A manner worth emulating, some 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.
This is, however, the first time the Jain community has found to their chagrin Mahaveer Jayanthi, the holiest day of the year, coinciding with the civic elections. "We could not give up either," remarks Rajesh Bantia, president of Jain Yuva Sangathan. "And, we did both--celebration and voting took place." On its part, the government, in a show of magnanimity, made an exception to the Jains' peace march and Jayanthi celebrations and also ensured that the city police commissioner was present at the celebrations.
Some 20,000 Jains thus took part in the colourful procession where eight thematic tableaus conveyed the pivotal messages on 'Ahimsa' and 'universal brotherhood' Mahaveera taught humanity. Beginning from Town Hall, the procession wound its way through Nagrathpet, Chikpet via BVK Iyengar Road ending at Freedom Park. Jain Gurus including Hansrajji Maharaj, Vardhaman Sagarji Maharaj, Mallipragyaji, and others blessed the gathering.
The chairman of the Sangathan's media 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. "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." Mahaveer Babel, vice-chairman of the Sangathan says Yeddyurappa had rang up the Jain leaders yesterday, urging them to bear it this time and also vote. "It was a great gesture," Babel says.
Meanwhile, the Jains' largest medical charity-Bhagvan Mahaveera Hospital at Vasant Nagar-- conducted a pooja in its foyer and distributed fruit and biscuits to all the 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."
Jain Yuva Sangathan has requested the state government to rename the Metro Station at Central Arts College ground as 'Kundalpur Nagiri' (The Birth place of Mahavira). This is the least the government and people could do to honour the entity that preached ahimsa to the world. Another request the Sangthan put forward to the government was to ban cow slaughter in Karnataka. The demand was put forth by the Cow Progeny Protection Force (CPF).