‘Don’t Interfere’: Jain Gurus Warn Activists as Girl Dies Fasting
Thirteen-year-old Aradhana died two days after completing a 68-day fast. (Photo Courtesy: ANI Screengrab)
Thirteen-year-old Aradhana died two days after completing a 68-day fast. (Photo Courtesy: ANI Screengrab)

‘Don’t Interfere’: Jain Gurus Warn Activists as Girl Dies Fasting

Jain leaders on Monday warned child rights and social activists against interfering in their religion.

The activists had called for the arrest of the parents of the 13-year old Jain girl, who died after fasting for 68 days.

Top Jain leaders and elders held a meeting at a community hall in Koti to discuss the death of teenager Aradhana Samdaria on 3 October that triggered a nationwide debate on the religious practises of the Jain community.

While talking to Hindustan Times, Jain Guru Mangilal Bhandari said,

Nobody has a right to interfere in our fundamental rights to practice our religion. The filing of cases against the parents of Aradhana amounts to interfering in the spiritual matters of the community.
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The Andhra Pradesh Child Rights Association lodged a complaint against the parents on 7 October for allegedly forcing the girl into a life-threatening fast for the sake of increasing the family's prosperity.

The parents are charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder but police are yet to take action against the family.

The child rights association, however, was not happy with the inaction of police claiming that it is an instance where the right to life of a child has been jeopardised and therefore, it is not just a ritualistic matter.

A family friend said that her tapasya was voluntary. Bhandari too echoed the same sentiments while speaking to Hindustan Times saying that she was well throughout the fast. He said,

She even went to school regularly for 41 days of her fast and performed puja regularly. She completed the 68-day tapasya without any problem. It was only later that she collapsed and died, more than 24 hours after she completed her penance.

Also Read: Why Fasting Kills a Jain Girl and the Whole Religion

Devotees pray in front of the dead body of Acharya Devendra Muni, a prominent leader from the Jain religious community in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)
Devotees pray in front of the dead body of Acharya Devendra Muni, a prominent leader from the Jain religious community in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)

Ashok Sanklecha, another Jain Guru also reaffirmed that everyone thought she had the stamina to complete the fast as she had fasted for 34 days at a previous instance too.

Aradhana was the only child. Apparently, she had chosen to fast for 68 days because the number was auspicious for the Jain community.

The child rights association has claimed that the family coerced the teenager into fasting as their spiritual Guru had advised them that such a move would benefit their business immensely.

Aradhana was allowed to drink water only once during her fast. Her death came just months after a Rajasthan court asked police to register criminal cases against the family, in which an 82-year-old had died after opting for santhara – a ritual that entails fast-unto-death. She died 50 days into the fast.

The Jain community is known for its austere way of life and is said to follow rigid customs.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times)

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