Do you recall this trick question? There are two lines of the same length. Can you shorten one without lengthening the other?
The solution of course is to erase a part of one line from either end, and there it was. One short, one long.
Nashik's Trimbakeshwar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, has come up with a similar solution to the issue of allowing women to enter the sanctum sanctorum. Instead of conferring equal rights on women and allowing them to enter, they have taken away the rights of men by barring their entry.
There is something called a vested right which is hard to take away. But a denied right can be conferred. That is a positive action. Otherwise it is like the old socialists and the communists’ ways of ensuring economic equality: make everyone poor instead of pulling up the poor.
Soon after the Bombay High Court ordered that women be allowed entry on the basis of existing laws, two things happened: women sought entry to the Shani Shingnapur temple, even warned the state that they would file a contempt of court charge. However, they were prevented access on the grounds that they would be "attacked". The Trimbakeshwar temple trust initially assured the authorities that they would comply with the ruling and open the sanctum's doors to women. However, media reports stated that soon after, the Trimbakeshwar trust reneged on their agreement and took away the men's right.
Women who are true proponents of equality will not like this at all. Men too are going to be ruffled.
However, curiosities never end. The priests at Trimbakeshwar are upset because a significant part of their income comes from taking men to the sanctum sanctorum and performing pujas. Not being able to do so means their income would lessen considerably. They are now singing a different tune and saying they'd rather allow women in than bar the entry of men.
The interesting thing is everyone wants to bring the temperature down without extinguishing the fire. Even the consultations involving Chief Minister Devendra Fadanavis, held prior to the court order, achieved nothing.
Had it not been for the High Court taking up the petition by women activists to end discrimination at places of worship, we may not have known that there was a law against discrimination on statute since 1956. It is called The Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act. It is applicable to places of worship of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists.
The point to note is that while citizens may not have been aware of the law, the government certainly was and yet did little to end the discriminatory practice. If Dalits were denied entry, the law invoked was the Protection of Civil Rights Act, instead of the The Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act. Did the authorities think that Dalits were not Hindus and could not benefit from the law? It was the High Court which asked the Maharashtra government to invoke the law.
The High Court demanded that women be allowed access because “provisions in law already allow this”. The authorities have to “act against those preventing it”. And yet, when the Bhoomata Brigade went to Shingnapur, they were prevented access because of the fear that they would be attacked. Also, the local authorities were waiting for a formal legal notification.
Obviously the forces of orthodoxy are strong and allow custom and belief to prevail over the law.
First Published On : Apr 5, 2016 18:21 IST