Vimladevi Bhansali, 60, died in Jaipur on Thursday after 13 days of Santhara—the age-old Jain ritual of fasting unto death—even as rights activists criticised police for failing to take action to prevent the 'suicide'.
Vimladevi, suffering from brain tumour, had been told by doctors that her disease was incurable. She had then decided to embark on Sathara and had stopped taking food instead of waiting for the disease to consume her, according to her family members.
The family had tried to dissuade her but to no avail. "We had requested her but she was firm to follow the religious ritual," a Bhansali family member told on Thursday.
Her relatives as well as a large number of Jains had been visiting her home in the city's Chhatrasal Colony.
Vimladevi's Santhara had figured in a court hearing over a petition demanding an end to the practice.
The Rajasthan High Court last week issued show cause notices to the state government, the central government and Jain institutions against the practice after hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Nikhil Soni.
"The Constitution allows right to life but not the right to end one's life. Be it the Sati system, hunger strike or Santhara, they all come under the category of severe offences," said Soni.
Petitioner's advocate Madhav Mishra said: "We had filled our petition against this evil practice much before this incident. Vimladevi's Santhara happened in the middle of the case."
"The high court had asked us to give a representation of Vimladevi's case to police and we did it. But police failed to take any timely action."
"We strongly condemn such evil and we would continue to fight against it."
However, many members of the Jain Shwetambar community believe that observing Santhara is a religious ritual and hence different from suicide and Sati.
"Santhara is much above law. It is a ritual in our religion. Vimladevi has done nothing wrong," a Jain community leader said on condition of anonymity.