PUNE--The women's outfit spearheading the campaign against a centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform at Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra today brought their fight to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for lifting of the restrictions.
A day after police foiled the attempt by 400 women activists to barge into the famous temple in Ahmednagar district as part of their high-voltage stir, Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai met Fadnavis here and presented a memorandum of demands seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.
The meeting with Fadnavis took place on the sidelines of a function here even as the Gram Sabha at the village where the shrine is located passed a resolution condemning Desai and her volunteers for attempts to storm the 'Chauthara" (sacred platform). The plan was foiled when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km away from the shrine. The activists were released after being detained for a few hours.
At a meeting of the Gram Sabha of Shingnapur village, a resolution condemning Desai and her brigade was passed.
Fadnavis, who yesterday favoured a dialogue on the issue in the wake of a tense showdown, did not make any comment on the set of demands before leaving the venue.
Desai, however, told reporters that Fadnavis favourably responded to the demand as he accepted the memorandum with a positive assurance. She also suggested he visit the temple along with his wife to strengthen the women's cause.
Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform (chauthara) of the temple where only men are permitted to make offerings to the deity (Shani).
Fadnavis yesterday favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.
"Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women have the right to pray. A change in yesterday's traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue," Fadnavis, who also holds Home portfolio, had said.
Congress backed the campaign, saying that it is the "pious duty" of whole society to support such a move.
"This is also the responsibility of the government so that reason prevails over those people who are creating hurdles and problems in this direction," party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in New Delhi.
"I commend the move of one of the women's organisations of Maharashtra asserting their right of worship at Shani Shingnapur.
"Women have got equal rights in the field of religion and philosophy in our country for centuries. Doors of knowledge and religion should be open to everyone without any discrimination," he said.
MRCC president Sanjay Nirupam said he supports women's agitation for equal rights at the Shani temple.
"I am of the belief that women should be allowed equal rights at all temples," he said, adding, "Respecting women is our core value. They must be allowed in Shani Shingnapur temple."
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