A group representing Digambara Jains has approached the Madhya Pradesh government seeking exemption for their monks to defecate in the open, which they say is the ascetics’ way of life.
The Digambara and Shwetambara are the two main sects of of the Jain order, which account for 0.4 % of India’s population. The nomadic monks of the Digambara sect don’t wear clothes and defecate in the open— a century-old practice which the group fears will run afoul of the Central government diktat to panchayats to frame a law to penalise open defecators.
The memorandum seeking exemption was submitted to state minister of panchayat and rural development Gopal Bhargava by the Digamber Jain Social Group Federation. They are worried Madhya Pradesh might go the way of Rajasthan in penalizing open defecators.
“We have asked the government to allow our monks and seers to attend the nature’s call in the open as they never use toilets for doing so,” said Ravindra Jain, the acting president of the federation.
“They follow a centuries-old strict lifestyle in which they only go in secluded or forested areas to attend nature’s call and that too once in a day,” said Jain.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led union government has undertaken an ambitious toilet construction programme—part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to make the country open-defecation free by 2019. To achieve the target, the government is nudging states to adopt a stricter law to curb the menace.
“Madhya Pradesh is one of the states where Jain monks travel, and if this rule is implemented then it will surely create problems for them who are very strict about following their lifestyle,” he said.
The minister has denied receiving any such memorandum from the Jain community.
“The minister has not received any such memorandum in the last one week from any representative body of the Jain community,” said Bhargava’s personal assistant.
Last year in September, one of Jain religions controversial orthodox rituals -- Santhara -- had run into trouble. A court had banned Jain religion’s centuries-old religious ritual that allows a person to opt death by stop taking food. The apex court later stayed the lower court’s ban.