Religious suicide ritual raises constitutional conflict in India

By Ellen Barry and Mansi Choksi
A portrait of Manikchand Lodha, a member of the Jain religion in Pune, India, who took a vow of santhara and fasted until he died on Aug. 16. Credit Serena De Sanctis for The New York Times
INDIA---On a bed in a corner of a large sitting room, surrounded by a crowd of reverent visitors, the family’s 92-year-old patriarch, Manikchand Lodha, was fasting to death. It was the culmination of an act of santhara, a voluntary, systematic starvation ritual undertaken every year by several hundred members of the austere, ancient Jain religion. Mr. Lodha had begun the process some three years earlier, after a fall left him bedridden. This is a thorny constitutional question for India, which enshrines both the right to life and to religious practice. [link]