The management of the famous Haji Ali Dargah have started deliberations on challenging the Bombay High Court verdict, that lifted the ban imposed on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine here, in the Supreme Court.
“We held detailed discussions yesterday over the issue in the wake of the HC verdict and sought opinion of each of the management members. But we are going to hold a few more rounds of meetings to get the opinion of other stakeholders as well,” Sohail Khandwani, a trustee of the century-old Dargah told PTI today,”Also, on Friday, we would be holding meetings with religious scholars besides having consultations with our councils based in Mumbai and Delhi after which a final decision on the issue would be taken”, he said.
Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most recognisable landmarks of the city. The Indo-Islamic architectural structure contains the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. Men have unhindered access to the actual burial place of the saint, while women were being permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum up to 2012, when the entry of women was banned by the trust citing religious traditions.
Two days after the HC ruling, gender rights activist and Bhumata Ranragini Brigade chief Trupti Desai visited the Dargah on Sunday and offered a ‘chadar’, but kept away from the shrine’s core area. She had also requested the management of the Dargah to prevail on the recent verdict and not to move SC. She had exuded confidence that the apex court would rule in women’s favour if such a step was taken.
When asked whether Desai’s request was pondered upon in the meeting yesterday, Khandwani said, “We are more concerned with the overall impact and sentiment following the verdict and not a single individual. We have to see the larger picture.”
After offering the ‘chadar’ at the Dargah, Desai had appealed, “I request the trustees with folded hands to follow the verdict of the High Court. If they still prefer to knock on the Supreme Court’s door, then the apex court too would uphold the constitutional right of the women and I am fully confident about it.”
In a landmark judgement, the Bombay High Court allowed entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah here, saying it contravenes fundamental rights and that the trust has no right to prohibit women’s entry into a public place of worship.
The court, however, stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which wants to challenge it in the Supreme Court. “May be by the end of this week or by next week, we will arrive at the final decision on approaching the apex court,” Khandwani said.
The Dargah, situated on an islet, 500 metres away from the coast, courted controversy in 2012 when shrine management suddenly put restrictions on women from entering the core worship area. Hosts of women activists across all the faith as well as NGOs and Muslim women had launched movements opposing the ban and challenged the decision in High Court.