13-Year-Old 'Knew Her Own Strength, Decided To Fast': Jain Leader

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Aradhana Samdariya died two days after she underwent a 68-day fast.


Hyderabad: 

Highlights

  1. Aradhana, 13, died two days after a 68-day fast in Hyderabad
  2. Was celebrated by Jains, dressed up like a bride on chariot
  3. Family charged with culpable homicide says it did not force her
The 13-year-old Jain girl who undertook a lengthy fast and died two days after it ended was "well aware of the strength of her body," said the community's top leader in Hyderabad, claiming that "she fasted for eight days in 2014, 34 days in 2015 and 68 days this year."

Ashok Sanklecha Jain, President of the Jain Seva Sangh, said that the teen, Aradhana Samdariya, was not forced to give up eating by her family, which is being investigated for homicide.

Aradhana collapsed and fell into a coma two days after finishing a 68-day fast and then died of an apparent cardiac attack in Hyderabad on October 4. Her family has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder over complaints by advocacy groups that she was coerced to fast in accordance with a Jain ritual.

WhatsApp messages being circulated among the city's Jains claim that there's a concerted attempt to defame the religion and that it's important to stress that the teen died of a heart attack and not starvation, which was also underscored at a community meeting held today. 

According to her family, Aradhana had pledged to observe the 68-day long penance known as "Chaturmas" and over the marathon fasting period was only allowed to drink boiled water twice a day.

"We asked her to stop after 51 days but she would not give up," her father Lakshmichand Samdariya told NDTV.

Achyuta Rao, child rights activist, asks how a child can be allowed to take these decisions. "They should have stopped her, not encouraged her," he said.

Massive celebrations were held after Aradhana completed the fast, with hundreds of community members and politicians attending the event, and taking selfies with her. Pictures available with NDTV show her visibly weak and dressed like a bride, surrounded by several others, on a grand chariot.

Fasting rituals are mostly undertaken by the elderly in Jainism, with the Rajasthan High Court last year banning "Santhara" - the voluntary custom of fasting until death. But the Supreme Court over-ruled the ban.

"On behalf of the family and the Jain community, we assure you that we will not go against the law and we fully support the investigations. But I also assure you the family did not force the girl," said the president of the city's main Jain association.


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