Barred from earning livelihood, Muslim fishermen ask Indian court for right to die

Special Barred from earning livelihood, Muslim fishermen ask Indian court for right to die
Fishermen unload their catch at Turkayamjal Lake, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Mar. 4, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 11 May 2022

Barred from earning livelihood, Muslim fishermen ask Indian court for right to die

Barred from earning livelihood, Muslim fishermen ask Indian court for right to die
  • 600-member community that has lived in Gujrat for 100 years filed euthanasia petition last week
  • Euthanasia, suicide attempts are illegal under Indian Penal Code, Islam also forbids suicide

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of members of a Muslim fishing community are seeking Indian court approval for euthanasia because they say administrative hurdles have rendered them unable to earn a living.

The 600-member community that has for the past 100 years been living in Porbandar district, western state of Gujarat, filed the euthanasia petition last week. Their village, Gosabar, is the only Muslim-majority settlement in the area and the only one, they say, that since 2016 has not been allowed to dock fishing boats in the area.

Euthanasia and attempts to commit suicide are illegal under the Indian Penal Code. Islam also forbids suicide.

The fishermen say they cannot continue living if they are unable to sustain themselves in the state that is home to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and stronghold of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Since 2016, we have been facing discrimination. They asked us to vacate the village and go to a different district,” Gosabara Muslim Fishermen’s Society President Allarakha Ismailbhai Thimmar told Arab News.

“We have the license for boats and fishing. We petitioned the district magistrate, the state chief minister and other officials, but no one replied to our petition, and in frustration we filed the petition in the high court seeking the right to commit euthanasia, as we cannot live like this.”

Thimmar said Hindu communities neighboring Gosabara have the same fishing licenses as his village but, unlike them, are allowed to dock their boats. “Why should we not get the same rights and facilities?” he asked.

While the Gujarat High Court is expected to take up the matter in the first week of June, authorities in Porbandar say the issue is a technical one, unrelated to religion.

“The reason may be technical or legal. Religion is certainly not the reason,” district magistrate A.M. Sharma told Arab News.

“There are no major issues for which people should resort to taking their lives and give that kind of representation to the court. We will support the people,” he said.

“The fisheries department would address the issue.”

Dharmesh Gurjar, a lawyer in Ahmedabad, the biggest city of Gujarat, who filed the court petition on behalf of the fishermen, said the case showed a “failure of the state machinery.”

“I felt touched by the plight of the Muslim fishermen,” he added. “These people are illiterate and very poor and don’t have the wherewithal to reach the high court.”

He said the fishermen were allowed to dock their boats in the village before 2016, but then permission was denied. When they asked to be allowed to dock in another village, 8 km away, approval also was not granted.

“As a result, the fishermen are suffering, their income has depleted,” Gurjar told Arab News. “How can they survive then? That’s why they approached the court.

“They say that they are like dead wood, and without a decent livelihood it’s better to end life en masse. And they asked for mass euthanasia.”