Canadian Jain community protests against encroachment and safety threats at pilgrimage site in Gujarat

January, 2024 by
The Jain community in Canada is raising concerns over encroachment and security threats faced by devotees at a sacred pilgrimage site in India. Members of the community have formally submitted a letter addressing these issues to Siddhartha Nath, India’s consul general in Toronto. They received assurance that their concerns would be communicated to the Home Ministry in New Delhi.

The Vishwa Jain Sangathan Canada (VJS Canada) is orchestrating protests, including rallies at the Brampton City Hall in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and at the Sri Jain Mandir in Toronto over the past weekend.

According to a statement from the organization, Shri Girnarji in Junagadh, Gujarat, holds significant religious importance for the Jain community as it is considered one of their holiest pilgrimage sites. The hill is believed to be where the 22nd Tirthankar Neminath Swami attained salvation at the 5th peak, known as Urjayant peak in Jain scriptures.

The release highlights concern about illegal constructions and encroachments in the area dating back to 2004, spanning nearly two decades. It emphasizes the impact on Jain pilgrims and monks, who express fear while practicing rituals at the sacred site.

VJS Canada’s president, Vijay Jain, has raised concerns about the threat of violence at the pilgrimage site, noting that pilgrims have faced attacks. Referring to the letter submitted to India’s consul general in Toronto, the correspondence highlights the Gujarat High Court’s February 2005 directive to the state administration, urging the provision of necessary security for pilgrims to safely perform their rituals.

The joint letter, endorsed by five Indo-Canadian organizations, unequivocally demands the enforcement of the court’s ruling. The supporting organizations include Sri Jain Mandir Toronto, Jain Community Services of Canada, and Canadian Hindus for Harmony, Hindu Canadian Foundation, and the Brahmi Society.

The letter also emphasizes the urgency of halting and removing illegal encroachments at various Jain pilgrimage sites. Specifically, it calls for immediate action at locations including Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Odisha, Mandargiri hill in Bihar, and Anjaneri caves in Maharashtra.

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