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Protest against ban on Santhara gaining momentum

    Jaipur/Mumbai, August 19, 2015: In order to protest against the Rajasthan high court’s ban on Santhara, the Sallekhana Jain community will observe a country-wide silent march on August 24. There would be a silent protest termed as ‘dharam bachao aandolan’ all across the state.

    The Mumbai Jain community has organized a peace rally against the Rajasthan high court’s decision that equaled Santhara to suicide and declared it an offence. Santhara is a highly-respected practice among the members of the Jain community. Sallekhana is made up from two words sal (meaning ‘properly’) and lekhana, which means to thin out. Properly thinning out of the passions and the body is ‘Sallekhana’. It is prescribed both for the householder and ascetics. Sallekhana is allowed only when a person is suffering from incurable disease or great disability or when a person is nearing his end. Due to the prolonged nature of sallekhana, the individual is given ample time to reflect on his or her life.

    Jain community in Jaipur has already formed a core committee, which will coordinate with various states and the Jain community living there to make it a successful affair coming Monday. Jains across the country will march out of their homes on August 24 and show the strength of their community. The century-old practice of Santhara has been in the eye of a storm since 2006 when the case of 93-year-old Keila Devi Hirawat from Jaipur had the world media debating whether there was any place for Santhara in the modern world.

    Human rights activist and lawyer Nikhil Soni and lawyer Madhav Mishra filed a PIL in the Rajasthan high court, claiming that Santhara was a social evil and should be considered as suicide under Indian law. One of the concerns raised in the petition was that it is old people who usually resort to Santhara and allowing an elderly person to suffer without medical assistance, food and water is inhuman.

    But Jains argue that it is a voluntary act of rational thinking and marks the beginning of a journey of understanding the painful and flawed nature of earthly existence. For millions of Jains, the PIL is a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. Legal experts observe that Santhara is voluntary termination of one’s life, and is not equivalent to committing suicide. – News Courtesy: Times of India

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