In an incident that has invited criticism from all political parties, women were stopped from occupying the first three rows of chairs in a felicitation ceremony for Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday.
Fadnavis was being felicitated by the Shree Santacruz Jain Tapagaccha Sangh for his government's decision to ban the slaughter of cows and calves at the Swaminarayan Temple.
The episode came to light after a female reporter Rashmi Puranik of Marathi television channel ABP Mazha was asked to move to the fourth row, saying the first three were reserved for men.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Sangh told the media that in their sect, where monks follow a strict practice of celibacy, women are not allowed not sit near them.
Despite intervention by the Bharatiya Janata Paty's (BJP's) Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar, who requested the organisers to allow the reporter to sit, all female reporters were asked to sit beyond the fourth row.
Fadnavis, who was informed about the incident, criticised the attitude of the community in his speech.
"We are in the 21st century and all such practices which discriminate against women should be stopped. If we do not put an end to such practices and treat women and men equally then we are not going to move ahead on the path of development. I request you to stop this tradition and treat women equally," said Fadnavis.
Several female spokespersons of various political parties said that such discriminatory attitude is unacceptable.
Shiv Sena's Neelam Gorhe said it is necessary that such issues are debated and women's discrimination is fought against.
"There are different religions having different beliefs and there are many which have rules not favouring women. Our religion needs to grow ahead and not look behind. At an age where you have women monks (sadhvis), and religious rites are carried out by women pundits, this kind of treatment is not acceptable," said Gorhe.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Chitra Wagh and Congress' Rajni Patil too criticised the incident.
Shaina NC, spokesperson of the BJP, said that such incidents should be completely detested.
"In our culture women are given priority and encouraged to come ahead. It is appalling that instead of offering a seat to women they are asking them to sit away," said Shaina.