Palitana is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for Jains

The Gujarat government is mulling over demands for the creation of a vegetarian zone in Palitana town in Bhavnagar district following the now-concluded hunger strike by Jain monks.

Around 200 monks in Palitana — one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for Jains — had gone on the hunger strike four days ago demanding a total ban on sale of eggs and meat, and strict implementation of the law against illegal slaughter in the town. They called off their agitation after assurances from the government.

“If the Palitana municipality moves a resolution, we will think about it. The town has a population of 50,000 out of which 15,000 are from the Muslim community. Since it is a mixed township, we cannot ban non-vegetarian items completely. We would like a ban in the whole country, but we cannot do it. The monks were saying that the current rules on illegal cow slaughter were not being implemented strictly,” Tarachand Jagshibhai Chheda, Minister for Cottage Industry, Salt Industry and Cow Breeding, told The Hindu.

He said the Gujarat government had already taken effective steps to curtail the sale of meat in Palitana.

“Two years ago the government had issued a resolution banning the sale of meat within 100 metres of temples. Cow slaughter is anyway banned in Gujarat,” he said.

The temple town on the Shatrunjaya Hills hosts nearly 900 shrines covering an area of about 13 square kilometres, which falls under the Palitana Municipal Corporation.

While an existing notification of 1999-2000 prohibits the sale of non-vegetarian items in the Taleti area in Palitana, the monks wanted a ban in the entire town under the Gujarat Municipalities Act.

“We have not given any clear commitment. It is a complex legal issue. Although Palitana is a main pilgrimage centre for Jains, the social situation is different,” Bhavnagar district Collector Pravin Solanki told The Hindu.

He said the municipality had already set the ball rolling for a vegetarian township in 2012. “The corporation had issued a special notification of its intent in the newspapers. They received 908 objections, which they heard. The issue was also raised at the High Court thrice. The corporation’s general board will meet in a month to decide whether to extend the ban for the entire town. Only after the government’s approval can the body pass a notification on this matter. Expert legal opinion will also be sought. ”