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Religious coercion blamed for the death of an Indian teenager

Religious coercion blamed for the death of an Indian teenager

A 13-year-old girl who undertook a 68-day religious fast, apparently after being told that it would improve her parents financial  situation, died of cardiac arrest this week.

According to this report, her family claims that several religious heads of the community have written to them saying that Aradhana’s death is not to be mourned as a loss but to be looked upon as a matter of pride.

Aradhana’s father Lakshmichand Samdariya is now being accused by Balala Hakkula Sangh, a child rights organisation, of allowing his daughter to die in the hope of bettering his business prospects.

It is reported here that the girl observed the Chaturmas fast to bring good luck to her family. Her father had recently suffered huge loss in his jewellery business. A Chennai-based priest had advised the girl’s parents to ask their daughter to observe the fast in order to recover from the loss in business and to earn huge profits.

Psychologists point out that subtle coercion by parents can psychologically maim a child. Said Purnima Nagaraja, a clinical psychiatrist:

The messaging is important. When religion is brought into the mix, it also brings in guilt if not conformed to. The child is made to believe it is for the good of the family. What is sacrificed is the health of the minor.

Religious leaders however, deny any coercion to fast and say fasting by youngsters is not uncommon. Maharasa Ravinder Muniji, a Jain monk in Hyderabad said:

Pregnant women or those who are unwell should not fast. But there is no bar on children fasting. But how much they should fast ought to depend on their own individual capacity.

However Sanjay, (name changed), says his mother had pressured him to undertake a 11-day fast.

It was difficult but then my mother would say, if someone else is doing it, why can’t you. So I and a couple of my friends did it.

Sanjay, 16, says his parents now say what happened to Aradhana was wrong, although what she achieved is great.

I also would like to emulate her. However, I think her parents should have stopped her. It is their mistake.

Child rights activist Isidore Phillips says any religious or spiritual practice or any form of abstinence has to be age appropriate.

You cannot put the burden of religion on a child; it mars the child’s thinking. The family has the custodial responsibility of the child. In this case, it clearly failed to guide Aradhana. We need to go slow on such practices.

Horrified members of the Jain community are now raising their voice against this practice. One of them, Lata Jain said:

The problem is with the manner in which the youngsters who fast are lauded at community meetings by religious elders. If not a murder, this is a suicide.

Aradhana Samdariya was not from an uneducated family. She was a class 8 student at St Francis in Hyderabad, but she stopped going to school after starting upvaas, a fasting ritual. Her father and grandfather are in the jewellery business and own a shop in the Pot Bazaar area of Secunderabad. Her two aunts are doctors, one a paediatrician and the other a gynaecologist.

7 responses to “Religious coercion blamed for the death of an Indian teenager”

  1. Broga says:

    It is the weakest and defenceless who are the victims. Not the priests, the mullahs, the imams, the bishops. They select the sacrifices and applaud those gullible and sufficiently misguided to throw away their young and often female lives.

  2. L.Long says:

    ALL religions are inherently evil!

  3. Tom Petty says:

    Fucking Primitive

  4. Paul says:

    ‘What she achieved was great’.

    How the fuck does starving to death become considered a great achievement ?

  5. 1859 says:

    ‘….A Chennai-based priest had advised the girl’s parents to ask their daughter to observe the fast in order to recover from the loss in business and to earn huge profits….’

    Yet again superstition overriding common sense and reason: and the result? The pointless death of a young person with yet another layer of superstition added to compound the first –

    ‘…saying that Aradhana’s death is not to be mourned as a loss but to be looked upon as a matter of pride….’

    Is not this proof positive that religious belief is a manifestation of group insanity? An entire group believes and preaches the moon is really a marshmallow. One person says ‘No, you’re wrong.’ – then this one person is insane and will probably be stoned to death for the apostasy. Religion has nothing to do with reality – it’s the malign workings of human fantasy usually to control and benefit from the gullibility of others too scared to question and say ‘No, you’re wrong.’

  6. John the Drunkard says:

    How far would the priest have gotten with this terrible advice if he had suggested that someone with an actual connection to the jewellery business should do the fasting?

    But noooo! pressure a dependent child to starve herself for daddy. The godly way.

  7. Trevor Blake says:

    Religion is hard to define in an inclusive way. But I have a definition that seems to include them all:

    Systematic child sacrifice.