Bhalchandra Nemade says it is a ‘beautiful way to end one’s life’
Jnanpith Awardee and revolutionary Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade on Saturday defended ‘Santhara’, also known as Sullekhana, a four-century-old Jain religious ritual of fasting unto death for the departure of the soul from the body, which is declared as an ‘illegal’ and ‘punishable’ act by the Rajasthan High Court.
Nemade said, “Santhara is a voluntary act carried out rationally and cannot be considered suicide. It is the most peaceful way to end one’s life as compared to the western practice of taking poisonous injections or medicine. It is a beautiful way to end one’s life!”
He was addressing an audience at the ‘Contemporary of Literature and Society’ organised by Rajeev Gandhi Contemporary Study Center of the University of Mumbai at its Kalina campus.
Earlier, on Tuesday, the Rajasthan High Court termed the practice of Santhara to be a punishable act under section 309 of the IPC as an attempt to commit suicide. The court also deemed support to Santhara by any person as punishable as abetment under section 306 of the IPC.
Jain spiritual leaders take the vow of Santhara and stop eating and drinking till their last breath to depart from their earthly body. Earlier, in 2006, Santhara was in the news after 93-year-old Keila Devi Hirawat, who hailed from Jaipur, Rajasthan ended her life after observing Santhara. It had triggered a worldwide debate on social media.
A writer of Hindu and Kosala novels, Nemade said that we have a great heritage and traditions that are tried and tested over centuries. However, the problem arises when we look at them through a western perspective, which is derived from colonialism.
He said, “Santhara is a thoughtful process as compared to that of hanging or taking poisonous injections to commit suicide. It takes a month or so to part away from the body, and so one has every chance or opportunity to re-think the decision, unlike other practices.”
S S Khona, a Kuchi Jain, said, “If one is content in one’s life and one does not have further wishes in life, he can take the vow of Santhara. It is not for common people like us, who always have a bundle of wishes.”
He argued, “It is something one does with full knowledge and intent, unlike suicide, which is typically an emotional and impulsive act.”