Bombay High Court deserves praise for its landmark verdict allowing the entry of women up to the mazar in the revered Sufi dargah in south central Mumbai (“Haji Ali ordered to let women in” –AV August 27). This is not the first time that the Bombay High Court has ruled in favour of women’s right to enter a place of worship. The Shani Shingnapur temple, which had barred women from entering its core area for over 400 years has allowed women activists to pray inside the temple following the court’s orders. The High Court’s decision in Haji Ali case is a drop in the ocean. It is the duty of the state to ensure that women should have the same rights as men when it comes to religion and culture. It is a slap on the faces of those who imposed a ban on women’s entry into the Dargah. This is a historic movement with long-term significance for Indian democracy and for the future of religion in the modern world. For centuries male hegemonies have owned or presided over places of religious worship let it be churches, temples, dargahs, mosques etc. The Haji Ali Dargah Trust is a public charitable trust. It is open to people all over the world, irrespective of their caste, creed or sex, etc. The trust is always at liberty to take steps to prevent sexual harassment of women, not by banning their entry in the sanctum sanctorum. The courts are upholding the highest principles of justice and equality and they are a great source of inspiration for all who believe in equality of the sexes. However, as the court has stayed its order for six weeks, allowing the trust the liberty to appeal in the Supreme Court let us see whether women are permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah at par with men.
Vinod C. Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)