A person takes oath and stops eating till he dies of starvation. This practice, according to the Jain community, offers salvation. But aren’t there peaceful ways to achieve salvation? Hardcore practices like Santhara have no place in the 21st century and the Rajasthan High Court’s decision to declare the practice illegal is a welcome move.
The decision is right and has been long over-due. The Jain community has come out on the streets in protest of the judgment banning Santhara. Suicide is a crime and so is Santhara, which is nothing but suicide in the name of religious practice. The ritual to starve oneself to death is irrational and must be removed from the societies afflicted with such dated traditions.
Just like euthanasia, a person is allowed to take Santhara only in case of old age or if he is suffering from an incurable illness. I have seen closely how elderly Jain members are ‘compelled’ to commit this ‘suicidal act.’
One of my friends, Disha Jain, (name changed) narrated an account of her grandmother participating in Santhara. Whether her participation was voluntary or otherwise, we don’t know, but I could see her shiver while narrating the gory details of Santhara.
A devout Jain views human body as a ‘prison of the human soul.’ Fasting is a common religious practice in several cultures across the world, but Santhara is deep-rooted and obstinate in nature. Every year, hundreds of Jains across India take up the onerous oath. Over 60 percent of the participants are women. It is a traditional practice of achieving ‘moksha’.
As a citizen of this country, one has to obey the law and religious reasons cannot be used to engage in any kind of illegal activity. There is no space for such absurd rituals. If religious reasons were legitimate then the practise of sati or polygamy would also be acceptable today. I am religious, but stand totally against such rituals. This life is God-given, ending it by starvation is going against his will.