Trupti Desai offers prayers at Haji Ali, says this is a fight for gender equality

Says Bhumata Brigade will launch ‘aggressive agitation’ in 15 days if trustees do not relent on equal access to women.

By: PTI | Mumbai | Updated: May 13, 2016 12:59 am
Haji Ali dargah, Trupti Desai, Haji Ali, Activist Trupti Desai, Trupti Desai Haji Ali, Haji Ali, women entry Haji Ali Activist Trupti Desai during her visit to Haji Ali Dargah on Thursday. Express photo

After her failed attempt to enter the Haji Ali Dargah amid high drama on April 28, activist Trupti Desai entered the shrine and paid obeisance early on Thursday.

The Bhumata Brigade president was accompanied by a handful of her activists and a large contingent of the Mumbai Police. She visited the shrine through the entrance earmarked for women.

Desai, however, did not enter the inner sanctum of the dargah barred to women, against which she has been protesting. Men have unhindered access to the actual burial place of the saint, and are also allowed to touch the tomb.

Read: ‘Desai should now go to Parsi temple, then we’ll know if it’s a publicity stunt or not’

“I have paid obeisance at the shrine and prayed that women get equal access to the shrine,” Desai said after stepping out of the dargah.

The demand for equal access to the Haji Ali Dargah was first raised by Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which had filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court in August 2014 against the “blatant discrimination on the ground of gender alone”.

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After Desai’s successful campaign for equal access for women in the Shani Shingnapur temple, social activists from Mumbai under the aegis of Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye (HASKL) decided to launch a similar campaign for Haji Ali.

On April 28, the HASKL staged a dharna outside the shrine seeking fulfillment of their demands. Desai had voiced her support to the agitation and had promised to enter the shrine. The trustees of the dargah, along with political activists from the Samajwadi Party, Awami Vikas Party, Shiv Sena and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen had, however, declared they would not allow Desai inside.

Amid protests by both sides, Desai had been led away from the shrine by the police. She was subsequently detained and later let off.
“I have given my support to the agitation launched by activists here. However, I have an aggressive style of approaching issues. I would like to state that if the trustees do not relent on their stand in the next 15 days, the Bhumata Brigade will launch an aggressive agitation to get equal rights for women,” Desai said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, those who had opposed Desai earlier welcomed her visit to the dargah.

“She was not allowed that day because she had thrown a challenge. She is more than welcome to visit the shrine as a normal devotee. It would have been even better had she visited the place on her own rather than with a police contingent,” AIMIM leader Haji Rafat Husain said.
The Haji Ali Dargah is a 585-year-old shrine of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, located on an islet off the Mumbai coast. The trustees had decided to bar access of women to the grave some time in 2011, calling the practice un-Islamic. They had stated they were rectifying their earlier mistake of allowing women to touch the grave.

Entry to the main hall of the shrine is segregated for men and women. The men enter the dargah through the south and women through the east. Women are allowed till a certain point — an area of 275 square foot roughly three feet away from the tomb — where they can pray but not touch the tomb.

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