With family blessing, girl fasts for 68 days, dies; Jains outraged

Family members said Aradhana Samdhariya wasn’t forced but was religiously inclined since childhood.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad | Updated: October 9, 2016 1:37 pm
samdhariya-759 Parents take the 13-year-old’s body for cremation. Express Photo

For 25 days, Aradhana Samdhariya went to St Francis School in Secunderabad with just a bottle of boiled water. A Class VIII student, it was her breakfast and lunch. Some of her classmates knew she was on fast, but did not know she ate no food at all and was surviving only on those few gulps of water. This fact was known only to her family, relatives and close friends. After the first week of fasting, she became withdrawn and lost interest in studies. Back at her home in Kot Market, she watched TV, lay around, drank more boiled water for dinner, and went off to sleep. From the 26th day of her fast, Aradhana stopped going to school altogether.

Her parents didn’t object. Her mother and sister dressed her up every day like a princess, while she recited religious texts. Her father, Lakshmichand Samdhariya, owns the Arihant Jewellers showroom in Kot Market.

On Saturday, news that the 13-year-old had died after fasting for 68 days left the city in shock and the Jain community stunned. Aradhana died early October 4, two days after she had broken her fast.

After an NGO, Child Rights Sangham, approached the Hyderabad Police Commissioner, an inquiry was ordered. Aradhana’s parents and grandparents have been summoned for questioning.

A spokesperson at KIMS Hospital said Aradhana died of a cardiac arrest while being brought to hospital. After breaking her fast, she had been on a liquid diet for two days when her condition deteriorated. “In the wee hours of October 4, she fell unconscious probably because her blood pressure and other vital parameters dipped. She was emaciated and weak and several factors led to a cardiac arrest while she was being brought to the hospital. All we could do was give a death certificate,” the hospital told The Sunday Express.

A police official who questioned the family on the moments before the girl collapsed said that though Aradhana appeared to be sinking, the family didn’t call a doctor but advised her to take rest.

After her death, the affluent Samdhariya family held a grand funeral procession called ‘shoba yatra’, attended by hundreds. Members of the Rajasthani Marwari Jain community as well as business friends of the family attended the funeral. Aradhana was cremated with much fanfare.

Her grandfather Manikchand Samdhariya denied on Saturday that they had “hidden” the matter, ensuring that Aradhana’s extreme fasting leading to her death remained known only to a close few in the community, as is being alleged now.

“A few of her friends knew about her fasting. We do not know if her teachers or school principal knew. They never called to enquire or anything. Her father once sent a message that she was unwell, that is all. If anyone asked her sister, she told them Aradhana was doing a religious duty. We did not try to hide it from anyone. Everyone knew,” said Manikchand.

Police sources and family friends told The Sunday Express that Aradhana’s father Lakshmichand encouraged his two daughters to participate in such religious activities, earning him pride within his community. While St Francis is among Secunderabad’s top-most schools, Lakshmichand didn’t insist they go regularly because religious education at home was a priority.

A relative said that during the summer school vacations this year, Aradhana was packed off for two months to a school in the Parswanath Tirth at Patan in Gujarat, where disciples enroll to attain monkhood.

Aradhana started the fast on July 26 with 68 days during the Jain holy months as target, with each day representing an alphabet and shloka in a religious text.

Family members said Aradhana wasn’t forced but was religiously inclined since childhood. In 2014, she fasted for eight days; in 2015, for 34 days. Manikchand said she was adamant on completing the 68-day fast. “I and her father objected at first. She could not have survived so many days, we knew that, but it was either allowing her to fast or promising to let her take diksha at a later stage, which we did not want.”

Aradhana’s younger sister also fasts during holy months every year.

Dinesh Jain, a close relative of the Samdhariyas, claimed that Aradhana never appeared weak or tired. “There was a glow and radiance on her face. We never had to call a doctor. Strength was God’s gift to her.”

Every day, family members said, a few of them would visit Aradhana, bless her and say a few encouraging words.

Inspector M M Muttaiah of Market Police Station said, “The family does not see her death as a form of suicide, or that they had abetted it. Both parents are very religious and are said to be preparing to renounce everything and become monks.”

However, a senior Jain leader who knows the Samdhariya family well pointed out that it is “very rare for a Jain family to allow a minor to fast for so many days”. “Unfortunately, for a few members in the community, religious activities are a source of pride. Samdhariya is one of them. This was all done for prestige and standing in society.”

Among the larger Marwari Jain and Kutchi Jain community too, there is outrage since the circumstances of her death became known. “In some families, children fast for eight days. I am surprised Aradhana was allowed to fast for 68 days. Not only was she a minor but a human body cannot sustain for so long,” said Narendra Surana, who heads the Rajasthani Jain association.

Zaheerabad MP Bheemrao Patil, who attended the function organised by the Samdhariya family to mark the breaking of Aradhana’s fast, told The Sunday Express, “It was described to me as a very prestigious function having a lot of religious significance because the girl had made so much sacrifice. I wondered about the 68 days of fasting, but I was busy and I just blessed her and left.”

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. I
    Irene lydia
    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:58 am
    It is the new way or technique to kil daughters like this parents can save heavy amount of expenditure of the wedding, dowery and rest of the things. Why they dont force to fast boy child, why girls only do that, when father talks about her doesnt feel any pain. I dont inderstand how come Indian goverment is not bothered, they are killing daughters
    Reply
    1. J
      jai
      Oct 9, 2016 at 2:13 am
      Jains should condemn this. This not religious in any way. This is foolishness. Jain texts doesn't allow such nonsense. This is not and cannot be called a Jain ritual.
      Reply
      1. A
        Ash
        Oct 9, 2016 at 1:08 am
        Looks like someone stupidity costed an young girl life.
        Reply
        1. K
          kiara
          Oct 10, 2016 at 9:25 am
          Utter shameful act of parents ....may be they were not her real parents so they allowed her to fast for 68 days.her parents should be punished for this
          Reply
          1. S
            Sahil
            Oct 9, 2016 at 6:39 am
            So much shame for india . A 13 year old girl died due to some stupid views of some religious people. Its a crime they should be punished parents or under whoever influence they were doing it so that such a stupid and brainless act nt take life of an another young soul .. rip
            Reply
            1. S
              Sandra
              Oct 9, 2016 at 1:37 am
              Families choose not to be aware. Their ego's dominate the way they live and how they interact with others. If they drop all these notions of what others think, there daughter would be alive today. No one cared enough to know what was happening to her. Fasting is a form of abuse that is cruel when it is mixed with religion.
              Reply
              1. Y
                Yash
                Oct 9, 2016 at 4:52 am
                People in name of religion are doing extrem things!lt;br/gt; For heaven's sake let a child be child lt;br/gt; And yes put these parents behiend bar and make the kind of torture illegallt;br/gt; This is systematic torture. In the name of religionlt;br/gt; Wtf is supposed to mean that she has shine on her face.lt;br/gt; Get these people behiend bars
                Reply
                1. A
                  anonymous
                  Oct 9, 2016 at 3:58 am
                  What BS is happening ? This is murder. I as a Hindu have no doubt about this. Like Sati this practice should be immediately abolished by the courts and made a criminal act. I urge the Hon. SC to intervene. I am shocked at this vulgar display in the name of any religion. It is better to have corrupt leaders/people than such backward minded people/leaders.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Apoorv
                    Oct 9, 2016 at 4:32 am
                    First have a understanding of topic and then jump to conclusions.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Apoorv
                      Oct 9, 2016 at 2:09 pm
                      It's 72
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Apoorv
                        Oct 9, 2016 at 4:31 am
                        The article give some distrauted explain of the unfortunate event. I understand that the author do not have that understanding that inspire of common values in Jainism and Hinduism (generally speaking) there is vast difference between the practices or have ignored the same knowingly. In the article Hospital have stated that cardiac arrest can be because of many reasons, still the w article flows to point the fault at someone.lt;br/gt; Eg about education "Lakshmichand didn’t insist they go regularly because religious education at home was a priority." I am a Jain, I understand that what have happened mostly.lt;br/gt;We in Jainism(opinion) try to increase limits of our physical being with 'tap' or 'tapashya' which includes fasts. Our fasts are bit different too, we have 'ekashan' it's either we take one complete mean in a day in one sitting or 'upwas' only take water once in w day. Now another level to 'upwas' is 'nirjal 'upwas' where no water is taken too and so now we know the difference. My gmother does fast without food 10 days straight and does her household work by herself on that, my mother does it with one time food 10 days straight and managed Business. Most members of my community who are stabe practice fasting and it's not bad. lt;br/gt;What's bad is making it difficult for someone who just lost there loved one and must have fought hard to save. lt;br/gt;I can say so because I understand when it was permission for 'Diksha' vs 'fast'.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I do not know them but I have seen enough to understand what is goiog on.lt;br/gt;Please mail for any more openion on the same.
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Apoorv
                          Oct 11, 2016 at 4:11 am
                          Or Jews
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            Apoorv
                            Oct 11, 2016 at 3:57 am
                            Parents booked. See how it turns out.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              arc
                              Oct 9, 2016 at 4:46 am
                              Our way of getting rid of girl child. What a country. The parents should be charged with abutment to suicide.
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                arc
                                Oct 9, 2016 at 5:54 am
                                Where is that naked stupid man who did that strip dance in Haryana embly? Why are Janis outraged when they themselves glorify such ic practices? How backward and obscurantist can we get under the medieval mindset of our religious charlatans?
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  Ash
                                  Oct 9, 2016 at 4:16 am
                                  Horrible....which god wants such a worshipping and fasting
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    Stephen Hickson
                                    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:30 am
                                    knowing how stupid morons jains are..no one will bother pointing something on them they will immedeatly scream religious intolerance..
                                    Reply
                                    1. B
                                      balu
                                      Oct 9, 2016 at 5:58 am
                                      This is a horrendous crime in modern era.If the criminal parents are not booked the govt shall be held responsible.
                                      Reply
                                      1. শৌনক বসু
                                        Oct 9, 2016 at 7:12 pm
                                        Lets see what action the law takes, considering:lt;br/gt;1. They are minority community.lt;br/gt;2. They are pretty rich family as well as rich community as a w.
                                        Reply
                                        1. P
                                          Parantap Bhatt
                                          Oct 9, 2016 at 10:50 am
                                          Ideas are to be blamed, not individuals. Stupid ideas disguised as g wisdom in form of rhetoric creates stupid individuals. Therefore, I say that criticism must be contextual and on ideology.
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            Parantap Bhatt
                                            Oct 9, 2016 at 10:24 am
                                            Please do not generalize, this was done by a moronic father who had some support from other like minded morons, who unfortunately are knee deep in religious BS. Criticizing idea and beliefs that led to this is more important here than generalizing the w community without sufficient data to back your argument with.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments