As many as 1,500 women — mostly housewives and college students — plan to storm the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district on Republic Day and end the age-old “humiliating” practice of not allowing women to enter the core shrine area. The police, however, have geared up to thwart the attempt by imposing prohibitory orders in the temple area and also plan to carry out preventive arrests.
The Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, which is spearheading the agitation, said Monday women from across Maharashtra would gather at Shani Shingnapur by 1 pm. “Soon after we will enter the temple area and then climb the platform where the Shani idol has been installed,” said Trupti Desai, the Bhumata Brigade president. The women activists said they know that the police would be using all their force and might to stop them, but they are confident of offering prayers in the core shrine area to restore the dignity of the women not only from Maharashtra but across India who visit the place.
“We know the police will not allow us in the vicinity of the temple as they have imposed prohibitory orders. We are not planning to create any ugly scene or indulge in any form of violence. We will adopt the Gandhian way for handing over rose to the police personnel to allow our entry inside the temple,” she said.
Since the police seem to be leaving no stone unturned to stop the women activists from marching to the temple, Desai said they have a ‘secret plan’ up their sleeves. “Since it is a secret plan, we will obviously not reveal anything as of now. We will spring a surprise tomorrow…wait and watch,” she said.
The women activists had also tried to rope in a helicopter, but the district collector denied them the permission. “Let them do what they want to, it will not deter us. We are determined to end the distasteful practice on Republic Day,” said Desai, adding that women have already started proceeding towards Shani Shingnapur by buses and private vehicles from far off places like Latur, Nashik, Nagpur and Konkan.
Priyanka Jagtap, another member of the brigade said,”It is really painful to find the kind of effort underway to stop us from ending their wrong practice. First, they are outrightly humiliating women by not allowing them to climb the platform of the core shrine area. They make all kinds of claims like women are impure and what not…And then they want us to remain mere spectators and allow the humiliation to continue for ages. It is because of such mindset that women continue to be insulted, discriminated and subjected for years,” she said.