Family Charged With Culpable Homicide After Jain Teen's Fasting Death

13-year-old Aradhana died after a 68-day fast in Hyderabad

Hyderabad: The family of a 13-year-old girl who died last week in Hyderabad after a 68-day fast as per Jain rituals has been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The family had said Aradhana, a class 8 student, was admitted to the hospital two days after completing her fast where she died of cardiac arrest. But a hospital certificate, accessed by NDTV, claims that the girl was brought dead.

The family says the girl was religiously inclined and had earlier undertaken fasts for seven days and 34 days.

"She asked permission for upvaas (fast). We asked her to stop after 51 days but she would not give up," her father Lakshmichand Samdariya said, adding "Her fast was voluntary. No one forced her."

Achyuta Rao, child rights activist, says there is no question of a minor - that too a 13-year-old - exercising her own free will. "The girl was forced to go into fasting by the parents and elders as the Choumaas is auspicious days for Jain community and it is a remedy for problems. They should have stopped her, not encouraged her," he said.

Pictures available with NDTV show a weak Aradhana sitting dressed up like a bride, surrounded by several others, on a grand chariot.

What's worrying now is that Aradhana being hailed as a 'Baal Tapasvi' who got moksha could have undesirable fallout on other youngsters.

Harshvardhan Soni is a 16-year-old who has the experience of fasting for 11 days. What happened to Aradhana has scared him but he is also undeniably in awe. "I would love to emulate her. But by dying it all became a waste... It is wrong. Her parents should not have allowed her to do it since she was so young but yes, if possible, I would also like to do it someday," he says.

Harsh is right now attending a camp at Kachiguda Jain Sthanak in Hyderabad along with about 50 other children. These are held regularly at Jain Sthanaks everywhere to familiarise youngsters with the Jain way of life and philosophy. Critics say glorifying Aradhana's death could condition youngsters into believing hers was a path worth emulating.
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