Pune (Maharashtra), August 24, 2015: Sakal Jain Samaj, an organization of Jains in the city, marched in silence on Monday to protest against the Rajasthan high court’s recent order banning Santhara, a voluntary fast unto death, and making it an offence under Section 309 (attempt to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
The march started from Ostwal Bandhu Samaj hall and ended at the Council Hall. Members of the community gave a memorandum to the resident deputy collector, said Abhay Chhajed, Congress city unit president.
“Over 7,000 members of all the sects of the Jain community including Shwetambar, Digambar, Sthanakwasi and Moortipujak and other sub-sects participated in this peace march,” participant Milind Phade said.
In an order passed on August 10, the Rajasthan high court declared the Jain practice of ‘Santhara’ or ‘Sallekhana’ as illegal and held that any person supporting the practice would be prosecuted for abetment to suicide. The order has been challenged in Supreme Court. A person, after taking a vow of Santhara, stops eating and drinking water till death.
A statement issued by the community said Santhara was not suicide.
“It is a ritual and religious practice of the community. The Union government should approach the Supreme Court against the ruling of the Rajasthan high court. Guidance from top lawyers and saints as well as religious leaders of the community should be sought. The Union government should publish a notification to give a permanent status to this practice. A law should also be passed,” the statement added.
The statement said that the Constitution under sections 21 and 24 has given right to practice religion to the people. The practice was never termed as crime in the country before and the Rajasthan high court’s decision is unfortunate, the statement added.
“The practice of Santhara is considered holy in Jain religion. It is one of the five principles preached by Lord Mahavir. It has been practiced since ages. People practice this ritual voluntarily. It is a type of soul cleansing,” the statement said. – News Courtesy: The Times of India