High drama was witnessed in south Mumbai on Thursday evening, as women’s right activist Trupti Desai tried to enter the Haji Ali shrine, only to be turned away twice.
Desai, who heads the Bhoomata Ranragini Brigade, campaigning for the rights of women in places of worship, was in the city to attend a peaceful protest by a Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye, a forum formed earlier this month. When Desai and her supporters reached the area around 5.15pm, a group, allegedly carrying flags of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), tried to stop them.
“Some of them were carrying knives and sticks. The police should have handled the law and order situation better, instead they asked me to stay inside the car,” said Desai, adding they were asked to immediately leave the spot.
Although Desai complied with the order, she returned half an hour later and attempted to enter the shrine again. “I have come here to worship the lord and I won’t leave till I do so,” said Desai.
However, this time, too, Desai and her supporters were stopped by the police. Angry, they protested on the road for nearly an hour. Talking to the media, Desai said, “It’s only fair that we be allowed to enter the shrine and pray there.”
They then headed to the chief minister’s bungalow, Varsha.
Ashraf Wankar, western Maharashtra president, Awami Vikas Party (AVP), a group that supports AIMIM on their stand to not allow women inside shrines, said, “We cannot let her enter.”
The Tardeo police have registered case against both the groups under the Bombay Police Act.
Senior inspector Dyaneshwar Devde said the police detained eight people from both the groups, and left them with a warning. “None of the parties were given a permission to protest,” he said.
Reacting to the incident, Feroze Mithiborwala, member of Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye , said, “Article 14 of the constitution promises equal treatment to all citizens of India. Until 2011, women were allowed inside the shrine. All we want is equal treatment for women.”
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court seeking entry for women in the sanctum of Haji Ali.
The Andolan, in its PIL, said women were allowed inside the sanctum till 2011. The Haji Ali dargah trust said there is no restriction and they have only created a separate entrance and exit for women.