Jain leaders on Monday told child rights activists not to interfere with religion, days after a 13-year-old girl in Hyderabad died after fasting for 68 days as part of a ritual. Community leaders met on Monday to discuss the incident, which has sparked nationwide protests. The girl's parents were booked on Sunday.
Jain guru Mangilal Bhandari said, “Nobody has a right to interfere in our fundamental rights to practise our religion. The filing of cases against the parents of Aradhana [Samdariya] amounts to interfering in the spiritual matters of the community.” Reiterating her family’s version of the incidents, Bhandari said the girl’s decision to fast for the prosperity of her family was voluntary.
He said, “She even went to school regularly for 41 days of her fast and did puja regularly. She completed the 68-day tapasya without problem. It was only later that she collapsed and died, more than 24 hours after she completed her penance.”
Another Jain leader, Ashok Sanklecha, said he thought that Aradhana had the stamina to see through the rigorous ritual. “Unfortunately, she died,” he said. The president of Hyderabad’s main Jain association said, "On behalf of the family and the Jain community, we assure you that we will not go against the law and we fully support the investigations. But I also assure you the family did not force the girl."
The Jain community in Hyderabad and Secunderabad is expected to put out an informal directive on Tuesday requesting parents not to force minors into fasting, reported The Indian Express. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Jain Seva Sangh on Tuesday.
Aradhana’s father said, "We asked her to stop after 51 days but she would not give up." Deputy commissioner of police (North Zone) B Sumathi said, “We have registered the FIR, but not yet taken a decision on arresting the accused."
The case was registered after activists accused the local administration of negligence and inaction over the death of the minor. On Friday, Andhra Pradesh Child Rights Association lodged a complaint against the parents for the death of the girl. Child rights activist P Achyuta Rao told Hindustan Times: “They should be charged with murder. They made their child die by forcing her into fasting. This is not the issue of a religious ritual, but the right to life of a child.”
The Class 8 student died on October 8, however, the reports about the incident surfaced only on Saturday. She was hospitalised two days after she broke her fast.