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Temple gender row: Shrine authorities, activists hold talks

Shani Shinganpur

Ahmednagar (Maha) : With the campaign for allowing women inside the inner sanctum of Shani Shignapur temple in Maharashtra gaining momentum, the shrine authorities and activists held a round of “positive” talks mediated by the district collector, with both sides expecting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to take the process forward.

After an hour-long dialogue, the campaign leader Trupti Desai of the Bhumata Brigade said the meeting was “positive” and looked forward to a decision to break the centuries-old gender discrimination at the famous shrine.

Desai’s outfit had led a high-voltage march to the temple in Ahmednagar district on Republic Day but it was halted by authorities at the Supa village, about 70 km from the temple town.

Talking to reporters after the meeting attended by district authorities, temple trustees and Bhumata Brigade members; Collector Anil Kavade said he appealed to the activists not to disrupt peace by taking law into their hands and urged both the parties to reach an “amicable” decision.

“The government is of the opinion that it is in the best interest of the devotees that the activists and the temple authority discuss the matter and arrive at a decision. The Chief Minister has taken note of the matter and wants it to be resolved at the earliest,” Kavade said.

“The CM is keen to take the matter ahead and whatever suggestion is given by him, it shall be taken into account and a decision could be reached amicably,” he added.

Keen to avoid a showdown, Fadnavis had favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.

The temple trust had last month appointed a woman as its chairperson.

“The discussions were positive and we put forward our views. The Collector will be sending report to the Chief Minister, who we think is with us on the issue,” Desai told reporters.

“The talks have been positive. We had no intention of launching any sort of an agitation. We respect the law. We were compelled to take up the ‘satyagarh’ (protest of January 26)…and as far as next week’s protest is concerned, we will not carry it as of now and will wait for some solution,” she said.

Sayaram Bankar, one of the trustees of the temple, also termed the discussions as positive and said “now the ball is in the chief minister’s court”

Meanwhile, Shani Shignapur temple trust chairperson Sunita Shete said the issue was not about any personal rivalry but faith.

“We want the issue to be resolved through talks without hurting religious sentiments,” she said.

The meeting was attended by 11 trustees, district collector and a couple of members of Bhumata Brigade, including Desai.

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