Investigation into the death of a 13-year-old Jain girl after 68 days of fasting has ground to a halt as Hyderabad Police say they can’t proceed in the absence of physical clues or a post-mortem report.
Officers say Aradhana Samdariya – who died after performing the Jain ritual of “tapasya” – was cremated within hours of her death on October 3, six days before a police case was registered following complaints from child-rights organisations.
“There is no possibility of any post-mortem and it is difficult for us to ascertain the actual reason for the death,” Secunderabad market police inspector M Mattaiah, who is investigating the case, told HT. But despite growing calls for the arrest of the girl’s parents, the police ruled out the possibility.
The death triggered national outrage and put the spotlight on the controversial ritual that allegedly took the girl’s life with many child-rights activists saying the parents should be held responsible for coercing their daughter.
But Jain leaders have pushed back at the mounting criticism, saying they were being unfairly targeted and that their practices were harmless.
Hospital records show the girl was brought dead on October 3 and the cause of death was shown as cardiac arrest. “This can happen for any reason. Parents and community leaders say Aradhana died two days after the completion of fasting; so, there is no reason to believe that the immediate cause of death was only fasting, though it could be one of the reasons,” Mattaiah said.
He also dismissed the possibility of arresting Lakshmichand Samdariya and his wife Manisha, parents of Aradhana at this stage. “We don’t think there is any need to arrest them just based on the complaint. We are taking legal opinion before proceeding further, as it also involves the religious practices of Jain community,” the official said.
In their representation to Hyderabad Police commissioner M Mahender Reddy a couple of days ago, several Jain associations under the banner of Sri Jain Seva Sangh said section 304 (2) of the Indian penal code– culpable homicide — was not applicable to Aradhana’s parents as they had not forced her to take up fasting and had no intention of killing her. “No parents want their daughter to die. It can be treated as an accidental death or an act of God,” association leader Vinod Kumar Kimti said.
The Andhra Pradesh Child Rights Association said it was receiving e-mails and calls from various Jain communities nationwide and even from some purported Vishwa Hindu Parishad members, asking it to withdraw the case or face dire consequences.
“I have received at least 50 mails from various Jain groups, mostly from Maharashtra, in the last few days, demanding that I withdraw the case. Some of them even threatened me with dire consequences, if I do not do so,” association honorary president P Achyuta Rao told HT.
He said a couple of leaders, claiming to be from VHP, sought to know why I was after the Aradhana case. “They asked me why I did not up the case of several Muslim boys injure themselves and indulging in beating of their bodies during Muharram,” he pointed out.
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