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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 18:32 GMT
Statue moved in India temple row
By Faisal Mohammad Ali
BBC News, Bhopal

The statue is 1000 years old
Thousands of Jain devotees have moved a statue from an ancient temple in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, despite police efforts to stop them.

The site remains tense, with the Jain community refusing police access to the site although crowds are dispersing.

The state's High Court has ordered officials to ascertain how and when the 1,000-year-old statue was transferred.

The Archaeological Survey of India had earlier said moving the statue of Lord Adinath would be illegal and harmful.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that believes that liberation and bliss is in living a life of harmlessness and renunciation.

Time factor

The state High Court ruled that the statue of Lord Adinath, first Jain prophet, should remain wherever it was at 1630 local time on Tuesday.

The ASI alleges the statue was in place at Kundalpur at the specified time, but devotees claim it had been moved by midday.

District officials have been ordered to try to find out the exact time it was moved.

More than 15,000 devotees had formed a human chain near the temple, most of which is located at a hill top, and kept hundreds of security forces at bay.

Police say the crowds are now slowly leaving the site.

'Difficult'

The ASI says the state government failed to protect the monument.

It accuses Jain devotees of shifting ancient statues and monuments from the central government's protected complex to newly constructed temples for the last 10 years.

According to ASI, the Lord Adinath statue had already developed 19 cracks and was severely damaged due to illegal mining and excavation in the Kundalpur area for the last 10 years.

ASI officials had said the statue would be ruined for ever if it was removed from its original place.

But a Jain community trust said it wanted to remove the monuments to a new site because it was worried about damage in the event of an earthquake.

One senior state official said: "It is very difficult for us to act in these matters since it can create a situation of religious strife which is a very sensitive issue in a country like India."



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