By Sanjay Sawant
Mumbai: Bhumata Brigade president Trupti Desai, who is spearheading the agitation against the Shani Shingnapur temple authorities seeking the end of 400-year-old tradition of not allowing women into the sanctum sanctorum, has received an anonymous threat letter on Friday warning her of dire consequences like thinker Narendra Dabholkar.
Dabholkar was found murdered on 20 August 2013. His fault -- he steadfastly vouched for the passing of the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance in the Maharashtra Assembly.
The two-page letter written in Marathi, a copy of which is with Firstpost, questioned her selection of Shani Shingnapur temple as her agenda at a time when her state Maharashtra is grappling with a plethora of other problems.
The letter warned her either to stay away from the issue or face fatal consequences like Dabholkar.
Desai has filed a complaint against unknown person at the Sahkar Nagar Police Station in Pune. A police officer confirmed about the threatening contents of the letter. "We will investigate the letter," the police officer said.
However, the Bhumata Brigade chief is not scared by the threat to her life.
"No, I am not frightened by the threat. If anyone is threatening to kill me, the person should come on record. He is afraid of me. That's why he has not dared to mention his name. This kind of threats are common in social service," Desai told Firstpost from Pune.
The letter asked Desai if she is aware that about farmers or school children committing suicide for want of money. It levelled charges against the Bhumata Brigade saying that the organisation is not doing enough when girls are repeatedly becoming victims of honour killing. The letter even had a suggestion for Desai advising her to focus on improving the quality of girl education.
She made it clear that although she has filed a police complaint she does not want a security detail accompanying her.
"I don't want police protection and I have not asked for it. The home portfolio is with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis but look at the law and order situation in the state. In the last two and half years thinker Dabholkar and Pansare were killed but the main culprits are still not in police net. It's really a shame on us," Desai said.
CPI leader Govind Pansare was fatally shot at on 20 February in Kolhapur last year.
Despite the threat perception, the Bhumata Brigade head said the agitation would go on.
"Last week we had asked for a meeting with the chief minister but he is too busy. Let's see or else we will hold a big agitation once again at Shani Shingnapur," she said.
Refuting allegations that she was being used by the Congress against the BJP, Desai said, "I was a Congress worker earlier. After we formed the Bhumata Brigade in 2007 in the Pune district, I have been associated only with that."
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam also backed the demand made by Bhumata Brigade on allowing women to pray at the sacred-most area of the temple.
"I am of the belief that women should be allowed equal rights at all temples," Nirupam said, adding, "Respecting women is our core value. They must be allowed in Shani Shingnapur temple."
The Maharashtra chief minister had voiced a similar opinion last week.
"Indian culture and Hindu religion give women the right to pray. A change in yesterday's traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue," Fadnavis, who also holds home portfolio, had said.
Desai said that the Bhumata Brigade, which is the parent organisation of its women wing Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, has both men and women as its members tries to help women in distress regularly particularly from western Maharashtra -- be it about eve teasing, dowry, exploitation, physical or sexual assault and corruption.
On being asked if she the support from her family in her protest against the Shani Shingnapur temple authorities, Desai said, "Yes, the whole family is behind me specially my husband Prashant. I have a six-year-old boy as well."