Women seeking entry to temples’ inner sanctum want govt to intervene3 min read . Updated: 07 Mar 2016, 10:50 PM IST
The police stopped and detained women activists of an organization called Bhumata Brigade at some distance from the Trimbakeshwar temple near Nashik
Mumbai: Women activists in Maharashtra, protesting against denial of entry to the inner sanctums of a couple of famous temples, made another attempt on Monday to force their way into a shrine.
The police stopped and detained women activists of an organization called Bhumata Brigade at some distance from the Trimbakeshwar temple near Nashik.
In January, activists of the same group had made an unsuccessful bid to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district.
The trusts governing both temples have cited the age-old tradition that debars women from entering the inner sanctum of these temples, though women are allowed access to other parts of the temples.
The Trimbakeshwar temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas across the country that are considered important by Hindu devotees. Monday also marked Mahashivratri, when the temple receives thousands of devotees. The Nashik police who detained the women activists told news channels that they had done so respecting the temple’s tradition and to “maintain law and order on a day when thousands of devotees thronged the temple".
Just before she was detained some 70 km from the temple, Bhumata Brigade president Trupti Desai told reporters that the temple trust’s decision was a serious violation of the principle of gender equality.
“This is a symbolic fight that we are fighting for the equal rights of women. How can god discriminate against women? How can they be denied the right to worship god wherever they want to?"
Sunil Ghanwat, convener of a committee of organizations supporting the temple trust’s decision, said the agitation by Bhumata Brigade was “a political stunt".
“The Bhumata Brigade has nothing worthwhile to do and so it has hit upon this idea for its survival. The tradition that denies entry to women to the inner sanctum has been respected by the likes of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, former President Pratibha Patil, and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia. It is an age-old tradition and it must be respected," Ghanwat said.
In January, when Desai led a similar campaign for entry to the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple, she also briefly met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who urged the temple trust to consider the outfit’s demand.
At a public function in Pune the same month, Fadnavis favoured the women’s demand and expressed displeasure that women still had to fight for their right to worship in the 21st century. The chief minister, however, left the final decision to the temple’s trust which last week decided to go by tradition.
On Monday, when she was detained, Desai again sought the government’s intervention.
Fadnavis’ Bharatiya Janata Party, however, is not convinced about the “intentions" of the Bhumata Brigade. “This is an age-old tradition respected by all women except this group which clearly has political objectives. Why did it not agitate before? Why did it not ask the previous Congress government to intervene," asked a state BJP functionary who requested anonymity.
A similar though low-decibel fight is also being waged by Muslim women for entry to the inner sanctum of the famous Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai. The trust of the dargah stopped entry of women in late 2011 claiming that allowing women anywhere close to the grave was “unIslamic".
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a Mumbai-based NGO that fights for Muslim women’s rights, has challenged this decision of the dargah trust in the Bombay high court.
Noorjehan Naaz, president of the BMMA, said she expected a decision in another two to three weeks. Maharashtra government has been made a respondent in this case and the state’s advocate general has told the court that the government favoured access to women to the dargah. “The stand taken by the state’s advocate general would help our campaign," Naaz said.