Religion versus Law in Documentary on Santhara Ritual

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), September 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Religion versus Law in Documentary on Santhara Ritual


New Delhi, Sept. 18 -- Santhara, the Jain religious ritual of fasting unto death, is the subject matter of a new documentary by a Mumbai-based journalist-lawyer-film-maker. Taking an analytical approach to the sensitive subject, Shekhar Hattangadi brings the conflict between jurisprudence and religious belief into sharp focus and adds a fresh perspective to the heated debate on the issue.

The Rajasthan High Court had on August 10 held Santhara as illegal, making it punishable under section 306 and 309 IPC, but the Supreme Court stayed the high court order.

According to an estimate about 200 people undergo Santhara every year across the country.

Titled Santhara: A Challenge to Indian Secularism?, the documentary explores the question - what happens when an age-old traditional religious practice violates the law?

"In faith-based societies like ours, there is a friction between traditional religious practices and legal and constitutional principles. What fascinates me so much about Santhara is the fact that it's the most dramatic example of the law-versus-religion conundrum in contemporary India," says Hattangadi.

The movie, which belongs to the emerging genre of issue-based documentaries, evocatively explores the spiritual, scriptural, ethical, social, medico-legal aspects of the issue. …

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