For her first visit to Nizamuddin Dargah late last month, an excited Deeba Faryal (20) carried a chaadar and a basket of roses to offer at the shrine. But she was greeted with a signboard in English, Hindi and Urdu at the entrance to the shrine inside the dargah: “Ladies are not allowed inside.”
Dejected, she returned home with her two law college classmates in Pune, Shivangi Sinha (22) and Anukriti Sugam (22). “We were about to enter the shrine, but were stopped by the caretakers… we came back, but I felt very bad. It was not a religious issue; it was a gender issue,” said Faryal.
It was this feeling that prompted Faryal, Sinha and Sugam to file a PIL through advocate Kamlesh Kumar Mishra — with whom the three women are interning here for a month.
On Monday, the three moved the Delhi High Court seeking directions to allow women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Nizamuddin Dargah. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao sought to know the Centres and Delhi government’s stand on denying access to women inside the shrine.
The bench also issued notices to the Delhi Police and the Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Trust, which looks after the dargah, to place their replies before the next date of hearing, April 11.
The bench said that by then, the Supreme Court will be able to hear and decide the review petition on Sabarimala temple in Kerala, and the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.
Faryal, who is pursuing a law degree from Balaji Law College in Pune, is in Delhi for the month-long internship. “When I got back home from the dargah on November 27, I began reading up more on access given to women at temples and mosques. I read the Bombay High Court on Haji Ali dargah and realised that women have been entering freely since 2016… then I read up more on Sabarimala temple too. It was motivating to know the SC’s stand, and that’s why we decided to file a PIL,” she said.
For Sabarimala temple, the review petitions were filed after the September 28 judgment of the SC, which held that women, irrespective of their age, have the right to enter the temple.
The three petitioners reproduced the notice outside the dargah’s shrine, which denies entry to women. “Before filing the PIL, we wrote to the SHO of Nizamuddin police station, the Delhi Police commissioner, and the dargah trustees… no one responded, so we took this route,” said Faryal, who hails from Gumla in Jharkhand.
Terming the practice “illegal and unconstitutional”, the petition said that a direction should be issued for the immediate removal of display boards inside or near the dargah, prohibiting entry of women. “While some friends dissuaded me from filing this PIL, my parents are with me, and that’s what matters,” said Faryal.