Monday, October 10, 2016

Indian teen dies after 68-day fast

For more than two months, a 13-year-old in India took part in an extreme religious fast. Recently she called off that fast, but she fell into a coma two days later and died of cardiac arrest and now her parents, well-off jewelers in Hyderabad, and other family members have been charged with homicide. Aradhana Samdariya's relatives insist that she chose to embark on the 68-day fast of her own volition as part of a ritual in Jainism, an ancient Indian religion that believes "the way to liberation and bliss is to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation" and whose foundation lies in the "concern for the welfare of every being in the universe." But others, including the children's rights group that filed the complaint against Aradhana's family, say that the young teen was coerced, perhaps in the misguided belief it would make her father's business more profitable. Aradhana's grandfather notes that it's not the first time the girl had fasted: He says that she had pulled off an eight-day fast and a 34-day fast, and so was determined to go even longer this time. Apparently the father's business was faltering and the family's guru suggested having Aradhana fast for good luck. According to some accounts she lived on nothing but boiled water during her starvation. Psychologists say that children are especially vulnerable to the guilt that may lure them into such dangerous practices. "The child is made to believe it is for the good of the family," one expert says. "What is sacrificed is the health of the minor."

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