The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is caught in a bind over the Shani Shingnapur temple controversy in Maharashtra, where women activists planned to break a centuries-old tradition by entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temple on Tuesday.
While chief minister Devendra Fadnavis issued a statement backing the women’s entry to the Shani Shingnapur temple, he was careful to toe the line between both sides by saying the state government would act as a facilitator between the protesters and the temple authorities to resolve the issue.
As many as 350 women activists of the Bhumata Brigade attempted to barge into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra to break a 400-year-old tradition banning women from entering its sacred sanctum. Police however managed to stop the crowd at the village, about 70 km from the shrine.
The moment the buses of activists under the banner of Bhumata Brigade reached Supa village, the volunteers led by its President Trupti Desai were stopped from moving forward by scores of police personnel, who formed a ring around them to contain their march towards the famous temple.
The women were detained and taken to Supa police station.
While most political parties stayed away from the controversy, Aam Admi Party leader Ashutosh tweeted in support of the Bhumata Brigade that is leading the protest. “Why women are denied entry in Shani Temples?This is ridiculous.Traditions of hundreds years to be set aside.Women have every right to pray.”
BJP’s Subramanian Swamy also posted, “We must support women’s demand for equal rights to men’s for temple entry. Any Shastra sourced discrimination is amendable. Commies no!,?”
Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde said the government would facilitate talks between the temple authorities and women activists to arrive at an amicable solution.
“If there is a dispute between activists and temple authorities over allowing women access to the (Shani Shingnapur) temple, the state government will act as facilitator for talks between them so that the issue can be resolved amicably,” Shinde told PTI
Urging the volunteers to remain firm on their stand, Desai said that they were launching a “satyagrah” on the spot and would not even drink water unless they are allowed to move forward.
“This is brazen violation of the constitutional rights of women...We want to know from Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) why we have been stopped.. We will move ahead,” Desai asserted.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shani, the personification of planet Saturn, and women devotees are not permitted at the platform as per the tradition followed by the shrine.
(With inputs from agencies)