Shani Shingnapur controversy: Tradition vs Law?

As India celebrated its Republic Day on Tuesday to honor the enforcement of its constitution sixty six years ago, around four hundred women were hustled and detained from entering the Shani Shingnapur temple which is located in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The women were stopped at Supa, 70 KM from the temple by the police officials. The women were protesting against the prohibition from entering the core shrine of the temple. 

Women as per 400 year old tradition, were not allowed to enter the Shani temple till 2011. However, after rationalists carried out huge mass awareness campaigns, women were allowed to enter the temple but were prohibited from entering the shrine of the area. 

The women took matters in their own hands when last November, after a women jumped on the platform where the rock idol of Shani was installed, a purification process was performed by the villagers. These chain of events question the right of freedom which the constitution of India bestows upon the citizens.

This prohibition has an uncanny similarity to what the Haji Ali Dargah imposed on the women. In 2012, the Dargah barred women from entering the inner sanctum of its periphery, which houses the tomb of the saint. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahela Andolan filed a PIL in the court in 2014, challenging the restriction. They are still waiting for the verdict of the case. 

These kind of prohibitions in the name of the religion draws the attention towards some profound questions. Who decides that a celibate deity will be offended by the presence of women? Who has given power to these so called custodians of religions to enforce restrictions on women? Why dargahs like Haji Ali which have always permitted free entry to the women have suddenly stripped them off the freedom to pray? Who actually controls religion?

The article 25 in the constitution of India gives freedom to conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. Limiting women from entering the premises of a temple or dargah is the sheer example of sabotaging the rights given by the constitution.   

What is interesting to realize is that the women have finally started to question this senseless restrictions. They are the believers who are fighting for the right to worship and to enter sacred spaces denied to them. But the battle against the male chauvinism and misinterpretation of religion by them, is still half won and there is an adhere need for the movements like in Supa, that take root in the ground.

New24 Bureau Alind Chauhan