The Haji Ali Trust has earmarked a 181 square feet space through which women can get close to the saint’s mazaar, under its plan to provide equal access to the dargah’s sanctum sanctorum. The Trust has submitted its plan, created by Structwel Designers and Consultants, to the Supreme Court. Under this, entry for men and women has been kept separate, as it is at present.
The plan earmarks dedicated areas of 461sq ft for women and 404.72 sq ft for men inside the dargah. Women will have access to 181 sqft of space which lies in the immediate vicinity of the mazaar, while men will have access to 224 sq ft. Earlier, women had access to 275 sq ft space, roughly three feet away from the tomb, from where they could pray but not touch the tomb.
“The courts had asked us to give a progressive report on this issue and we have done it. The Haji Ali Trust stands for equality that is firmly entrenched in our Constitution and in Islam,” Suhail Yacoob Khandwani, the trustee of the Haji Ali Dargah, said.
The restriction on women touching the tomb was placed in 2011. The Trust had then said that the practice was un-Islamic and it was rectifying its earlier mistake of allowing it.
In August 2014, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) took the Trust to the Bombay High Court, filing a public interest litigation against the “blatant discrimination on the ground of gender alone” and “the failure of the state to eliminate inequalities”, claiming that the restriction impinged on women’s fundamental rights.
After the Trust’s announcement Monday, the BMMA said it was ‘happy’ with the order. “It is a happy culmination of two years of struggle. We are elated with what has transpired today. We will be happier still when the assurances are implemented and the first women walks inside the sanctum,” BMMA co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz said.
The Trust has, meanwhile, said that it will facilitate a visit of structural engineers, trustees and legal representatives to the Dargah premises early next week to finalise how soon the proposal can be carried out.