Within hours of the Supreme Court staying the Rajasthan High Court’s ban on Jain ritual Santhara, an 82-year-old woman from the community publicly ‘resumed’ her Santhara fast at a town in Bikaner.
Gangashahar resident Badni Devi Daga had undertaken Santhara in mid-July. Following the HC order of August 10 criminalising the ritual, she continued her fast, albeit secretly. On Monday, after the SC stayed the HC order, Badni Devi ‘resumed’ her fast publicly.
The octogenarian has three sons and a daughter. The family is engaged in making Bikaneri bhujia and papad.
Badni Devi had been unwell and on artificial oxygen supply since June 20. On July 15, she expressed her will to have the oxygen removed and undertake Santhara, community leader Lunkaran Chhajer said. Subsequently, she was formally initiated into the ritual of fast-unto-death.
“She has been on fast since July 17. About two weeks after she started, we urged her to eat something as she had started looking weak. But she did not relent,” said her son Kiran Chand Daga.
Last month, the Rajasthan High Court banned Santhara, the Jain ritual of voluntarily starving till death, and made it punishable under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court stay on the HC order was welcomed by Jains across the country.
“The SC has protected our religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Acharya Lokesh Muni.
Jain spiritual leader Praman Sagar called for a massive gathering of 1 crore community members later this week to celebrate the SC order by chanting 1 crore hymns.