Govt caught in Shani Shingnapur crossfire, CM plays peacemaker
MUMBAI: Caught between its conservative right-wing support base and its attempts to present a progressive face in the state, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government is in a bind over the issue of entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani temple at Shingnapur in Ahmednagar, 250 km from Mumbai.
After his administration detained some women activists of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade who planned to visit the temple and offer worship in the sanctum sanctorum on Republic Day, Fadnavis tweeted a carefully-worded comment. He said, “In Indian tradition and Hindu religion, women have always had freedom to worship. Our culture says that there should be change in traditions and rituals according to changing times. It is not in our culture to discriminate over access to worship.”
After making this point, the chief minister, however, lobbed the ball back in the court of the temple administration and society at large, calling for a dialogue to resolve the issue and sidestepping the issue of the legality of such restrictions. Sources close to Fadnavis said he intervened as the protests were threatening to snowball into a nation-wide controversy. The other reason that forced the CM’s hand was that the organisation leading the protest was not an elitist group.
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