Pune: The women's outfit spearheading the campaign against a centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform at Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra on Wednesday brought their fight to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for lifting of the restrictions.
A day after police foiled the attempt by 400 women activists to barge into the famous temple in Ahmednagar district as part of their high-voltage stir, Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai met Fadnavis in Pune and presented a memorandum of demands seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.
The meeting with Fadnavis took place on the sidelines of a function in Pune even as the Gram Sabha at the village where the shrine is located passed a resolution condemning Desai and her volunteers for attempts to storm the 'Chauthara" (sacred platform). The plan was foiled when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km away from the shrine. The activists were released after being detained for a few hours.
Fadnavis, who on Tuesday favoured a dialogue on the issue in the wake of a tense showdown, did not make any comment on the set of demands before leaving the venue.
Desai, however, told reporters that Fadnavis favourably responded to the demand as he accepted the memorandum with a positive assurance. She also suggested he visit the temple along with his wife to strengthen the women's cause.
Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform (chauthara) of the temple where only men are permitted to make offerings to the deity (Shani).
Fadnavis on Tuesday favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.
"Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women have 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.
Congress backed the campaign, saying that it is the "pious duty" of whole society to support such a move.
"This is also the responsibility of the government so that reason prevails over those people who are creating hurdles and problems in this direction," party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in New Delhi.
"I commend the move of one of the women's organisations of Maharashtra asserting their right of worship at Shani Shingnapur.
"Women have got equal rights in the field of religion and philosophy in our country for centuries. Doors of knowledge and religion should be open to everyone without any discrimination," he said.
MRCC president Sanjay Nirupam said he supports women's agitation for equal rights at the Shani temple.
"I am of the belief that women should be allowed equal rights at all temples," he said, adding, "Respecting women is our core value. They must be allowed in Shani Shingnapur temple."
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan opposed the ban, saying his party has always been against any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion and sex.
"LJP opposes the ban on women worshipping at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district. LJP has from the very beginning of its existence been opposing any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion or sex," Paswan said on Twitter.
महाराष्ट्र के अहमदनगर जिले के शनि शिंगणापुर मन्दिर में महिलाओं के पूजा पर पाबन्दी का लोक जनशक्ति पार्टी विरोध करती है।
— Ram Vilas Paswan (@irvpaswan) January 27, 2016
लोक जनशक्ति पार्टी शुरू से ही सार्वजनिक स्थलों पर धर्म, जाति और लिंग के आधार पर भेदभाव का विरोध करती रही है।
— Ram Vilas Paswan (@irvpaswan) January 27, 2016
Paswan heads Lok Janshakti Party, a key ally of NDA in Bihar.
The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief. Women devotees are not permitted on the 'chauthara' as per the tradition followed at the shrine.
The shrine has no walls or a roof. A five-foot black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.
A bid by the women's organisation to enter the prohibited area of the temple was foiled on 20 December, 2015 by security guards of the Shani Shingnapur Trust.
The Charity Commissioner's office had imposed restrictions on the proposed campaign fearing damage to property.
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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2016 22:12:44 IST