Shani Shingnapur row: Despite HC order, women activists detained; NCP MLA beaten up

NCP MLA manhandled during scuffle with local residents opposing move; women's group detained

Ahmednagar: It was high drama at Shani Shingnapur, 120 km from Pune, in Ahmednagar on Saturday as a group of 27 women from the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade made another attempt to enter the shrine. The temple has historically not allowed women to enter its premise. However, on Friday the Bombay High Court passed an order that said that women should be allowed in all places of worship.

Rangaragini Bhumata Brigade (RBB) leader Trupti Desai, who was leading a march towards the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, on Saturday, stopped by private security guards from entering the core area of the temple. Pic/PTI
Rangaragini Bhumata Brigade (RBB) leader Trupti Desai, who was leading a march towards the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, on Saturday, stopped by private security guards from entering the core area of the temple. Pic/PTI

Even as the women along with former NCP MLA Bhanudas Murkute tried to enter the temple, the local residents who have long opposed the entry of women into the temple, manhandled the MLA. The police — 200 personnel had been deployed to ensure law and order was maintained — intervened. After this, members of both sides were detained at the Civil Hospital.

Saurabh Tripathi, Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police, said, "Since it was a Saturday, there were many pilgrims from other towns and cities as well visiting the temple. We intervened when Murkute was manhandled and later, when Trupti Desai [the Brigade’s leader] wanted to conduct her march. In order to prevent any scuffle between Desai and the locals, we detained both groups — under the provision of the Bombay Police Act — fearing that other pilgrims would also be manhandled. They were released two hours later."

Men barred too
Meanwhile, the Shani Shingnapur Trust which says that since men too have been barred from entering the sanctorum, there should be no debate over the matter, has decided to challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court. It’s chairperson, Anita Shete, said, "It’s an unfortunate incident, but one can’t take law and order in their hands.

Desai is not conducting this protest for women’s empowerment but for a personal agenda. We received a copy of the HC judgment only on Saturday we received the copy of the judgement and no where is there a mention of our temple’s name. We haven’t been directed to allow women into the shrine. As of 2011, we have not been allowing anyone to enter the shrine. Even I am not allowed. Only four people are allowed to enter the shrine. There’s no question of gender bias." Sambhaji Dahatonde, Shani Shingnapur Devasthan Bachao Kruti Samiti, formed by the local gram sabha members, said, that their members had deployed additional security to ensure law and order.

Desai said, "The police is aligning with the Trust. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has stabbed us in the back and stands in contempt of court. I will file a case against Fadnavis and other members who did not let me enter the shrine. I will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will ask him to personally look into the matter. The Acche Din dream can only be achieved when women are as equals."

Meanwhile, Minister of Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare, Pankaja Munde-Palwe celebrated the HC order by offering oil to the shrine of Godess of Shani shrine in Pathardhi village in Ahmednagar.

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