HYDERABAD: A 13-year-old girl died in the Indian city of Hyderabad last week after fasting for 68 days as per Jain rituals during the holy period of Chaumasa.
“Aradhana was admitted to the hospital just two days after completing her fast where she died of cardiac arrest,” her family said. Questions are now being raised regarding why the minor’s family allowed her to give up school and undertake the fast, Indian media reported.
“It has been a practice for people to undertake severe penance when they give up even food and water. They are glorified, lauded and honoured at community meetings by Jain religious elders. “But in this case it was a minor and that is my objection,” said Lata Jain, a member of the community. ”This is suicide if not murder,” she added.
Sources close to the family disclosed that Aradhana had earlier undertaken a similar fast for 41 days and survived. “We did not hide anything. Everyone knew Aradhana was fasting. They came and took selfies with her. Now some people are pointing fingers at us for allowing her to fast for 68 days,” Aradhana’s grandfather, Manekchand Samdhariya said.
”There should never be any element of force or coercion in tapasya or fasting. This was a tragedy and we must learn our lessons from it,” Maharasa Ravinder Muniji, a Jain religious elder of Kachiguda Sthanak told to a local news channel.
Child rights activist Shanta Sinha said a police case must be registered and the child rights commission must take action. ”A minor is not deemed to have a voluntary will to take decisions that can endanger their life. Religious leaders also need to re-look at what should be allowed and what is not,” she said.