Even as Sena leaders criticised Jain monk Naypadmasagarji Maharaj for reportedly canvassing support for the BJP through a video message ahead of the Mira Bhayander civic polls, the monk continued to address devotees in Bhayander amid the Jain community’s observance of Paryushan, a period of penitence and introspection.
“Let people say what they want to, if required we will reply to them after Paryushan,” said Muni Naypadmasagar to The Indian Express, adding that the community’s leaders and people would not talk or think ill about anybody during Paryushan.
Referring to Naypadmasagar’s sermon ahead of the polls, Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday not only threatened to register a complaint against him for violation of poll code of conduct, but also compared him to controversial televangelist Dr Zakir Naik.
The All India Jain Minority Cell condemned Raut’s statement against the monk. Naypadmasagr, however, maintained that replying to Raut would spoil the atmosphere of their holy week of Paryushan. Naypadmasagar (49) has a huge following within the community. He is also the founder of the Jain International Organisation (JIO). Every day during Paryushan, over 200 people attend his sermon in Bhayander.
One of Naypadmasagar’s disciples, Muni Dhyaanpadmasagar, told The Indian Express, “Guruji would not like to speak about Raut, elections or other political events. We avoid all these during Paryushan. Everybody knows who Sanjay Raut is, the language he has used against guruji and people of the Jain community. If Guruji influenced the Jain community to vote for the BJP, then what about other communities, why did they not vote for the Sena? There are hardly 30,000 to 40,000 voters who are Jains. So far, people voted in their favour, today when people found the reality they decided not to vote for them.”
In the twin towns of Mira Road and Bhayander, the Jains concede that the word of the religious leader holds tremendous influence over the community.
“Post demonetisation, many traditional Gujarati and Jain voters were upset with the BJP as their businesses were impacted by the decision. However, CM Devendra Fadnavis and other BJP leaders, including Mangal Prabhat Lodha, met Naypadmasagarji to reach out to the Jains,” said Jitesh Jain, a resident of Mira Road.
According to residents, the monk in nearly all his sermons urged the community to use the polls to build pressure on their representatives to help shut slaughter houses on certain days of the year. He also asked Jains to vote for a “meat-free society”.
“The community’s sentiments were hurt last year when the shutdown of slaughter-houses on two days during Paryushan was lifted. Shiv Sena and a few other parties supported the meat sellers. Even people of Mira-Bhayander wanted to ensure this does not happen again. It is a sensitive matter for us,” said Madhur Shah, a resident of Bhayander.