The Rajasthan High Court judgment declaring the Jain practice of Santhara or Sallekhana (fast unto death) illegal has drawn strong reactions from religious heads of the community, who have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh to move the Supreme Court against the order.
However, other community representatives felt that the high court’s intervention over Santhara was “logical and necessary”. The court ruled Monday that Santhara was not an “essential tenet” of Jainism and held it akin to suicide. A person undertaking Santhara does not eat or drink anything and as a result starves to death within a few days. The ritual is marked by great social and religious fervour and the person undertaking it is treated like a saint. The court made the practice punishable under sections 306 and 309 of the IPC. [related-post] Some Jain religious leaders termed the order “unfortunate”, saying the community’s viewpoint was not properly argued before the court. “A person who commits suicide does it while living a material life and is driven to it due to stress, anxiety, anger, depression, etc. Those who choose Santhara have no love for life and no fear of death. It is a decision taken with a sound mind,” Jain religious leader Acharya Lokesh Muni said.
However, some members of the community have welcomed the court’s order. “It is logical and in keeping with the spirit of the times,” said Akhil Bharatiya Jain Jagriti Parishad.