Standing on the cusp of history, the shrine beckons
As the sun beat down on the hordes milling around the Haji Ali dargah on Tuesday, the brightness mirrored the mood of the women from the Bharat Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) who led the group of women entering the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali dargah.
Police bandobast in place to prevent any untoward incident Pics/Datta Kumbhar
The recent Supreme Court judgement giving equal rights to women to enter the ‘mazaar’ of the sea-kissed dargah came alive from the courtrooms to the roads of Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon.
Walk in proud
Mumbai’s Zakia Soman led at least 60-70 women inside the dargah, walking towards the entrance by approximately 2.45 pm yesterday. As the media began to scramble, the police were on high alert, and Zakia and her triumphant troops hot footed it inside, breaking a four-year-old ban by the trustees, and taking those strides towards gender equality.
As a phalanx of policewomen stood guard, Haji Ali Juice Centre did brisk business, though the woman manager there refused to comment.
Then there were parts of the public that did not want to get involved in the religious issue and spoke with trepidation. Sunil S, a first time visitor from Goregaon asked, “What is happening here?” When told that Muslim women are acting on the Supreme Court judgement giving them access to the inner sanctum, the young man smiled, “That is good. If men can access that space, why can’t women? I am happy to be here today, even if I have to wait because of so much security.”
Trustees stand aside
Suhail Khandwani, dargah trustee, when asked to react, stated, “We do not go by victory and defeat, we respect all women,” adding something about “earlier miscommunication”. Even the women spoke about the hospitality shown by the dargah trustees. “We were given chai, it was a welcome move,” said one, suggesting it may be a peace offering.
Meanwhile, the women emerged on to the main Haji Ali road after putting the chadar and exercising their right to pray.
Firoze Mithiborwala, part of Haji Ali Sab ke Liye forum, termed the walk towards the mazar as ‘historic’ and said, “Yes, history has been made, but let us not forget much more needs to be done, in terms of gender equality in the faith.”
For activist Varsha V, “Walking towards the mazar was memorable. There were qawwalis being sung there, and the atmosphere was congenial, peaceful.” Activists though do not see this as an end, but a “beginning. Now, every dargah, every masjid that has shut its doors to women, needs to open them, like this one,” they stated.
For Jaibunisha Riyaz B who had come from Tamil Nadu, it was a time for truth. “Both the Koran and the Indian Constitution are for gender equality.”
There was celebration, a sense of the scales finding balance. The juice center, which forms the entrance of the road leading on to the dargah is crowded with cell phone towers, but, stretch the imagination and one could visualise the flag of the Indian judiciary atop, fluttering with pride.
No of women that made the walk to the mazaar