Government officials in Maharashtra state have called for talks between protesters who tried to storm a Hindu temple that bars entry to women and temple officials, as a campaign for equal access to temples gathers momentum.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met women activists yesterday, a day after hundreds of them tried to force their way into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar, clashing with villagers. Police briefly detained the protesters.
Fadnavis said state officials would facilitate talks between the activists and temple authorities, as #RightoPray trended on Twitter for a second day in India.
“Indian culture and the Hindu religion have always given women the right to worship,” Fadnavis said in a tweet late on Tuesday. “A change in tradition in accordance with the times is our culture. Discrimination in worshipping is not our culture.”
Trupti Desai, president of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, and other women met Fadnavis in Pune and submitted a memorandum demanding entry of women to the temple and ending similar gender bias in other places of worship in the state.
Desai said Fadnavis responded “favourably” to the demands and she suggested he should visit the temple with his wife as a token of his support.
Meanwhile, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti urged the state government to remain alert to prevent incidents which seek to create a blot on religious traditions at places like Shani Shingnapur, said its state organiser Sunil Ghanvat.
The temple, which has barred women for centuries from the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Shani, or Saturn, is one of a handful in India that bars women.
The popular Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala, which denies entry to women of reproductive age, is the subject of a petition in the Supreme Court, which has asked temple authorities to explain why they forbid women entry.
Politicians and spiritual leaders have weighed in on the highly contentious issue, with the head of the lawyers’ group that filed the Sabarimala temple petition saying they had received hundreds of death threats for their action.
“There is discrimination against women across religions,” said Flavia Agnes, a women’s rights lawyer and co-founder of Majlis legal centre in Mumbai. “It’s high time we took this up as an issue about equality for women, and not just entry into a temple.”
l Tension prevailed in Bihar’s Hajipur town yesterday, a day after police demolished a temple as part of an anti-encroachment drive on the order of the Patna High Court.
At least ten police officials were injured and a few vehicles torched in the protest by people, police said.
Additional security forces have been deployed in the town, about 30km from Patna, in view of tension following violent protests by the locals.
According to police officials, the locals attacked a police team and threw stones at them during the demolition.
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