Over 1,000 women plan to enter Shani temple today

Activists may use helicopter to evade barricades

Over 1,000 women plan to enter Shani temple today

Around 1,000 to 1,500 women, defying threats and stiff opposition, plan to enter the famous Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on Tuesday and employ a helicopter to evade the multilayered barricades.

On the Republic Day, the women are attempting to break the five-century-old tradition of the temple dedicated to Lord Shani, where women are not allowed to step into the sanctum sanctorum.

The temple, nearly 300 km from state capital Mumbai, was in the news recently when, on November 28, 2015, a CCTV camera caught a woman passing through the security barricade to the chauthara or platform where the idol was installed. A day later, the temple authorities and villagers of Shani Shingnapur performed “dudh-abhishekan” as a “purification” ritual.

On January 11, a 40-year-old housewife, Anita Shetye, assumed charge as chairperson of the temple trust, but she vowed to maintain the tradition. Against this backdrop, Trupti Desai-led Bhumata Rangranai Brigade is undertaking Tuesday’s protest. “Women want equality, which was enshrined in the Constitution of India on January 26, our Republic Day.

Hence we want to protest on this day. It is injustice to women that they are not being allowed to enter the temple on the basis of gender bias. This is a fight for the self-respect of women,” Desai said.

She said nearly 1,000 to 1,500 activists would arrive from all parts of Maharashtra to undertake the protest. “We are definitely going to protest,” she said, adding that her organisation has also requisitioned a private helicopter. “We will climb from the helicopter,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Charity Commissioner's office has restrained the entry of women. “We fear that there could be problems. While the Constitution gives right to everyone to protest, here there is an issue of offending the sentiments of others and hence the restraining order,” according to Joint Charity Commissioner Shivkumar Dighe.

The Ahmednagar District Collector Anil Kawade has banned the assembly of people till February 4. Security has been beefed up and multi-layered barricading has been done. On the other hand, right-wing outfits led by Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and its women’s wing Ranragini Shakha have decided to form a “protective circle” outside the temple complex. 

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