The Bombay High Court yesterday held that it is women’s fundamental right to go into places of worship. However, a spokesperson of the Shani Shingnapur Trust says they have barred men from entering the sanctorum, so there is no issue of women demanding to enter.
Trupti Desai detained by cops while trying to enter the temple. File pic
After the order, Anil Darandale, spokesperson of the Shani Shingnapur trust said, “We respect our judiciary and hope that they will understand our side too. We will abide by the law. Since 2011, when the temple trust realized that the sanctum sanctorum is small, and the number of pilgrims have increased, resulting in accidents like people slipping on oil, we stopped them from entering it. Since January 25, 2016, only four males including the temple priest are allowed to enter the shrine for cleaning and performing puja and rituals.”
When asked about the provisions laid under Public Worship Act, 1956, and if before 2011 women were allowed to go near the sanctorum, he replied, “We don’t want to discuss the past acts of the trust and temple.
May be the trust was not aware about the law. But now there is no issue of women demanding entry to the sanctorum as we are not even letting males enter.”
He added, “We never discriminated on gender basis. We respect women. If we did not, we would not have let a woman be elected chairperson. We don’t have the judgment copy, once we get it we will understand it and will be able to react in a more precise manner.”
For the first time in 400 years, the Shani Shingnapur temple trust had elected a woman as chairperson, but 23-year-old Anita Shete says she is not authorised to comment on the case on women’s entry being barred into the temple. She says she is newly elected and cannot say whether the movement for women’s entry is right or wrong.
Shete said, “I am not authorised to comment on it, as I am a newly elected person and still understanding the trust protocols.”
Former Assistant Public Prosecutor in Pune district Nilima Vartak, one of the petitioners of the case said, “The trust is playing mischief and is now making a diplomatic move by not letting males visit the sanctorum. But this is not correct, they are violating the court order. If women want to visit the temple they should be allowed. Now the judiciary is also supporting women.”
Trupti Desai, president of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade said, “We welcome this move by the High Court. The judiciary is the real live God and they have imparted a good judgment. Vartak had studied the facts of the law well and brought them before the court. Finally, a woman came to the help of other women. Now we want women who were not allowed to enter the shrine before 2011 to visit the temple and worship.”
Saurabh Tripathi, Superintendent of Police Ahmednagar said, “We wanted to maintain peace and harmony in society and did not want any citizen to take the law in his hands. But it was an issue of maintaining law and order in the area. So we had detained women agitators for their safety. We do not want to get involved in the Trust’s administration, as we have no place in it. But now when a judgment has been delivered, once we get to know the legal perspective, we will follow it.”