Bhumata Brigade has been raising the issues related to injustice, and atrocities against women since past 12 years. The agitation at Shani Mandir has attracted the attention of the entire country. Earlier, our Brigade had participated in Lokpal agitation of Anna Hajare and Baba Ramdev’s stir against corruption. We have agitated on issues of suicides of farmers in Maharashtra. That is to say that we are working for all the people. There are certain facts that need to be understood in proper perspective regarding Shani Mandir. A woman went there in November and touched the idol. Following this the priests there said that she polluted the ‘Shani Bhagwan’ and they purified the idol by washing it in milk.
There are good number of women worshippers of Shani and if they touch the idol and worship how can the God become polluted? This is my poser to priests and trustees of the temple there. After all Shani Maharaj was born of a woman’s womb and the milk with which the idol was purified certainly came from a cow and not a bull. Some people accused us of breaking the tradition. But this is grossly incorrect. Some years ago women used to go there and offer worship and touch the idol. Even today we are in touch of some women who had been going there since the year 2000 and worshipping the idol. Those who talk of 400-year-old tradition are misguiding. They do not believe in equality of women and want to deprive them of their legitimate rights.
There are two different sets of laws in Shani Shingnapur—one for men and other for women. Men have permission to go near the idol and offer abhishek only after paying Rs 1,111 but this is not so in case of women. They can pay Rs 1,111 but have no right to worship as per their male counterparts. I ask those who subscribe to such discrimination: Is it the right approach? In fact, by this discrimination some men wanted to show inequality towards women. It is not that we are opposing this only in case of Shani Mandir. We are raising our voice against this injustice to women in Haji Ali Dargah. We are supporting those women who staged demonstration for entry into Haji Ali Dargah. I will personally join them in any other agitation in future. This is the issue of women’s rights and not of any particular religion or sect. Those who look at it as a stunt, they are mistaken. When we felt that injustice was done to women in Shani Mandir case, we discussed amongst our office-bearers and framed the strategy for demonstration at Shani Shingnapur. Why should we indulge in public stunt? I did not talk to media earlier and not even issued a press release in between January 1 and 26. Is it a crime to talk for the Rights of Women?
I believe that traditions must change in accordance with changing times. We changed the tradition of sati. There was a tradition of head shaving for widowed women. We changed that also. People talk of equality then why this second grade treatment to women? If there is such a treatment at the God’s place where would the women go?
It is not so that such customs are there only in the Hindu dharma. They are found in Muslims and Chrstian faiths also. But the truth is women are deprived of their legitimate rights in the name of religion and traditions. This is indicative of male dominated psychology and nothing else.
Tripti Desai, Founder
Bhumata Ranaraagini Brigade