State authorities shrugged off responsibility in the Haji Ali dargah issue when they were approached by members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) on Wednesday. BMMA had sought state intervention in the management of the dargah that has restricted women from entering the sanctum sanctorum.
Members of the women's group presented a memorandum to state minorities commission chairman Munaf Hakeem and minorities minister Mohammad Arif Naseem Khan on Wednesday. However, the authorities refused to get involved, claiming that this was a "purely religious issue".
"The authorities kept passing the buck and brushed our concerns aside," said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder, BMMA. "While the minorities commission chairman told us the issue comes under the state Wakf board, the minorities minister said that since it is under the Sharia law, the state cannot intervene," she said.
When contacted, Khan said, "This is a religious issue and it is up to the maulanas and the muftis to take a call on it. I enquired with the Haji Ali trustees, but they said that muftis had issued a fatwa that women cannot enter the mazaar (grave), and hence the government cannot intervene in this matter."
Hakeem said the issue did not fall under the purview of the minorities commission. "This matter has to be dealt by the minorities minister and the Wakf board since it controls religious properties of the community," he said.
However, authorities from the Maharashtra State Board of Wakfs also claimed that the matter was beyond their purview. "The Wakf board only deals with the management of religious property and not with religious matters such as fatwas," said N D Pathan, CEO of the board.
"Moreover, a litigation by Haji Ali trustees to not be part of the Wakf board is still pending in the Supreme Court, and hence we cannot look into the matter," he said. BMMA said it will pursue the matter. "We will have a meeting with the national team to decide on the course of action," said Niaz.