A 13-year-old girl died n Hyderabad last week after fasting for 68 days as part of Jain rituals during the holy period of 'chaumasa'. Aradhana was admitted to hospital after she had a cardiac arrest two days after she broke her fast. Santhara, or the Jain ritual of fasting unto death, is usually observed by elderly people or those suffering from serious illnesses.

Around 600 people attended her funeral that was celebrated as a 'shobha yatra'. She was hailed 'bal tapasvi' at her funeral. Advertisements put out to mark the completion of her fasting showed Telangana minister Padma Rao Goud as the chief guest at the event. Zaheerabad lawmaker BB Patil was also reportedly present there.

While Santhara is common in the community, a minor undertaking such rigorous fasting is a rare incident. Lata Jain, a member of the community, told NDTV: ''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 the religious elders. But in this case it was a minor. This is suicide if not murder.''

The girl’s grandfather said, "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." Child rights activist Shanta Sinha said the police must register a case and the child rights commission must take stern action against those responsible for the girl’s death. ''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.