I have a name with Jain attached to it. But that’s not what got me to write about the 13-year-old Aradhana Samdariya – the Jain girl from Hyderabad – who died of cardiac arrest on October 3 after fasting for 68 days, as part of Jain rituals during the month of ‘chaumasa’.
What appalled me is the celebration of Aradhana’s death and no matter how much I would have liked to think that Aradhana’s parents were not involved in her death, I can’t help but think exactly that. For, who allows a child to go without food for 68 days? Worse, who celebrates a daughter’s death? She was no martyr. She was just a 13-year-old doing exactly what her parents told her to do and, hence, it called for a celebration!
The ‘shobha yatra’ – a celebration of her death – that was reportedly attended by over 600 people, amidst calls to anoint her ‘bal tapsvi’ makes this one a heinous human sacrifice.
Child rights’ activist Achyutha Rao, based on whose complaint Section 304 (A) of the IPC and Section 75 under the Juvenile Justice Act has been registered against the parents, points out, “They (the parents) pushed Aradhana to observe this fast, after consulting their guru (who Achyutha says goes by the name Upadhaya), who advised that Aradhana (the elder of Lakshmichand’s two daughters) keep the 68 days fast, to please the gods so that his business could flourish!” (Lakshmichand is into jewellery business)
I made some calls to friends from the Jain community to check about the ritual, and they were as much grieved by Aradhana’s death. It is a ritual to please the gods, they explained, but a 13-year-old fasting for 68 days is unheard of. How can a 13-year-old decide to fast for that long unless pushed into it? Even if she did, parents should have dissuaded her. The parents are clearly to be blamed.
Aradhana has left behind Darshini, her 8-year-old sister, and Balala Hakkula Sangaham is now urging the District Child Protection Unit that she be provided protection.
“When the parents can force one daughter to fast unto death, how can the other one be safe? We are thus writing to the District Child Protection Unit, to shift her to safe custody as soon as possible,” Achyutha says.
He adds: “Aradhana’s death is a case of human sacrifice. The parents didn’t care about the girl. If they did, they would have at least consulted a doctor during the period she was fasting. A 13-year-old without food for 68 days is no joke. In fact, two of Aradhana’s aunts are doctors – a pediatrician and a gynecologist. But they didn’t bother to check upon the girl’s health. Now that says a lot.”