After two failed attempts and an instance of manhandling that some of their colleagues suffered at the hands of local villagers, women activists owing allegiance to Pune-based Swarajya Sanghatana finally entered the sanctum sanctorum of Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik district of north Maharashtra, amidst tight security.
A day after several activists were manhandled by villagers when they tried to gain entry inside “Garbha Griha” of Swarajya Sanghatana president Vanita Gutte and six other women activists formally entered the core worship area at 6.05 am. Of them, three women activists performed puja to the presiding deity.
Keeping in view Wednesday’s untoward incident which saw local women and villagers manhandle and physically prevent women activists from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, the temple management and police had made elaborate security arrangements to ensure smooth entry of the ‘Swarajya Sanghatana’ activists inside the core worship area.
The local police had booked nearly 200 persons, including former president of Trimbakeshwar Municipal Council Anagha Phadke, under various sections of the IPC, including molestation and wrongful restraint, in connection with Wednesday’s incident — in which one woman had fallen unconscious after local women and villagers manhandled the women activists tried unsuccessfully to enter core worship area of the temple.
Talking to media persons after she and other women activists entered the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, Swarajya Sanghatana president Vanita Gutte said: “Today is a historic day. After efforts made by us on three consecutive days, we have been able to achieve our goal. Resultantly, women devotees of Shiva have succeed in entering “Garbha Griha” and offering prayers to the presiding deity”.
Meanwhile, the temple town of Trimbakeshwar observed a total bandh in protest against a case registered against 200 persons, including former president of Trimbakeshwar Municipal Council Anagha Phadke for allegedly manhandling women activists. Shops and business establishments around the famous temple remained all through the day.
The temple management’s decision to allow women activists inside the sanctorum sanctorum is line with a directive issued on April 1 by the Bombay High Court to the state government to enforce the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act 1956.
In its direction given to the state government on April 1, a HC division bench of Chief Justice DH Waghela and Justice MS Sonak had said: “The acting Advocate General has assured the court that the government is against gender discrimination. Keeping in view Article 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India, the government can take pro-active steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of a citizen are fully realised and not allowed to be encroached upon by any authority”.
Hearing a public interest litigation filed by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and activist Vidya Bal challenging prohibiting the entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple, the HC bench had also directed the secretary of Maharashtra’s Home Department to ensure that the policy and purpose of the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act 1956 “is fully carried out, and directions are issued to all district collectors and Superintendents of Police”.
The Trimbakeshwar temple has now become the third famous temple where women have been allowed to enter sanctum sanctorum to offer prayers. Earlier, women activists had entered core worship areas of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district and Mahalakshmi temple at Kolh-apur in western Maharashtra.