Saheli Dey: I am a woman. I cannot pray. I am a woman. I cannot enter into the temple of Shri Padmanabha Swami’s inner sanctum. I question: WHY?
In a landmark decision by the Bombay High Court, women will now be allowed inside the inner sanctum of Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. The court order came after women activists filed a public interest litigation challenging the restriction imposed by the Dargah authorities in 2012 which forbade women from visiting the grave of the revered saint. The Haji Ali Dargah Trust had stated that it would be a grave sin in Islam if a woman is allowed to be near the tomb of a male saint. But how can anyone decide on the rights of a woman?
What can be the difference between a man and a woman that the male section gets the privilege to enter, whereas the female cannot? How is a woman different from the male in a modern society? The Bombay High Court has reflected the wishes of the women fraternity. But why still raise doubts in such a decision and appeal the decision in the Supreme Court?
The commendable efforts by Trupti Desai, an Indian gender equality activist and the founder of the Bhumata Brigade, to allow women’s entry in several religions places, needs mention. She took the headlines of renowned newspapers in November 2015 when she entered the Hindu shrine of the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple. Later on, she gained popularity with her challenge to remove such a malpractice such as barring women from entering the inner core of the Haji Ali Durgah.
Millions of women are barred from entering the inner sanctum of religious shrines. Is this a religious taboo or an underestimating attitude towards women in a conservative society? It needs to be understood that women’s rights are human rights. We have always echoed on what our fore bearers believed in: Men and Women are equal. But I believe women outshine men. It is wonderful to see many respect the philosophy of providing respect to the women, but it is saddening to witness examples of inequality still existing in the country.
Women have never asked to be treated better than men. Women have just expected to be treated as equal as men. Women live in the same world as do men, and they perform the same tasks as men perform. Women have excelled at every sphere, from sports to films, from business to science. Women have brought back medals and glory to the country from this year’s Rio Olympics. Could a single member of the Haji Ali Durgah’s trust board perform a Produnova-vault as superbly as Dipa Karmakar? I doubt it. But yet, such women who have touched the sky of success still could not enter those shrines like Shri Padmanabha Swami Temple of Kerala or Haji Ali Durgah of Mumbai. Well, the Bombay HC allows women to enter in the inner sanctum of Haji Ali Durgah from today. But the trust’s decision to appeal in the Supreme Court sparks a fresh tension.
The changes must begin at home. If we are unable to set the example in our own nation, then we will never have even a glimmer of hope for betterment of the lives of women beyond our borders. The mindsets must change. Men’s outlook towards women needs to change. Who differentiates us? God? Or the middlemen?
The women fraternity definitely hails the judgement. But they also wait to see how far this verdict’s reaction would go. Let women be free. Let them be independent. Because, India won its freedom seventy years ago for all and not only for men.