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Indian Jain group seeks exemption to allow monks to defecate in the open

By Ben Hooper
Indian Jain group seeks exemption to allow monks to defecate in the open
Digambara Jain ascetics partake in a religious ceremony in Ajmer, Rajasthan, India. A group representing Digambara Jain monks is asking the state government of Madhya Pradesh to exempt the monks from planned rules banning public defecation. Photo by Daniel J. Rao/Shutterstock.com

BHOPAL, India, May 2 (UPI) -- A sect of the Jain religion in India is petitioning a state government to exempt its monks from expected rules banning defecation in the open -- a practice said to be part of their traditions.

The Digamber Jain Social Group Federation, which represents Digambara Jains, one of the two main sects of Jainism, said it is petitioning Gopal Bhargava, Madhya Pradesh's state minister of panchayat and rural development, to exempt monks and seers from expected bans on defecating in the open.

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India has been seeking to end public defecation by 2019 for public health reasons and has been building toilets around the country and encouraging states and local governments to institute strict laws to keep defecation out of the streets.

"We have asked the government to allow our monks and seers to attend the nature's call in the open as they never use toilets for doing so," Ravindra Jain, the acting president of the federation, said in remarks quoted by the Hindustan Times. "They follow a centuries-old strict lifestyle in which they only go in secluded or forested areas to attend nature's call and that too once in a day."

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Jain said the group fears Madhya Pradesh could soon have anti-defecation laws and penalties similar to those found in Rajasthan.

"Madhya Pradesh is one of the states where Jain monks travel, and if this rule is implemented then it will surely create problems for them who are very strict about following their lifestyle," he said.

Bhargava's personal assistant said the official had yet to receive any such request from the Jain community.

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