ASI faces uphill battle over Jain temple

FP

Six years ago, defying the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), members of the Jain community shifted an ancient idol from a protected monument atop a picturesque hill here to a new location, less than 100 metres away, where they plan to build a grand temple.

Arguing that the old structure could collapse and damage the idol of Lord Adinath, thousands of Jains blocked the roads leading to the hill as the relocation was carried out in January 2006.

In fact, the Sri Digambar Jain Atishay Kshestra Kundalpur Public Trust, which manages a group of 63 temples spread over nearly 200 acres on the hill, about 300 kms from Bhopal, had started construction of the new temple in 1997 itself.

Claiming ownership of the protected site, the ASI asked the state government to stop the construction work, but there was no response.

Now, the Jains, who enjoy significant political clout, have got legal backing, with the Madhya Pradesh High Court recently rejecting the ASI's ownership claim. While the community is quietly celebrating the court order, calling it as much a victory of faith as facts, the ASI is set to move the Supreme Court.

The court told the trust to seek the state government's permission for further construction work on the new temple. If permission is not granted, the trust will have to restore construction as it stood on May 20, 2006.

But the trust is not worried because the state government has always been on its side. Even as the case was going on in Jabalpur, the principal bench of the High Court, hundreds of artisans from Rajasthan were quietly working on expensive marbles and sandstones, making slabs that will eventually fit into the grand temple.

Earlier, an exquisitely designed dome was constructed over the idol, after the trust won an interim order in its favour as it argued that the idol was without a roof and needed to be protected.

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