert a holy religious place into a tourist area to benefit certain people. The news also trickled in that the sale of alcohol, meat and liquor has started in some areas. Shri Sammed Shikharji’s natural beauty started getting damaged in the name of trekking. It is obvious that this caused anger in the whole country and triggered a massive protest. After this, the Central government woke up and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued some guidelines to the state. But it is so unfortunate that in the meanwhile, the Jain saints had to suffer and sacrifice themselves.

But the biggest question is why should anybody play with the sentiments of any religion or community. We have pledged an oath in our Constitution to protect and respect the dignity and sentiments of all minority communities. This is our duty too. All are equal in the eyes of the Constitution; no one is the elder brother and no one is younger. It is also not fair to say that all are Hindus. Everyone has their own beliefs. Many people from the Jain community worship Hindu deities along with their beliefs. This is the community that believes in the principles of Lord Mahavir. Peace, non-violence, forgiveness and goodwill are the basic tenets of the Jain sect. They may be less in terms of numbers but the Jains have made a big contribution to the country’s economy and nation building since independence. The Jain community getting hurt should be a matter of concern for the whole country.

As a matter of fact, the tendency to hurt someone’s sentiments is increasing rapidly in the society. Any leader anywhere comments on any community or religious belief. Somewhere a religious place is targeted while somebody gets attacked somewhere. There is no need to give any specific example. You all are aware of how fast hatred is spreading in the society. I am worried which path the country, which teaches equality of all religions, tolerance and acceptance of diverse views, is headed to. I often recall the words of Swami Vivekanandaji. He always emphasised that religion is the moral force that empowers not only the individual but the entire nation. There is no fault in any religion but the fault lies in the wrong interpretation of religion. These things are true even today. And we are the citizens of such a country that has given space and respect to all the religions of the world on its land. In today’s era, people should understand that just as different types of flowers in a garden add to its beauty and aura, the beauty of this country, too, is due to its different ideological beliefs.

I have always been trying to know and understand every religion of the world closely. I have friends across a vast spectrum of religions all over the world. I have been involved in various religious traditions and I have always felt that no religion in its core teaches animosity. No religion disrespects other religions but the present problems have arisen due to religious fanaticism. People do not think even once that their belief is correct, and hence the belief of another person may also be correct. Partisan thinking creates problems. That’s why it is very important that we respect the feelings of others as well. In particular, I would like to tell the leaders of religion and politics to reign in their supporters.

And yes, I want to state unambiguously that the issue of Shri Sammed Shikharji is of neither religion nor faith. This is a matter of safeguarding the culture. If the culture survives, the country will become very beautiful and developed. This is what Parvatraj Himalaya teaches us. This is what Ganga teaches us, and this is what our sages have taught us. Nothing is greater than respect and culture!

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