The Shani Shingnapur temple trust’s decision on Friday to allow women in the sanctum is likely to open floodgates of similar demands at other religious places.
The high court on March 30 ruled that entering a temple is a fundamental right of women and that the government is duty bound to protect this right. This judgement put temple trusts in a bind, especially after the Maharashtra government said it will follow the court’s ruling, days after it backed entry of women into the Haji Ali Dargah.
“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,” CM Devendra Fadnavis said in Mumbai. “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.”
Sources in the government said it was clear to the trust that it would have to relent or face the consequences, which could include the dissolution of the board.
For hundreds of years, several temples have prohibited women from entering the inner sanctum, where the deity’s idol is kept.
The BJP-led state government’s stand came in the backdrop of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh proclaiming that the restriction was unfair and discriminatory at a convention in Rajasthan’s Nagaur.
Demands are now being made for similar freedom at other temples and places of worship.
Trupti Desai of Bhumata Brigade said she will visit Kolhapur to launch an agitation seeking entry for women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Mahalaxmi temple.
“We started our crusade from Shani Shingnapur and took it further at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik and Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur, where women are still barred... We will be going to Kolhapur on April 13 to enter the sanctum sanctorum,” said Desai, who wrote to the Kolhapur district administration urging them to issue orders in this regard.
Trustees accepted they were under pressure to open their temples to women.