Mumbai: Welcoming the Shani Shingnapur temple trust's decision of allowing women devotees into the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday said discrimination on the basis of caste and gender should be eliminated from the minds of the people keeping with the modern times.
"If we have to progress in this 21st century then it is important that we remove this concept of discrimination of caste and gender from the minds of the people completely," Fadnavis said here.
The Temple Trust, on the auspicious occasion of Gudi Padwa --the traditional New Year in many parts of India--allowed female devotees entry inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine in Ahmednagar.
This happened after around 250 men from Shingnapur village entered the temple's sanctum sanctorum and offered prayers to the deity (Lord Shani) on the occasion of 'Gudi Padwa', even as temple officials tried to prevent them.
It has been a tradition for male devotees to climb up the sacred platform (chauthara) of the temple and offer water after performing a 'pooja' on Gudi Padwa every year.
Fadnavis said the government had filed an affidavit in the High Court making its stand clear that it does not discriminate between men and women for worshipping any deity and we believe in equal rights to both the genders and the court has also acknowledged our stand.
The Bombay High Court had on 2 April held that it is the women's fundamental right to go into places of worship and the government is duty-bound to protect it.
"Even after the directives, there occurred certain incidents which should not have happened. I strongly feel that there should not be use of police force when it comes to taking darshan," he said.
Fadnavis further said discrimination was never part of the Indian culture or Sanatan Dharma but was introduced later.
"Though law will do away with such discrimination but mentality of the society needs to be changed if we really have to progress," he added.
The debate over the issue escalated after a woman last year tried to enter and offer prayers at the Shani Shingnapur temple, in 'breach' of the age-old practise of prohibiting entry of women.
After the agitation for women's entry gained momentum over the last few months, the temple authorities had barred men also from entering the sanctum sanctorum.