A child rights activist in Hyderabad alleges that he has received a death threat following his fight in the case of 13-year-old Aradhana Samadaria, a Jain girl who died after fasting for 68 days.
This comes after the Hyderabad police dropped all charges against her parents, and the activist moved court to reopen it.
Aradhana had died in October last year after fasting for 68 days as part of a religious custom, and activists had filed a complaint against her parents for violating her rights as a child.
Achyuta Rao, who works with the NGO Balala Hakkula Sangham (BHK) and is a former member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), said that he received the call on Saturday.
"It was around 5pm when I got the call. The person at the other end first established my identity, and began talking about Kashmir, and how our soldiers were being beaten there. He asked me if I would ever take action on that," Achyuta told The News Minute.
"I was confused, and I told him that I was a child rights activist, and my work was confined to Telangana," he narrates.
Achyuta says that the caller then asked him about his religion, adding, "He asked me why I was interfering in the religion of Hindus and Jains. I told him that my work was not related to religion. He then asked me why I reopened the case after the police dropped it, and said that he had put out a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on my head."
The caller claimed to have called from Ahmedabad.
Following this, Achyuta wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, detailing the incident, and asking for an inquiry. He also sought police protection in the letter.
"The police are yet to respond, but I will not be intimidated. I will work for the rights of children till my last breath," Achyuta says.
The Aradhana case
Late on the night of October 3, 2016, a day after she finished her 68-day fast, Aradhana fainted. She was then rushed to the hospital, where she was declared "brought dead" after a cardiac arrest.
For more than two months prior to her death, she had survived only on boiled water.
The incident came to light only four days later, after Achyuta lodged a complaint with the Hyderabad police.
At the time, The News Minute spoke to Aradhana's father, Lakshmichand Samadaria, who claimed that they had not forced their daughter to observe the fast, and that she herself had insisted on keeping one.
While many Jain leaders also came forward to defend the parents, activists called Aradhana's death a 'murder', stating that the parents encouraged her and even took her out in a procession on the last day of her fast.
"Allowing a child starve to death, even if it was for religious rituals, is criminal. Action must be taken against them under child protection laws," Achyuta had pointed out at the time.
Following the complaint, the Market police station in Secunderabad had booked Aradhana's parents, Lakshmichand and Manisha Samadaria, under Section 304 (II) of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), and Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
However, last month, the police dropped the case, citing 'lack of evidence'.
"The girl was cremated soon after her death. We cannot establish the cause of death because there is no scope for exhumation. The doctor gave a medical report suggesting it was due to cardiac arrest. It indeed is difficult to go ahead with charges against the parents," a senior official from the North Zone police had told Deccan Chronicle.
Calling the police act "biased", Achyuta had said that there was "strong evidence" in the form of an advertisement in the daily, Hindi Milap, released by the family just after Aradhana had completed her fast.
The police even "facilitated the accused to go out of state to enable them to escape for the arrest and awaited till they get relief from court not to arrest... (sic)", Achyuta had claimed.
Achyuta has now managed to reopen the case by approaching a local court.
"We have asked the court to either personally oversee the investigation, or hand over the responsibility to an organisation like CBI. We have no trust in the police," he says.
He adds that the court has also served notices to the police and Aradhana's parents to appear before it on April 24.
"We have also submitted the HC's statement, when they had denied bail to Aradhana's parents, which had said that parents are responsible for their children," Achyuta adds.