Armed with a Bombay high court order to end gender discrimination at temples, women activists on Saturday made a determined bid to storm the inner sanctum of Shani Shinganapur temple in Maharashtra but were stopped by villagers and later detained by police.
A day after the court ruled that entry to temples was a fundamental right of women and it was the state’s fundamental duty to protect it, the activists of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade led by Trupti Desai tried to gain entry into the core area of the popular Shani shrine in Ahmednagar district where women are traditionally banned amid a tense faceoff. It was the second abortive attempt by the activists in two months.
Desai was later put under preventive detention along with 25 other activists by Ahmednagar Police and they were taken away from the shrine and released near Shirur in neighbouring Pune district in the evening. She was taken in her own car, police said.
Police said Desai and others were detained near the shrine in view of angry public sentiments among the locals against her attempted entry to the sacred platform of the temple which is dedicated to Lord Shani.
There was also a possibility of a stampede and law and order situation arising out of the temple entry march, they added.
Upset at her attempt being foiled, Desai said she would file an FIR against Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis if he fails to honour the Bombay high court order facilitating entry of females to places of worship. She also demanded Fadnavis’ resignation as home minister for failing to honour the HC order.
Vowing to intensify the campaign for gender justice after the tense faceoff, Desai said a police complaint would be also filed against those who prevented the activists from entering the core area of the shrine. She dubbed the police action as a “murder of democracy”.
The high court while giving its ruling on Friday had also ordered civil and police authorities in the state to implement the provisions of the Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship(Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956 and ensure compliance.
On reaching the temple, Desai and her followers tried to scale the sacred platform but members of the local resistance group and temple officials pushed them away.
The slogan shouting villagers had laid a siege around the sacred area to stop the activists from storming the site.
Police then intervened, took the activists to a spot 100 metres away from the platform and threw a protective ring around them.
A similar attempt by Desai and the activists to defy the ban and gain entry into the shrine was foiled by authorities on January 26.
Image: Bhumata Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who was leading a march towards the Shani Shinganapur temple in Ahmednagar stopped by private security guards from entering the core area of the temple. Photograph: PTI