Shani Shingnapur: Meet activist Vidya Bal, who fought the other battle — in court

The activist, however, said that she was disappointed by CM Devendra Fadnavis’s “absolute indifference” to her attempts to seek his intervention.

Written by Sunanda Mehta | Updated: April 11, 2016 9:06 am
Shani Shingnapur, Shani Shingnapur temple, Shani Shingnapur pil, pil Shani Shingnapur ban, vidya bal Shani Shingnapur, Trupti Desai, Trupti Desai Shani temple, Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, BRB, Gudi Padwa, Shani Shingapur temple trust, bombay high court, Bombay HC decision on Shani Shingapur temple, Shani Shingapur news, Maharashtra news, pune news, india news, For social activist Vidya Bal, the fight was not about religion, but individual freedom.

Social activist Vidya Bal’s calm demeanour contrasts with the dramatic events that made a 400-year-old tradition fall apart at Shani Shingnapur. In February, Bal (80) had fired a legal salvo to break the shackles. She along with advocate Neelima Vartak had filed a PIL in the High Court demanding the right of women to enter any place of worship in Maharashtra.

For her, the fight was not about religion, but individual freedom. “I do not believe in God. I am an atheist, but that does not stop me from taking up cudgels on behalf of women who want to perform puja at temples. No one has the right to deny them that right,” said Bal. An economics graduate, Bal is the granddaughter of NC Kelkar, an associate of Lokmanya Tilak and one of the editors of Kesari, the newspaper started by Tilak. In 1982, she founded Nari Samta Manch and started actively taking up dowry harassment cases. Bal said she was encouraged by High Court lawyer Anil Anturkar and Kalyani Turnaker, who fought the case, to file the PIL.

“But I cannot take too much credit for this. The victory was a combination of our behind-the-scenes work and the very admirable fight on the ground by Trupti Desai and the Bhumata Brigade. It is now up to us to ensure the change continues and the judgment is also applied in the other major temples of the state,” she said.

The activist, however, said that she was disappointed by CM Devendra Fadnavis’s “absolute indifference” to her attempts to seek his intervention.

In her 30-year legal career, advocate Neelima Vartak has taken up several cases of human rights violations. The 60-year-old sees her fight as an extension of her profession, both as a lawyer and a teacher. “The struggle is still on. We need to ensure every other place of worship in Maharashtra respects this order,” said Vartak.


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  1. R
    Apr 11, 2016 at 4:33 am
    If she does not believe in Religion and its ociated insution, isn't it dubious to involve in temple practices. Go fight in Mosque for women rights to uncover Burqah -- yoi will know.
  2. M
    madhukar nikam
    Apr 11, 2016 at 9:20 am
    Would love to see if she has real motive of rights of women ...why has she not fought for entry of women in Haji ali darga, triple talak??
  3. M
    Apr 12, 2016 at 6:55 am
    These people have done for getting pority...Their real aim is not worship but create confusion where they can exercise only in Hidu temples and not in other community places of worship where the women are barred.Even they try,the women in these religions willnot do it.
  4. N
    Neema Nair
    Apr 11, 2016 at 5:05 am
    If a person who really believe in God will never do such kind of activities. Everyone knows that all these activist are atheist and they never done any pooja in their w life. Their looks and atude itself reveals that.
  5. R
    Apr 11, 2016 at 5:57 am
    No individual does puja in temple, it is priest who does all rituals while individual stand 2-3 feet away. Deity is not even allowed to be touched. lt;br/gt;Theses activists are like many never tried to understand the core of religion. A deity is bundle of primordial energy which can be used to channelize or enhance life energy in individual for spiritual progress. This can be done either by meditating in close vicinity of deity or by touching it. Meditation is the most suitable form as individual gain depends on his/her capacity. Touching was not allowed normally as that can give shock to subtle form of individual or adversely alter his/her personality. As most of us are not sensitive to such subtle energy flow we ignore this. But the tradition which prohibited something continued without understanding the logic and in present scenario we term such practice totally;br/gt;We may brush aside such practice or ignore/deny that such kind of energy alteration happen but we cannot ignore that there happen so many things which change our mood /psyche and some permanently..
  6. H
    Honest citizen
    Apr 11, 2016 at 7:45 am
    In south Indian temples non other than the authorised priest could enter the Garbagraham. In Kerala non of the gents could enter the temple if they do not wear Dothi and with bear body. Ladies could enter the temple if they do not wear Sari or Half sari. why not these people fight for their right to enter the temple wearing a dress of their wish
  7. S
    Suresh Hattangadi
    Apr 11, 2016 at 10:40 am
    There is no mention when they started this fight for entry of women into Hindu temples.Were they not successful earlier or only thought of it in the last two years? Both these ladies are in the age group of 70/80. What were their activities in the past?
  8. S
    Apr 11, 2016 at 10:47 am
    All these respected ladies appears to be "paid agitators".
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