Thousands of members of the Jain community took out a silent march in Jaipur on Monday to protest the Rajasthan high court’s order declaring Santhara illegal and to raise awareness in public about the ritual.
Santhara, or Sallekhana, is a centuries-old Jain practice of starving oneself to death to attain salvation. The Jaipur bench of the high court on August 10 banned the practice and made it punishable under sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 309 (attempted suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
On Monday, the silent march by Jain members started from Ramlila Maidan at New Gate and concluded at Mahaveer School in C-Scheme area in the city, said Rajendra Godha and Vinod Jain, office-bearers of Dharam Bachao Andolan Samiti.
The protesters carried placards and banners with messages supporting the Jain ritual. Similar rallies were held in various parts of the state and the country, they said, adding that all Jain establishments and schools remained closed and government employees remained on leave on Monday.
Later, addressing a gathering at Mahaveer School grounds, Jain saints condemned the court’s order on Santhara. Muni Praman Sagar termed the ritual as “life of Jain religion” and said the court’s ruling was an attack on the religion.
“India is a religion-oriented country, and the country can be protected only by protecting religions. We will not accept interference (in religion),” he said.
Disclosing their future strategy, Jain members said representatives of both the Digambar and Shwetambar sects from all over India will take part in a core committee meeting in about two weeks. Based on the outcome of the meeting and after taking suggestions from legal experts, further action will be taken, they said.
Many public representatives, eminent people and members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Mandir Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, Devasthan Mahasabha and other groups also extended their support to the protest, they said.
A memorandum was also submitted to chief minister Vasundhara Raje in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the matter.
In Bhilwara, members of the Jain community took out a march and handed over a memorandum to additional collector (city) Suresh Yadav against the Santhara ban. The community members in all the tehsils gave memorandums to local authorities to review on high court order.
In Alwar, the members gathered at Mahaveer Bhavan and took out a march through Bus Stand, Hope Circus and Bajaja Bazar to reach the collectorate where they submitted a memorandum to the officials. In Ajmer, too, a protest march was held. “Our fundamental right to practice and profess religion has been hit by this order. We want government to challenge the order in Supreme Court,” said Sunil Dilawari, a community member.