Thursday, July 06, 2006

Monk starves to death: Is it suicide?

An elderly Jain monk killed himself of starvation in Bhind in Central India and thousands gathered from cities nearby and other states to attend the 'great event'.

After he died, the body was taken around in a decorated vehicle around the town and it was near-celebration. The monk Kshamasgar had stopped taking food earlier and then quit water also.

As news spread, the people kept pouring in. Had it been an ordinary person sitting on hunger strike police would have taken him away, booked and forced him to eat because it is almost a suicide.

However, the debate over this Jain tradition 'santhara' continues. It is also known as Sallekhana. Often elderly females who become 'useless' to family are urged by family members to go for that--the Tehelka had done a story on that in extreme detail.

However, the tradition continues for thousands of years in India. Jains being the rich merchants and due to their clout in media and politics no body speaks on this practice. The Women Commissions often speak on the issue when females do it or girls are turned Jain sadhvis at the age of 8 or 10 and have to live a full life of asceticism.

But none dares speak. After VHP is dominated by Jains. While in most communities and small sects, at least a couple of voices of dissent are heard about practices, not a single voice from within Jains is heard on the issue.

While Hinduism got rid of Sati and even worshipping in existing Sati temples is now made a crime, the Jain community continues such practices and there is support for Sallekhana among the adherents