The Jain community Monday held protest marches in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi against the Rajasthan High Court order declaring the practice of Santhara or Sallekhana illegal. Criticising the judiciary for its “ignorance”, they asked judges to consult religious heads before passing such verdicts in future.
Setting aside their inter-denominational differences, community members gathered in large numbers in various cities, took out silent rallies and submitted memoranda demanding revocation of the judgment.
Religious heads, community leaders and politicians slammed the August 10 judgment of the division bench, which had called the practice ‘suicide’ and said those undertaking and encouraging Santhara/Sallekhana should be punished for attempted suicide and abetment to suicide. “Santhara or fast-unto-death is not an essential tenet of Jainism,” the high court had said.
Madhya Pradesh: Protests were held in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Guna, Shivpuri, Ashoknagar, Betul, Sironj, Ratlam, Mandsaur and Neemuch.
“Our protest is not against the government but the judiciary,” said RSS activist Kantilal Chhatar, who added that he attended the protest in his capacity as a Shwetambar. “Who are you to decide religious matters?’’ Chhatar said. “Lack of knowledge was responsible for the verdict”.
Ajit Sagar Maharaj threatened to bring the economy to a halt by closing down businesses.
Acharya Vivek Sagar Maharaj said Santhara was a soul-purifying exercise. He demanded a separate law for Jains. Some speakers made a distinction between Jainism and Hinduism, demanding that Jains and their issues be treated separately.
Rajasthan: A silent rally of about 1 lakh people was organised in Jaipur. The Dharma Bachao Andolan rally was called by Sakal Jain Samaj, and backed by VHP, Bajrang Dal and other outfits. Commercial establishments — including schools and colleges — run by members of the Jain community were closed. Children of the community boycotted schools and some government officials did not go to work.
Gujarat: Thousands of Jains took part in a protest march in Surat. They went up to the collector’s office to give their representation.
The rally was not attended by any Jain monks, though leaders of the community were present. They included standing committee chairman of Surat Municipal Corporation Nirav Shah.
Vadodara saw a silent protest with placards saying “Santhara is not suicide”. They submitted a memorandum to the district collector against the HC order.
Maharashtra: Protests were held at Mumbai, Aurangabad and Nashik. Several shops and businesses were closed. The protests affected the onion markets in Nashik district.
Delhi: Religious heads of all Jain sects congregated at Jantar Mantar to participate in a similar protest.
With inputs from ENS Ahmedabad/PTI