The Shiv Sena on Saturday distanced itself from its senior leader, Haji Arafat Shaikh, who threatened to “welcome with slippers” prominent woman activist Trupti Desai if she dared to enter the tomb of the Haji Ali Dargah, here next Thursday.
Shortly after his remarks created a furore in various circles, party spokesperson and legislator Neelam Gorhe rejected Shaikh’s statement and even warned of action against him.
“This is purely his personal view on the issue … It is not the Shiv Sena stand, which is clear and we respect the Bombay High Court decision,” Gorhe told the mediapersons.
The Sena’s prompt clarification came in the wake of Shaikh’s threat to Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (BRB) President Trupti Desai who, along with several other social religious groups, plans to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah on April 28.
The move is part of a demand by several Muslim women and groups who have been agitating for ending gender discrimination at places of worship in the state.
After scoring victory for women’s entry in the Shani Shingnapure Temple, Ahmednagar and Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nashik, Desai joined with a new forum, “Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye – Haji Ali For All” which will campaign for access to women upto the tomb of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and offer ‘chadar’ there.
The Haji Ali Dargah Trust has justified the prevailing customs on grounds that permitting women upto the tomb would be “anti-Islam” and also argued about immunity as it was a “minority trust”.
In a related development, the Azad Women Welfare Association chief Medina Shaikh joined him in the clamour to prevent her entry to the six-centuries shrine in the Arabian Sea, on the rocks off Worli.
Besides the Shiv Sena, the Mumbai police has also initiated an independent probe into Shaikh’s statement on “chappals” amid apprehensions of the situation turning delicate next Thursday.