A vote for tradition and change
In a manner worth emulating, two lakh Jains in Bangalore took up the challenge thrown at them by the system and emerged victorious, earning a grateful salute from chief minister B S Yeddyurappa.
Imagine the chagrin of the Jains when they found out that their biggest and holiest festival Mahaveer Jayanti was coinciding with the day designated by the BBMP for its long-awaited civic polls. "We could not give up either," says Rajesh Bantia, president of Jain Yuva Sangathan. "And, we managed both - celebration and voting took place side by side." On its part, the government, in a show of magnanimity, made an exception to the Jains' peace march and Jayanti celebrations and also ensured that the city police commissioner was present at the celebrations.
Some 20,000 Jains took part in the colourful procession during which eight thematic tableaus conveyed the pivotal messages of ahimsa and 'universal brotherhood' taught by Lord Mahaveera, founder of Jainism. Beginning from Town Hall, the procession wound its way through Nagrathpet, Chickpet via BVK Iyengar Road ending at Freedom Park. Jain gurus including Hansrajji Maharaj, Vardhaman Sagarji Maharaj, Mallipragyaji and others blessed the gathering.
Chairman of the Sangathan and its former secretary Jain Sajjan Mehta says the community had decided to intersperse the celebrations and programmes with breaks, one each in the morning and evening, so that people could vote. "I voted at 7:10 am and came to the procession immediately. Thousands of community members did the same. My information is that 75% Jains voted in spite of the day-long celebrations with a potpourri of cultural programmes," says Mehta. "We wanted to show that we could take up the challenge and we did, thanks to the government and the election commission that made an exception to the poll day rules of not allowing processions or gatherings," he added. Mahaveer Babel, vice-chairman of the Sangathan, says CM Yeddyurappa rang up the Jain leaders onSaturday urging them to bear with the inconvenience and also vote. "It was a great gesture," Babel says.
Meanwhile, the Jains' largest medical charity-Bhagvan Mahaveera Hospital in Vasanth Nagar conducted a pooja in its foyer and distributed fruit and biscuits to all in-house patients. The 200-bed super speciality hospital provides free surgeries and dialysis treatment to scores of poor people. When hospital president Parasmal Bhansali was asked what he felt about the elections happening on such an important religious day, he says though it was an inconvenience to Jains, "we don't wear the community tag on our sleeves."