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Women marching to Shani temple stopped

Trupti Desai (standing, in pink dress), who led the attempt by women to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple, taking part in a protest on Tuesday. —PHOTO: PTI

Trupti Desai (standing, in pink dress), who led the attempt by women to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple, taking part in a protest on Tuesday. —PHOTO: PTI  

The Ranragini Bhumata Brigade’s attempt to enter the prohibited inner sanctum of the Shani Shingnapur temple on Republic Day failed as the police detained the activists at Supa village, 70 km from the temple town in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.

On Tuesday afternoon, over 500 women from across the State, led by Brigade president Trupti Desai (26), set out in buses to defy a 400-year-old tradition that debars women from worshipping the stone idol of Lord Shani, on account of “harmful vibrations” believed to be emanating from the deity.

High drama was witnessed after the buses were halted by security personnel near Supa. “This is a black day for democracy. We are stopped unconstitutionally on the occasion of Republic Day. Why is Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis permitting this?” asked Ms. Desai, alleging that the police used “disproportionate force” to foil the campaign.

Mr. Fadnavis later in a tweet said he favoured a dialogue between the temple authorities and the activists to find a way out of the ban.

Following a half-hour stalemate in which the police refused to yield, the agitators led by Ms. Desai resorted to a sit-down strike, singing bhajans and kirtans, proclaiming their resolution to remain there until the police permitted them to pass.

Inside the temple’s inner sanctum, meanwhile, steel barricades cordoning off the platform were put in place early in the morning while thousands of villagers from Shani Shingnapur, opposing the RBB’s campaign, formed a ‘counter-campaign pandal’ announcing their intent to uphold the temple tradition.

The locals were joined by activists of right-wing groups represented by the women’s wing of the ruling Shiv Sena and various other outfits belonging to the fringe-right, represented by the Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and its women’s wing Ranragini Shakha.

Earlier, after the Pune District Collector denied permission for a helicopter flight, the RBB president jettisoned her plan of rappelling down to enter the inner sanctum.

Fearing damage to temple property, the district administration had banned any form of assembly.

“They [women activists] are free to offer worship outside the platform. It [campaign] is merely an attention-grabbing stunt,” said Anita Shete, the newly appointed first woman president of the temple trust board.

“Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue,” tweeted Mr. Fadnavis. Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde said the government would facilitate talks.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2020 2:29:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Women-marching-to-Shani-temple-stopped/article14021393.ece

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