Even as you read this, social media is buzzing about a 13-year-old Jain girl, who died recently after fasting for 68 days in Secunderabad. There is outrage across the country, with child activists demanding severe action against her parents. There are various reports doing the rounds about Aradhana’s death, with some reports stating that the hospital gave her a ‘dead on arrival’ certificate.
One ludicrous excuse given by her parents is that she wanted to continue the fast even though they had dissuaded her from doing so.
Another report states that a priest had advised the family to let the teenager fast to improve the family’s fortunes. Another report suggested that the fast was meant to usher in good luck for their family business.
Whatever the truth, let us focus on the fact that a little girl has died — probably out of dehydration and organ failure. We need loud and clear voices from within the community criticising this hugely tragic and unnecessary loss of a young life. Any attempt to mask this death as anything other than murder — caused by meaningless fasting — needs to be shot down. Child rights organisations require more teeth and power, especially when it comes to taking on such cases. In our own small way, in social media or even by donation, let us help those fighting for children, as they are vulnerable and, often, the most exploited in our country.
It is time to try and stop the practice of fasting among children. It’s not always up to the government to step in to curb a malpractice. People from every community should introspect and arrive at a logical conclusion to save children from redundant rituals. Let’s celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child and mean it too. Not just outrage, Aradhana’s death should invoke a desire for change — for the better.