Why Fast unto death?

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | RESHMI CHAKRAVORTY
Published Oct 10, 2016, 12:00 am IST
Updated Oct 10, 2016, 1:51 am IST
The death of 13-year-old Aradhana Samdariya after fasting for 68 days as part of the Chaumasa has sparked mixed reactions.
Aradhana Samdariya, seen here between her father Lakshmichand and mother, being taken on a chariot as part of a Jain tradition.
 Aradhana Samdariya, seen here between her father Lakshmichand and mother, being taken on a chariot as part of a Jain tradition.

That a little girl from the Jain community, which believes in ahimsa, unknowingly chose to kill herself after a 68-day fasting has sent shock waves among the people. But her parents still feel that 13-year-old Aradhana Samdariya “attained moksha” in the holy four months of Chaumasa, during which Jain devotees undertake severe penance by giving up food and water.

However, the tragic death seems to have had no effect on the ignorance. “After the incident, too, the community seems to have learnt no lesson,” says Achyut Rao of Balala Hakkula Sangham, the child rights organisation which filed a case against the parents. According to him, it’s a violation of the parent’s protection of the child, who is their dependent, based on the World Health Organisation rules. Even if the child desires to take such extreme steps, it is the parents’ responsibility to look into his/her well-being.

 

An entrepreneur Sashi Nahata, a member of the community, says, “Even though I am a Jain and believe that these fasts detoxicate the body, I think the parents should not have let the girl fast for 68 days.”

A life lost is lost. A child’s body is not strong enough to endure such suffering. Even if an adult fasts for so long, they may fall sick, says paediatrician Dr Manmohan Reddy, who shares how the basic level of sugar, fat and fluids affects the heart and brain. “The sugar and fat gets exhausted in a body quicker while a child is on fast. They will get dehydrated and the body will release a poisonous substance, which leads to metabolic imbalance, brain disorder and even comatose. It can cause irregularity of heart beats, increase in potassium level, resulting in slow blood pump by the heart,” explains Dr Reddy. No wonder Aradhana was brought dead to the hospital. The hospital authorities said that she died of cardiac arrest.

Agreeing to the fact that one should fast according to their body metabolism, socialite Bina Mehta says, “We should fast only as long as our body allows us to. The fast in the community has no age limit, but the parents shouldn’t have encouraged the girl to continue it for two months. My son too fasted for eight days. He didn’t require any special medical attention.”

Such a barbaric activity in the name of religion should be absolutely condemned and the people behind it — in this case apparently the parents — should be put behind the bars, says child rights activist Shantha Sinha. “A child should not be allowed to do anything that goes against their body with or without proper precaution. They should be allowed to do anything of this sort after she attains the right age. The parents too should know that they cannot impose anything on the child which is detrimental to health,” she adds.

Rao too agrees, “We filed the complaint only after it happened but we should learn from it and work towards raising awareness on such social evils and spiritual practices.”

Fasts are common among us, says members of the Jain community.
Few, however, do agree that 13-year-old Aradhana’s 68-day fast was a bit extreme.
It takes courage to speak against wrongdoing and when it comes to religion, most prefer to stay out of it. This was the case here too. When asked for their reaction to the shocking case of 13-year-old Aradhana’s 68-day “forced fast” that killed her, many didn’t want to comment. One prominent lady said, “Religion ke barein mein kya bolna. We know many people who keep these kind of fasts... sadly in this case it went horribly wrong.” “Yes, when one has troubles only they follow these fasts. Wonder what this family was facing,” said another, who didn’t want to be identified.

Narendra Surana, Industrialist
“Fasting for eight days is common during the monsoon season in our Jain community. But stretching it to more than a 30-day period is really not appreciated as it affects one’s health. During these fasts, people generally have boiled water and no food.”

Bina Mehta, Socialite
There is no age limit followed by the community for keeping the fast, however the parents in this case shouldn’t have encouraged the girl to continue for two months.

Sashi Nahta, Entrepreneur
Though I am a Jain and believe these fasts are a good way to detox, in this case the parents should not have let the girl fast for 68 days! One is allowed to have only boiled water, that too only during the day time. You can’t have water in the night. So allowing a 13-year-old to continue fasting for 68 days is terrible. My daughter and I also fast during  chaumasa, but we do it for eight days and take a lot of care about what we eat once we break the fast.

Such a barbaric activity in the name of religion should be absolutely condemned and the people behind it – in this case apparently the parents – should be put behind the bars, says child rights activist Shantha Sinha.

“The community seems to have learnt no lesson. It’s a violation of the parent’s protection of the child, who is their dependent, based on the World Health Organisation rules,” says Achyut Rao of Balala Hakkula Sangham, the child rights organisation which filed a case against the parents.

Write to us: What do you think about this incident? Were the parents right or wrong to let the child fast for 68 days? Write in to us at info@deccanmail.com

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