10/10/2016, 15.43
INDIA

For Indian activist, 13-year-old’s death after 68 days of fasting is absurd

Nirmala Carvalho

Aradhana, who died of cardiac arrest, fasted to bring luck to her economically troubled family. Parents organised a funeral to venerate their daughter as a "holy child". Now they are being investigated for culpable homicide.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The death of a 13-year-old Jain girl after 68 days of fasting "is a heinous violation of human rights and of the dignity of a human being,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).

The noted Indian activist spoke to AsiaNews about the death of Aradhana, a girl who died who refused water and food as part of chaumasa, a ritual that marks the fourth holy month in the Jain religion.

The eighth grade student died of cardiac arrest in Secunderabad, Telangana. According to investigation, she fasted to bring luck to her financially-strapped family after her father's jewelry business suffered losses. During the fast, she only drank a few drops of water, according to a precise schedule.

Aradhana’s death has sparked bitter protests from activists, incensed at her parents, guilty in their eyes of failing to protect their daughter.

For their part, the parents, Lakshmichand Samdhariya and his wife Manisha, organised a funeral for their daughter as a bal tapasvi, a holy child. At least 600 people attended the service.

Police in Hyderabad are investigating whether the girl was forced to fast by parents, who have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder (causing death by negligence) and cruelty to children (under the Juvenile Justice Act).

Prolonged fasting is a common practice in Jainism, and has been condemned by human rights advocates. For Lenin Raghuvanshi, "When religion is used for greed and power grabbing, we see misery, like in this case". Instead, "We must stop the use of our children in the name of religion and greed."

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