A group of women from Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, an organisation for women, was stopped from entering the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra on Tuesday. The women were trying to enter the temple and end the practice of not allowing women to enter the inner sanctum of the shrine.
The 350 women activists were stopped by police in a village 70 km from the shrine as they tried to break a 400-year-old tradition banning women from entering its sacred sanctum.
The activists were also detained by the police but were released later on, reported PTI.
The moment the buses of activists under the banner of Bhumata Brigade reached Supa village, the volunteers led by its President Trupti Desai were disallowed from moving forward by scores of police personnel, who formed a ring to foil their march towards the famous temple.
"Today is a black day for women," Desai told Times Now as the protesters were stopped from entering the temple by the police. "The police are telling us we cannot go forward, but we will go forward," she further said. She also demanded to know why women were being discriminated against.
"This is brazen violation of the constitutional rights of women...We want to know from Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) why we have been stopped.. We will move ahead," Desai asserted.
In a tense showdown, the activists vehemently protested against the police action and raised slogans and lay down on the road, screaming "it is a black day for women on the Republic Day."
"Police has stopped around 350 women at Supa and necessary action will be taken against them," Additional Superintendent of Police, Pankaj Deshmukh told PTI.
Desai later also claimed that some women had, in fact, entered the temple.
Eventually, the protest intensified as the women refused to leave the area and said they will not leave the area until they are allowed inside the temple.
An angry Desai said she will do satyagraha and go on a hunger strike to protest against this ridiculous practice. "I will not even drink water," she said.
Squatting and lying on the highway along with other campaigners, she alleged that they were "manhandled" by the police personnel.
She urged the "young" Chief Minister to step in and take urgent measures to curb attempts and social mechanisms to suppress womens' voice and their empowerment.
"Why is this clash of egos even taking place? We are asking for our basic right to do darshan," said another protester.
Bhumata Ranragini Brigade had on Monday threatened to storm the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar — if need be, from the sky route even via a helicopter.
"We have already booked a helicopter and if we are not permitted to enter from the open ground, we shall drop ladders from the chopper and climb down. We are not scared of any security since women's rights are concerned," Desai had told IANS on Monday.
She had said around 1,500 women from all over Maharashtra shall troop down to the temple on Tuesday morning and offer prayers at the temple which is dedicated to Lord Shani and where women devotees are not permitted.
The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged five-foot high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.
The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.
With agency inputs