Trupti Desai is deeply religious. Yet she was furious last November when priests of Maharashtra’s Shani Shingnapur temple ‘purified’ the main idol after a woman had sneaked onto the platform where the deity is placed. For some, it was yet another stunt by Desai when she attempted to storm the Shani temple this year.
It was slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar who first started the crusade for right to worship at Shani Shingnapur. Dabholkar along with several women led a march in 2000 seeking entry into the temple. He then decided to take the battle to court following which his Maharashtra Andha Shradhha Nirmulan Samiti filed a petition.
More than a decade-and-half later, Desai appears to be the strongest voice for women’s entry at various religious places in Maharashtra. “Friday’s HC verdict is an important step in the battle started by Dabholkar in 2000 against gender discrimination and upholding constitutional rights,” said Dabholkar’s son Hamid.
The HC while hearing a petition filed by Dabholkar’s associate Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta, ruled that entering temple is a fundamental right and the government is duty bound to protect the right.
Mother of six-year-old Yogiraj, Desai first hogged the headlines in 2008 when she led a motley crowd of women to gherao the then cooperative minister Parangrao Kadam, demanding a probe into alleged financial irregularities at the Ajit Coooperative Bank.
Before that, she founded the Bhumata Brigade in 2010. In 2011, she took part in Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. However, despite her activism, Desai’s husband Prashant says she is extremely spiritual. “She and her entire family are disciples of Gagangiri Maharaj.”
Despite her agitation being stalled, Desai is adamant on seeing her protest through. “If the government fails to act against the Shani temple trust, the Bhumata Brigade will launch an even bigger agitation,” she said.
While the movement sparked plenty of national interest, questions are being raised on how it was financed as hundreds of women reached the temple in buses while the brigade also claimed it had booked a helicopter to reach the venue. Clarifing the same, Desai said, “An organisation named Chhatrapati group helped us organise buses to take women from Kolhapur and Pune.”