In a state as progressive as Maharashtra, regressive mindsets won hands down on Republic Day – a day when the government had enough opportunity to uphold the mandate of the majority.
What should have been a simple act of worship, turned into an avoidable drama watched by the nation live on television as the Ahmednagar police, bowing to political pressure, suppressed an agitation by women to enter the sanctum of a temple-women are not allowed to enter the core shrine area.
Several women activists, a large number of them housewives and students led by the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade were detained at Supa, 70 km from the Shani Shingnapur temple located in the Ahmednagar district on Tuesday. They were not allowed to proceed to the temple as the police blocked their way at the behest of the Devendra Fadnavis government which did not want not to ruffle the sentiments of those against women entering the temple.
Women, as per the 400-year old tradition, were not allowed to enter the Shani temple till 2011. However, after rationalists carried out mass awareness campaigns, women were allowed to enter the temple but were prohibited from the core shrine area.
Today, women are not permitted to climb up to the platform where the rock idol of Shani is installed. This is what angered the women activists who decided to take matters into their hands after the temple trustees refused to heed their repeated pleas.
Last month, after a woman – apparently in ignorance-stepped onto to the unlocked platform, a purification process was performed by villagers. This escalated the anger and frustration among the women activists. There is a widespread belief, especially among the younger generation, that Maharashtra should do away with such antiquated practices. It is now up to CM Fadnavis to show the way.