04/14/2016, 13.23
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"The right to pray" in India: women attacked by gurus for entering temple

The women are part of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, who have been protesting for months. Mumbai High Court has confirmed their right to pray even in the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple. The activists were attacked for having "disobeyed" the order to wear the sari, the traditional Indian women’s dress.


Kolhapur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After months of controversy, activists of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (the Women warriors of Mother Earth) were allowed to enter the Mahalaxmi Kolhapur temple, Maharashtra. For the first time after centuries of prohibition, women entered yesterday in the inner sanctum of the temple, the central part where there is the statue of the deity ( "gabhara" in Hindi), in groups of four at a time, controlled and watched by local police.

Later that evening, however, some of them, including the group's leader, were attacked and beaten by the priests and faithful because "guilty" of not wearing the sari, as they had been ordered by the police and Hindu holy men.

Trupti Desai, the woman who leads the activists, is now hospitalized with various injuries. Her condition is not serious, although she was violently shaken. The priests and other men pulled her hair and clothes. She said: "I thought they wanted to kill me. They hurled themselves  at us shouting: 'Do not let her out of here alive.' "

For months the women have been leading a protest in several Indian states, reaffirming their "right to pray" in Hindu worship. The temples do not allow them access into the inner part of the complex, where the faithful may catch "sight” ( "darshan") of a deity. The entrance is forbidden to all women of childbearing age, 10 to 50, because they are considered unclean in the eyes of the gods.

In recent months, the "warrior’s" protest has turned the spotlight on what is considered by many as an injustice, even forcing the judiciary to comment on the matter. In late March, the Mumbai High Court affirmed that women have the right to enter the temple and no one can prevent them from freely practicing their religion. The judges also ruled that "anyone who prohibits access to women is punishable with imprisonment for up to six months".

The judges ruling has "forced" the authorities of the temple Shani Shingnapur Ahmadnagar, Maharashtra, to open their doors to women. Two days ago the Indian Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, called on the authorities of another temple, that of Sabarimala Ayyappa in Kerala, to explain the reasons for the restrictions in respect of the faithful. The temple has become famous for the statements by the head of the temple, who proposed the invention of a machine able to investigate whether women are "pure."

After the victory in Maharashtra and entry into the Shani temple, activists were granted permission to also enter the Mahalaxmi, but on one condition: They must wear the sari, the traditional Indian long robe covering women from the ankles up, and not the salwar kameez, the shirt that comes up to their hips. The women who "disobeyed" the order, marching dressed with salwar kameez, were stopped by the police and held in pre-trial detention. Then in the evening they tried to enter the temple, but were attacked.

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