Thousands of Jain community members hit the streets in Jaipur and other cities on Monday, holding a 'silent march' to protest the Rajasthan high court judgement banning "santhara", a religious ritual of fast unto death.
Members of both Shwetambar and Digambar sects participated in marches which were held in cities in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradhesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and other states. Schools, educational institutes and business establishments owned by the Jain community remained closed as part of the protest.
In Jaipur, the protest march began from Ramlila Ground-New Gate and ended at Mahaveer school where at a gathering religious leaders expressed their displeasure over the high court ruling.
"Our peaceful protest is against the judgement pronounced by the high court," convener of the joint action committee of Digambar and Shwetambar Jains Rajendra Godha said.
The Rajasthan high court had on August 10 held Jainism religious ritual of 'santhara' as illegal making it punishable under sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 309 (attempted suicide) of the IPC.
"Santhara or fast unto death is not an essential tenet of Jainism," the HC said, adding it cannot be termed as "humane" and it's violative of basic human right. A public interest litigation challenging the legality of 'santhara' was filed in the high court in 2006.
Speakers at protest meetings held across the country contested the high court's stand that santhara is a form of suicide.
“Jains believe that santhara helps them attain salvation. It is embedded in deep philosophical beliefs,” said Dinesh Jain, chief patron of the Jain temple in Noida district of UP.
“This practice is premised on a foundational idea that the act of fasting as an exercise of boldly autonomy to attain the state of utter transcendence.
In Bhopal, state BJP leaders and RSS leader Kantilal Chatar took part in protest meetings where Jain religious leaders warned that impingement on their faith would hurt the economy.
"The fall of Sensex is a result of the participation of businessmen of Jain community in protests across the country. When a one-day 'bandh' can bring down the sensex to such an extent the government should think what would happen if we call a bandh of two-three days," Jain saint Ajeet Sagar said.
In Agra, protesting Jain community members held a dharam sabha at Chipi Tola, followed by a silent march to the district collectorate.
In many places, Jains chose to tonsure their heads as a form of protest. The community members shared their photos with tonsured heads on the social media.