Gujarat to form task force as protests by Jains spread


Amid protests by the Jain community across the state against alleged vandalism at one of the shrines around Shejtrunjay Hill and the decision to declare Sammed Shikhar in Jharkhand an eco-tourism spot, the Gujarat government on Tuesday announced to form a Special Task Force (STF) to look into the community’s grievances.

Announicng the decision, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi said, “Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has decided to form a Special Task Force to look into the grievances of the Jain community people and take action. The task force will be formed tomorrow (Wednesday) itself and it will have officials from departments of police, revenue and forest apart from the officials of local nagarpalika.”

Meanwhile, Bhavnagar district police has decided to augment staff at a police post in the Shetrunji foothill to boost security at the site. A release from the Bhavnagar district police stated that Shetrunjay Parvat Police Chowky, a police post, is being activated with immediate effect to tighten security at Shetrunjay hill, a religious place of Jains, overlooking Palitana town of Bhavnagar district.

Jain community in Rajkot took out a protest demanding action against those involved in the vandalism of a temple near Palitana in November last year. (Express photo/file)

In Surat, members of the Jain community carried out a massive rally protesting the decision to declare Sammed Shikhar on Parasnath hill an eco-tourism spot. They also protested against the alleged vandalism at a Jain religious place in Palitana — Adinath Dada’s Pagla, a marble carving representing the feet of Lord Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara, while seeking to protect Shetrunjay Hill where it is located.

The decision to upgrade the police post in the Shetrunjji foothill was taken by inspector general of police (IGP) of Bhavnagar range Gautam Parmar and superintendent of police of Bhavnagar district Ravindra Patel “for the security of Shetrunjaya hill and the safety of pilgrims”.

A police post, called Taleti Police Chowky, already exists at the beginning of the stairway to the hill. Functioning under the jurisdiction of Palitana town police station, this post is headed by an ASI and has one head constable and three constables. The chowky has jurisdiction over the neighbouring residential areas also.

After the upgradation, the release added, the post will be headed by a police sub-inspector (PSI) and will have total 20 personnel, including two assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs), three head constables (HCs), 12 constables, five personnel from traffic police, five women home guards and eight members of the traffic regulation brigade. Post the upgradation, the post will function under the supervision of an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police, the release added.

“We are augmenting the manpower at the existing police post in the foothill of Shetrunjay. We have given 20 personnel to that post as of now. We are also sending a proposal to the office of the DG (director general of police) to rechristen the post as Shetrunjay Parvat Police Chowky,” Parmar told The Indian Express on Tuesday.

The development comes in the backdrop of Jains taking out rallies across the state protesting the alleged vandalism at Adinath Dada’s Pagla in Rohishahla village on the southern periphery of Shetrunjay.

When asked if the jurisdiction of the post will also be changed, the IG said, “We are surveying all things, including flow of pilgrims, traffic, etc., and will take a decision accordingly.”

The Shetrunjay Parvat Police Chowky will be tasked with the security of the hill, safety of pilgrims and their belongings, traffic control, preventing encroachment, running a pilgrim help desk, safety of women, monitoring of palanquin services, parking, etc., the release added.

In Surat, community leaders demanded rollback of the decision on Sammed Shikhar in 72 hours. Members of all four sects of Jainism — Digamber, Shwetamber, Terapanthi and Sthanakwasi — assembled at Sargam Shopping centre at Parle Point on Tuesday.

Women and children were part of the peaceful march in which religious leaders such as Gachhadhipati Acharya Vijay Hemprabhusureshwarji Maharaj, Acharya Vijay Jagvallabsuriji Maharaj, Acharya Sagarchandra Sagarsurieshwar Maharaj and Acharya Vasunandji Maharaj participated.

The march covered a distance of three kilometres and culminated at the district collector’s office where the community leaders handed a memorandum to the district collector demanding the rollback of the decision.

Jain community leader Nirav Shah said, “Under the banner of Samast Jain Samaj, the rally was organised against the decision of the Jharkhand government and the Central government. We have given 72 hours to the government… if no action is taken in this time period, we will call a meeting and decide on future course of action.”

Shah added that the community has demanded action against notorious elements involved in vandalism at Shetrunjay and said, “We have also demanded stopping of illegal mining activities at the hill.”


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