NEW DELHI: Hundreds of members of a Muslim fishing community are seeking Indian court approval for euthanasia because they say administrative hurdles have made them unable to earn a living.
The 600-member community that has lived for 100 years in Porbandar district in western Gujarat state filed a request for euthanasia last week. Their village, Gosabar, is the only predominantly Muslim village in the area and the only one, they say, that since 2016 has not been allowed to moor fishing boats in the area.
Euthanasia and suicide attempts are illegal under the Indian Penal Code. Islam also prohibits suicide.
Fishermen say they cannot continue to live if they are unable to support themselves in the state that is home to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the stronghold of his Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata.
“Since 2016, we have suffered discrimination. They asked us to leave the village and go to another district,” the president of the Gosabara Muslim Fishermen’s Society, Allarakha Ismailbhai Thimmar, told Arab News.
“We have permits for boats and fishing. We petitioned the District Magistrate, Chief Minister of State and other officials but no one responded to our petition and in frustration we filed the petition in the High Court asking the right to commit euthanasia, because we cannot live like that.
Thimmar said neighboring Hindu communities in Gosabara have the same fishing permits as his village but, unlike them, are allowed to moor their boats. “Why shouldn’t we have the same rights and facilities? He asked.
While the Gujarat High Court is expected to hear the case in the first week of June, authorities in Porbandar say it is a technical matter, unrelated to religion.
“The reason can be technical or legal. Religion is definitely not the reason,” District Magistrate AM Sharma told Arab News.
“There are no major issues where people should resort to death and give that kind of representation in court. We will support the people,” he said.
“The Fisheries Department would sort it out.”
Dharmesh Gurjar, a lawyer from Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the fishermen, said the case showed a “failure of the state apparatus”.
“I was touched by the plight of Muslim fishermen,” he added. “These people are illiterate and very poor and cannot afford access to the high court.
He said fishermen had been allowed to moor their boats in the village before 2016 but permission was later denied. When they asked to be allowed to dock in another village, 8 km away, permission was also not granted.
“As a result, the fishermen are suffering, their income has been exhausted,” Gurjar told Arab News. “How can they survive then?” That’s why they went to court.
“They say they are like dead wood, and without a decent livelihood it is better to end life en masse. And they asked for mass euthanasia.