The Centre on Thursday stayed all tourism activities at the Parasnath Hill where the Jain religious site ‘Sammed Shikharji’ is located and directed the Jharkhand government to immediately take all steps necessary to protect its sanctity.
The Union Environment Ministry sent a office memorandum to the state in this regard following directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources said.
The development comes after Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav met with representatives of the Jain community over the issue earlier in the day who assured 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.
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 have been protesting against the state government’s move to promote religious tourism at Parasnath Hill.
In August 2019, the Union Environment Ministry had notified an eco-sensitive zone around the Parasnath Sanctuary and approved eco-tourism activities in pursuance of the proposal submitted by the state government.
The ministry issued an office memorandum to the additional chief secretary of the Jharkhand government’s forest department, saying 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 use 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.