The decision by the Shani temple trust in Shingnapur, allowing women to go near the deity, is a major victory for crusaders from the state. But at the same time a contest is out in the open to claim the credit for the historic crusade that led to the amendment to the temple rules.
While Narendra Dabholkar in 2000 had first started the fight against gender inequality at places of worship, last year’s incident where a young woman touched the deity, sparked a major outrage, bringing the issue on the forefront. The young woman’s act stirred up the debate over gender inequality at Shani temple, which then witnessed agitation from women activists led by Trupti Desai.
While many women activists welcomed the step taken by the young woman, the villagers defended their act of purification of idol saying they were merely preserving the long-held practice. Picking up the thread, Desai under the banner Bhumata Brigade tried to storm into the temple on Republic Day although she was stopped en route by police.
Desai then persisted with her crusade even as yet another petition filed by Vidya Bal and Nilima Vartak came up for hearing before the Bombay high court.
It was Dabholkar who had taken out protest march at Shingnapur demanding entry to women. He was stopped by the trust, which is controlled by Nationalist Congress Party leader Shankarrao Gadakh. Dabholkar’s son Hamid, while reacting to the trust’s decision, said, “The decision to allow women inside the temple is an important step in the battle started by Dabholkar in 2000 against gender discrimination and upholding constitutional rights.” Hamid added that as long as a positive change is taking place, it does not matter who takes the credit for the change.