October 25, 2016

India temple ruling: Protesters block entry to women

Activist leader Trupti Desai, centre bottom, vowed they would try again

Protesters in India have defied a court order and prevented a group of female activists from entering a Hindu shrine in western Maharashtra state.

Several temples in India preserve the tradition of barring entry to women.

However, the Mumbai high court ruled women have the fundamental right to enter temples, with a six-month jail term for those preventing them.

The activists say they will try again to enter the Shani Singhnapur’s inner sanctum, calling for police protection.

Some 100 villagers, including many women, blocked the attempt by activists from the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (Women Warriors of Mother Earth) to enter the shrine on Saturday.

The Shani Singhnapur temple has for centuries been open only to men, one of the few in India to preserve the tradition.

The activists said they were testing Friday’s ruling by the Mumbai court, which affirmed the right of women to enter and pray inside temples.

The Shani Singhnapur temple, 2 AprImage copyrightAFP

Image captionThe Shani Singhnapur temple has barred women from the inner sanctum for centuries

The court ordered the government to protect their right to do so and the activists say they will make a fresh attempt to enter the temple, using police protection if necessary.

Trupti Desai, the leader of more than 20 activists at the site, told TV: “The honourable court has recognised our right to pray. Police must provide us protection and allow us to enter the shrine. We will not leave without entering the [area where the Shani idol is kept].”

Ms Desai had gone to court arguing the ban breached a 1956 law on Hindu worship and was “a symbol of gender inequality”.

Last year, priests at the Shani Singhnapur temple carried out an elaborate ritual cleansing after a woman managed to gain entry and offer prayers.

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