On October 3, a day after she finished her fast, the girl fainted and was rushed to a hospital, only to be declared dead.

We didnt force her she insisted Father of 13-yr-old Jain girl who died after 68-day fast
news News Sunday, October 09, 2016 - 11:25

This wasn’t the first time Aradhana Samadaria took to religious fasting. “She was just 7-years old when she started it,” her father Lakshmichand Samadaria recalls, sitting at his jewellery shop in Hyderabad’s Pot Bazar. “In 2014, she fasted for 8 days. Last year she fasted for 34 days during the chaumasa,” says the devout Jain father, with a hint of pride.

This year, however, her 68-day fast possibly ensured that it would be the last time she ever fasted. Late in the night of October 3, a day after she finished her long fast, she fainted and was rushed to the hospital. But she was already dead. For more than 2 months, she had not had any food, surviving on boiled water. She was just 13-years old.

“We did not force her. This year, inspired by the Navakar mahamantra which consists of 68 words, she insisted on fasting for 68 days,” her father now insists. He says that though she was a bright student, she wanted to become a nun. “She used to take part in cultural events of the Jain community as she was attracted towards the religion,” he says.

She broke her fast on October 2, taking liquids and was healthy till next day, according to her family. “We were observing her every day. She took her daily oath only after observation by gurus at the Jain temple,” says the father.

On October 3, hours before her death, she was reportedly playing with her father and grandfather. Around 11pm she felt sick, and collapsed and started sweating, the family says. They immediately took her to the KIMS hospital where doctor said she died due to cardiac arrest. She was declared brought dead, her time of death recorded in the wee hours of October 4.

“It was very shocking for us, she was fine few hours ago and then suddenly the doctors said she is no more with us,” the father says.

He remembers taking her to the temple every morning for prayers. She loved singing. Lakshmichand used to recite slokas and she would sing along. “I can still hear her singing when I pray every morning,” he says, as his eyes fill up with tears.

“I have never forced her to do anything. We allowed her to take the fast because she was healthy. Even when I came to know she wanted to become a Jain nun, I asked her to take the decision only after she turned 16-years old,” he says.

Child rights activists Achyutha Rao, however, is not buying the family’s portrayed benevolence, and is enraged at Aradhana’s death. He has shot off a letter to the city police commissioner M Mahender Reddy, demanding that a case be registered against the family.

Achyutha alleges that the girl was forced to fast by her family, resulting in her death. He says that the 13-year-old was on fast as per Jain rituals during the holy period of ‘Chaumasa’, the belief being that it will bring profits to her father’s jewellery business.

“It is a barbaric incident. It is murder and they should be punished. The officials should take strict action against such practices and never allow anything like this happen again,” he says.

What has further angered many is the celebration of her death with a ‘shobha yatra’, and calls to anoint her ‘bal tapasvi’. The yatra was attended by hundreds of Jain community members, and her funeral conducted with religious fanfare.

Lakshmichand however denies these allegations, saying that Jain rituals and traditions are more about living a simple life, leaving behind wealth and comfort. “If I want profit for my business, why would I spend lakhs on the rituals rather than spending it on my business?” he asks.

“Being a father, why would I kill my daughter for the sake of rituals and business profit? My daughters are more precious to me than anything else,” he says.

But even if their intentions were good, activists say that it is gross negligence on their part to allow a 13-year-old to go on a 68-day long 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,” Achyutha points out.

Child rights activist Maya Gaitonde also says that the parents should have taken extra care. "Every religion and culture has its own traditions where fasting may be required. However, extra care should be taken by the parents to ensure that the child can take the pressure of the fast. In this case especially, the child was taking on a fast that is usually done by adults and the parents should have been more careful,” she says.

The family could be in the dock now, but it wasn’t just them who celebrated the fatal fast.

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. More than 1500 people attended the event they conducted at the Jain Bhavan after the rath yatra.

Over the days, thousands of people visited her, to ‘bless her’.

One of them was Telangana Minister of Excise & Prohibition T Padma Rao. In fact, posters which celebrated the fast, had his photo plastered on the side.

When The News Minute spoke to him, he was shocked to hear about her death. "I stay in Pot Bazar and I know the girl's father. During her fast, he had asked me to just pay them a visit and bless the girl. So, one day I just went for two minutes and met the girl. What happened to her is very unfortunate,” he said.

Update: Based on the compaint give by Anuradha Rao of the AP Balala Hakkula Sangham, the Hyderabad police have filed an FIR against the parents of Aradhana Samadaria under various sections of the IPC and the Juvenile justice act. 

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