Santhara: Why the Jain form of ‘suicide’ is in the news
Santhara is a Jain tradition where a person invites death naturally, by giving up food and water. Recently depicted in Anand Gandhi’s award-winning Ship of Theseus, Santhara is not forced upon anyone, and yet according to reports, there are about 200 Jains undertaking the extreme penance.
A few weeks ago, the Rajasthan High Court deemed the practice illegal, and tantamount to suicide. It was deemed to clash with the fundamental Right to Life, and was declared illegal.
However, protests from the Jain community led to the Court rethinking the issue. Jains argued that it was a deeply religious act, and was never forced, or coerced on anybody. On the other hand, a Jain who chooses Santhara does it after all earthly wishes have been fulfilled, to attain Moksha (salvation).
Unlike suicide, which is unnatural death, Santhara is a personal choice to live with dignity, and ultimately embracing death. To know more about Santhara, please read this article.
The question of taking one’s life has always been the greatest philosophical debates of all time. Can a government decide when you wish to take your life?
Or is it a personal decision?