When hundreds of members of all four sects of Jain community — Digambar Jain, Shwetambar Murti Pujak, Shwetambar Sthanak Vaasi and Tera Panthi — took out a peaceful march recently in the city and across the country, it was to show how united they were in opposing the Rajashthan High Court order that had banned Santhara, the Jain practice of fasting to death voluntarily at the end of one’s life.
On Monday, they showed the same unity when the Supreme Court stayed the HC order.
Adesh Khinvasara, national youth vice-president of the Jain Conference, told Newsline that the entire community of Jain Sadhu and Sadhvi had welcomed the SC order.
The HC had banned Santhara and made it an offence under Section 309 ( attempt to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
This was unfair, said advocate S K Jain, who along with Fatehchand Ranka, Abhay Chhajed and others had demanded that the government file a review petition before the same court and present the facts about the ancient tradition properly.
Nepal Kesari Manibhadra Muni Maharaj pointed out that Santhara was a difficult penance and could not be equated to suicide. “Conceptually, Santhara or Sallekhana is different as this vow is not taken either in passion or in anger. It is not possible for everyone to take up this age old practice. The likely misuse of this practice by families is also nipped in the bud. The community members do not allow it and such cases of misuse are rare,” said Muni Maharaj.
The basic concept of Santhara is to purify the soul and it cannot be equated to suicide, says Archana Chhajed, who is in charge of the Mahila Bachat groups in the community.
Khinvasara pointed out that there are as many as 100 people who had taken Santhara in the last two to three years.