Hurdle to Swachh Bharat Goal as Jains Invoke Ahimsa to Defend Open Defecation

Published: 27th September 2015 05:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2015 05:50 AM   |  A+A-


NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has hit a stumbling block. The Prime Minister may have wanted an India free of open defecation but his pet scheme seems to have antagonised a community.

A section of the Jain community wants an exception for their saints who say open defecation is part of their religion. The Digambar Jains have approached the Centre against a ban on open defecation because their Munis consider it a religious ritual and that is how they answer the call of nature. The community is concerned about the goals of the Swachh Bharat mission, which aims at 100 per cent open defecation-free India by 2019.

Rajasthan-based Dharam Bachao Andolan Samiti has written to several leaders in the NDA government to exempt their saints from the open defecation ban and treat it as a special case, keeping in mind their religious faith. The primary reason given by the community is that flushing will kill micro-organisms and killing any living organism is considered a sin in the religion. 

Dharam Bachao Andolan Samiti, one of the organisations that approached the Supreme Court opposing the Rajasthan High Court order against Santhara, has early this month sent memorandums to Cabinet ministers, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, explaining how any ban on open defecation will hurt the sentiments of the Jain community.

“We are really concerned after statements by some Cabinet ministers on banning open defecation. We thought of bringing it to their notice that the practice of open defection by Digambar Jain Munis is an age-old practice and the government should exempt the community keeping in mind our religious belief,” said Hemant Sogani, a member of the Samiti and an advocate.  The group is planning to take it up with many other important leaders in the days to come. If need be, they will not shy away from approaching the court. The community has already succeeded in getting a stay from the Supreme Court early this month on the Rajasthan High Court order declaring Santhara, the Jain ritual of fasting unto death, as illegal.

“Jains practice many rituals and the government cannot thrust upon us anything which goes against our non-violence beliefs. If needed, we may launch a peaceful protest and take legal measures to protect our religious practices,” said Mukeshbhai Kothari Jain, who hails from Gujarat. Explaining the reason behind the Jain practice, Ramesh Jain Gangwal of Jaipur-based Jain Rajnitik Chetna Manch said that Jains consider hurting or killing any living organism as a sin and that is why flushing faeces is avoided and they believe in leaving it in open.

The practice of open defecation poses a big challenge to the Swachh Bharat mission. According to the United Nations report, “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation- 2014”, India still has the largest number of people (nearly 60 crore) defecating in open in the world. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to construct 12 crore toilets in rural India by October 2019 at a projected cost of `1.96 lakh crore.

In his Independence Day speech this year, Modi said the country had achieved the target of building nearly 4.25 lakh toilets across various schools.

Stay up to date on all the latest Nation news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp