Pune: Elated after the Bombay High Court verdict allowing women's entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, members of city-based Bhumata Ranragini Brigade led by Trupti Desai, who has been spearheading the fight for gender equality in all places of worship, have decided to visit the shrine this weekend.
"We welcome the decision of the High Court. It is a tight slap on the faces of those who put a ban on women's entry into the Dargah. It's a big victory of women power," said Desai celebrating the verdict with her group outside her office in Pune.
"This is a landmark decision. The right that women are entitled to get, the right that has been given to women in the Constitution, that were somewhere taken away from us. The ban was on entry of women in the 'mazar' (area) of the Haji Ali dargah.
"We have been fighting against the secondary status given to women... patriarch mentality, this 'dadagiri' (high-handed) attitude of the (shrine) Trust that 'we will not allow women'...This (the verdict) is a victory of movement of Bhumata Ranragini brigade," she added.
The women group led by Desai will visit the shrine in the heart of Mumbai on 28 August.
"Though the high court has stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which wants to challenge it in the Supreme Court, we will go on 28 August till the point where women are allowed and will seek blessings," she told reporters here.
Desai had led a high-profile campaign in April this year to break the bar on women at the core area of the Dargah, but was stopped short of entering the shrine at the last minute amid resistance by activists of outfits opposed to the move.
However, in May she offered prayers at the Dargah but skipped venturing into the inner chamber of the shrine where women were not allowed.
The women's rights activist, whose previous campaigns were centred around Hindu temples, had then maintained that her agitation for right to equality for women at places of worship is not linked to any religion.
Bibi Khatoon, another social activist and member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) - a Muslim women's rights group, which had fought the ban, too rejoiced the verdict and said, "Firstly, I would like to thank the High Court judge, Kanade Sir. All these women who have been fighting for this right for sometime now had taken a back seat fearing what society will say...but then let the society say what they want to...but what we want do, we will do."
"The Sufi saints too were given birth by women, then why we are being barred (from entering into the inner area of the dargah). Had the court not decided in our favour, we would have approached the Supreme Court. But we are very happy today that the court came to our rescue. I am thankful to our advocates, Raju Moray sir, and the entire media," she said.
The demand for equal access to the Haji Ali Dargah was first raised by BMMA, which had filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court in August 2014 against the "blatant discrimination on the ground of gender alone".
The Dargah Trust had defended its stand, saying that it is referred in Quran that allowing women close proximity to the dargah of a male saint is a grievous sin. Men have unhindered access to the actual burial place of the saint, and are also allowed to touch the tomb.
Earlier this year, women managed to break the gender bias and gained full access to Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
The fight to allow women into the shrine, built on an islet, 500 metres from the coast, intensified following a petition in the Supreme Court demanding entry for women to the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala.