9 Reasons Why Jain Teen Aradhana’s Death Was No “Accident”

A 13-year-old girl is incapable of making important decisions regarding life and death.

Health News
5 min read
Thirteen-year-old Aradhana died two days after completing a 68-day fast. (Photo: ANI Screengrab)

Thirteen-year-old Jain girl, Aradhana Samdariya from Secunderabad, died this week after fasting for 68 days. Her parents and the local Jain community are trying to sweep a grave issue under the carpet by calling it an “accidental death”, which it clearly wasn’t.

Although a case has been registered against her parents for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” The Quint gives you nine reasons to show that it was neither a natural death nor an accident, nor suicide nor culpable homicide.

It was what we need to regard as “moral coercion resulting in death”. Here are nine reasons why her death was no “accident”.

A minor cannot be made responsible for life and death decisions

A 13-year-old girl is incapable of making important decisions about life and death. Aradhana didn’t know how long her body could survive without food. So, saying that it was her choice and shifting a part of the blame on her is not justifiable.

Parents wanted publicity at her expense?

How did her parents allow her to undertake a 68-day fast? Did they think that their daughter wouldn’t eat anything for over 2 months and then live happily after that? They should NOT have allowed her to in the first place. If they thought it wasn’t in her interest, they could have scolded her or force-fed her. Instead, they glorified her as a ‘bal tapasvi’ and took her out for a procession when she was too weak to even sit properly. It’s now alleged that they wanted publicity.

Her parents should be punished for this barbaric act. The officials should take strict action against such practices and never allow anything like this to happen again.
Achyutha Rao, Child Rights Activist, Hyderabad

Doctors in the family didn’t tell her she was dying

Two of Aradhana’s aunts are doctors – one a paediatrician and the other a gynaecologist. They checked her regularly and allowed her to fast for 68 days with just two sips of warm water a day. As doctors, why should they not be held responsible for her death?

A good physician should have told her what can go wrong if a growing body is starved for 68 days at a stretch. They should have told Aradhana’s parents about her possible death or long-term ill-effects of the fast.

Jain community encouraged her instead of stopping her

On 68th day of her fast, the family conducted a ‘rath yatra’ for Aradhana, to the Jain Bhavan, with around 600 people joining in with them. (Photo: The News Minute)
On 68th day of her fast, the family conducted a ‘rath yatra’ for Aradhana, to the Jain Bhavan, with around 600 people joining in with them. (Photo: The News Minute)

The Jain community in Hyderabad glorified her as a ‘bal tapasvi’, encouraged her misadventure and even participated in her procession two days before death. Now they have come together to defend Aradhana’s parents, who have been booked by local police.

They have warned activists and media not to “infringe upon the fundamental right of the community to practice their religion”.

In a letter to police commissioner M Mahender Reddy, Jain Seva Sangh leaders Ashok Jain and Vinod Kumar Kimti Jain argued that Aradhana was “very healthy” even after completing 68 days of fasting, and that “she died of cardiac arrest and not due to the ritual”.

How can anyone deny that she clearly died because of the incredible toll the fast took on her body? The argument that she accidentally due to cardiac arrest is ridiculous.

Jain spiritual leaders never stopped these malpractices

The Jain community is largely religious and listens to its munis. In fact, a fast is undertaken only after one gets blessings of a muni. Why did a muni give the permission in the first place? Several religious heads of the community have now asked Aradhana’s parents not to mourn her death as a loss, but to look upon it as a matter of pride as she had achieved 'moksha'.

Pregnant women or those who are unwell should not fast. But there is no bar on children fasting. But how much they should fast ought to depend on their own individual capacity.
Maharasa Ravinder Muniji, Jain monk in Hyderabad

Why are spiritual giants in the community keeping mum about this? On the contrary, a list of children who fast regularly is given out. Jain leaders should ideally guide the community towards a modern, scientific approach rather than justifying primeval practices.

Vote-hungry politicians allowed her to die

Devotees pray in front of the dead body of Acharya Devendra Muni, a prominent from the Jain religious community in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)
Devotees pray in front of the dead body of Acharya Devendra Muni, a prominent from the Jain religious community in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)

Political leaders, including Telangana sports minister Padma Rao Goud and Zaheerabad MP BB Patil, gave their blessings to Aradhana during her procession. So, the ruling class knew that a minor was being made to starve for over two months. Instead of raising an alarm, they chose to be part of the blind crowd. They probably didn’t want to lose votes or donations.

After her death, only the Communist Party of India has come out strongly against the tradition of bal muni, which is now being challenged in court.

Lack of proactive police action

Whenever a procession is taken out, a permission letter or an intimation letter is sent to the local police station. Along with culpable homicide, police has now registered a case under Section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 for willful neglect of a child. Why didn’t this happen when Aradhana was still alive?

Police officials now say that murder charges cannot be pressed against her parents as there is no technical evidence like a post-mortem report or witnesses. Since the body has been cremated, there is no scope for exhumation. All that the investigators could get their hands on was the report of a doctor, who declared the girl was brought dead to the hospital. That won’t be sufficient for the police to proceed even with charges of culpable homicide against the parents.

Happy with her advertisements, the media never bothered to raise questions

Leading Hindi newspapers had quarter-page advertisements, announcing the grand function of completion of 68 days of fasting by 'bal tapasvi Aradhana'. These – and other newspapers too – could have raised the alarm in time. Why is everyone scared of talking about the wrongs in religions? Can anything be permitted under the garb of religious freedom?

9. More children are pressured to undertake fasts

13-year-old Aradhana (left) and her father (right). (Photo Courtesy: <i>The News Minute</i>)
13-year-old Aradhana (left) and her father (right). (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

According to Firstpost, children in some Jain families are socially pressured to undertake fasts. It said that Sanjay (name changed) was pressured by his mother to undertake an 11-day-long fast.

Fasts are difficult, but then my mother says, if someone else is doing it, why can’t you? So I and a couple of my friends did it.
Sanjay (name changed)

Aradhana and her glorification after death could wrongly inspire youngsters like Sanjay to push themselves towards more difficult and often impossible goals, the writer concluded. Local Jain community members claim that an eight-year-old from Ahmedabad went without food for 83 days. A six-year-old fasted for 75 days. This is nothing but cruelty against children.

Reform is the need of Jainism today. Jain monks, who preach to the world, need to address pressing issues within their community with an open mind. Or many more Aradhanas are going to die and no one will mourn for them. Their deaths too will be celebrated with great religious fervor.

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