Nagpur: As the Jain community across the country is united in launching protests against Rajasthan High Court’s verdict against their age-old ritualistic convention of Santhata, the Jain members staged their supportive strong protest here in the city on Aug 24. The city streets were flooded with protest rally by members of Jain community, terming the court verdict a draconian decision infringing their rights to religion, and against Constitutional protection to minorities.
The protest was called by Sakal Jain Samaj, Nagpur and all members of the community, identified for their business and trades, shut down their business installations all over the city, registering their strong resentment against court verdict. Sakal Jain Samaj then organized a rally consisting of men wearing dresses and women wearing saffron clothing at Kasturchand Park in the city, and later handed over their memorandum of protest to the district collector, Nagpur.
What is Santhara?
Jain community is very ardent in executing their community-oriented rituals. Santhara is one the rituals of undergoing severe penance to seek redemption from mundane life in order to reach God. The one who undergoes such penance leaves food and water completely and thus meet death silently. Santhara is a religious act to end life of the self.
What is court verdict?
Rajasthan High Court, disposing of a petition, observed that the custom of Santhara in Jain community tends to give rise to committing suicide, and so it is objectionable from humanitarian point of view, as the Constitution as well as the Law does not guarantee svechchha mrityu (self-willed death). And, thus considering all aspects of the issue, the court imposed a ban on Santhara.
Reactions against the verdict
Vijay Darda, MP, Rajya Sabha:
The history of Jain Community has been guiding the world peacefully, and this community is as much scientific as much religious. Santhara ritual is a part of life style of Jain community, and so terming it a wrong tradition is extra-Constitutional thinking or extra-judicial interpretation. If one looks into deh-tyag (leaving of body) ritualistic convention of the period ranging from Chandragupt Mourya to Acharya Vinoba Bhave, one can find problem with the convention, and they advocate svechchha mrityu (self-willed death). The body that has come has to necessarily go, and Santhara is not a an unnatural course of leaving the body. Jain community respects the Constitution, and it will get its protest redressed within Constitutional frame-work.
Ajay Sancheti, MP, Rajya Sabha
The court’s verdict has raised a serious question before Jain community. We rely fully on judiciary, but this court verdict has curtailed the fundamental rights to lifestyle of Jains. Jain community has practice of Santhara enshrined in its ritualistic tradition. Jain community is not so coward that it would go for committing suicide. Why should it commit suicide? It is affluent and well educated. Come what may, we will fight for our rights by remaining within the limits of Constitution, and if needed, we will approach Supreme Court.
Manish Mehta , president, Sakal Jain Samaj, Nagpur
Jain Samaj is much astonished over the judgement of Rajasthan High Court. How can any court underestimate one’s religious code of conduct and put ban on ritualistic convention? Our sentiments are hurt by such an illogical decision. The honourable justice has failed to understand the Jain community and its ritualistic practices. We will fight for our rights through judicial course of action.
We are disappointed by court verdict, we do not commit any crime by following our communal rituals. This decision of the court
has done one thing that the entire Jain Samaj has got united across the country against the issue. However, we will leave no stone unturned in getting our convention defended.