Members of the Jain community on Monday submitted a memorandum in the name of President of India to lift the ban on Santhara, a centuries-old Jain practice of starving oneself to death to attain salvation.
The Jaipur bench of the Rajasthan high court recently banned the practice, terming it illegal. The court also made it punishable under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
Members from both the Jain sects – Swetambar and Digambar – supported by the Vaishya community, took out a silent rally in Barwani on Monday and submitted the memorandum in the President’s name to collector Ajay Singh Gangwar.
In Indore too, protesters from both the sects took out a silent protest march. They gathered at the Gandhi statue at Regal Crossing, from where they marched to the divisional commissioner’s office. There they handed over a memorandum to SDM Santosh Tagore.
In Barwani, Jain members said the Jain and Vaishya communities had full respect for the judiciary but the court had been misguided with wrong facts about Santhara.
Demanding lifting of the ban, they said the court order should be reviewed to save the principles, basic theories and elements of the Jain religion in a democratic and secular country like India.
Santhara is not suicide but the practice of voluntary and systematic fasting to death, they contended. Jain texts say it is the ultimate route to attaining ‘moksha’ and breaking free from the cycle of life and death.
Jain religious leaders termed the order “unfortunate”, saying the community’s viewpoint was not properly argued before the court. “A person who commits suicide does it while living a material life and is driven to it due to stress, anxiety, anger, depression, etc. Those who choose Santhara have no love for life and no fear of death. It is a decision taken with a sound mind,” said the memorandum.
“The vow of Santhara is taken when one feels that one’s life has served its purpose. The purpose is to purge old karmas and prevent the creation of new ones,” it said.
Senior leaders of the Jain and Vaishya communities, apart from other people, were present during the protest march in Barwani.