A 13-year-old child fasts for 68 days, and then dies of cardiac arrest in Hyderabad. This was an act done not in secret, it was very public and carried out with the consent of her parents. Yet, no one seemed to have intervened at any point to save the child’s life.
By all accounts, she started off by going to school and drinking only water, yet no one noticed anything wrong or at least did not report it. Then two weeks later, she stopped attending school and no one seems to have bothered to find out why. When it became known that she was fasting, no one moved a finger to bring this to the attention of the police or any relevant authority.
The worst part of this horrific saga in which Aradhana Samdariya went on a fast, which led to her death, is that her parents were complicit in this. The parents and other relatives have now been booked for homicide not amounting to murder. The family, it is reported, influenced the child to undertake this fast in the hope that this would better the family’s jewellery business, which had run into debt. She undertook the Jain ritual of fasting, in which she drank nothing but water for all those days. That this was well-known is seen from the fact that when she completed 68 days of fasting, there were advertisements in newspapers lauding the baal tapasvi Aradhana and a function was held at which some politicians were present. She was even taken on a chariot ride to a community centre shortly before she collapsed.
The child’s death is now being sought to be explained away as part of a Jain religious ritual, and according to Jain religious heads, it is a cause for celebration as she has attained ‘moksha’. But the fact is that she seems to have been coerced into this act by her family who psychologically manipulated her into undertaking this. Religious leaders are now saying that fasting among young people is not uncommon. Well, then this practice ought to be discouraged and anyone impressing upon a child the need to fast for whatever reason ought to feel the full force of the law for child abuse. Any form of religious or spiritual practice ought to be age-appropriate and such burdens cannot be put on children. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the National Human Rights Commission have to take note of this. When this act was publicised, the police should have acted to protect the child, but they did not. Instead, the whole spectacle was celebrated by all those who should have protected her and saved her life. What is also alarming is that there are other children expressing opinions that they would like to emulate this terrible feat. What happened to Aradhana amounts to abetment to murder, plain and simple. Those responsible have been booked but this was a death which could have been prevented..