MUMBAI: After the successful right-to-pray campaign centred around the Shani Temple in Ahmednagar district, a similar public-backed movement has been launched to seek entry of women into the core area of the Haji Ali Dargah in the city.
Over 20 outfits, NGOs and human right activists today announced formation of 'Haji Ali Sabke Liye' to peacefully campaign against the ban on entry of women into the interiors of the 15th century Sufi shrine, located on a small islet in the Arabian Sea and visited by hundreds of people everyday.
The forum was launched at a press conference which was briefly disrupted by a group of people who said the move was against the Sharia.
Addressing the meet, its convener Javed Anand said, "The forum is of the firm view that women's entry in the Dargah is not a religious issue, but something to do with customs and traditions. This is why the forum is appealing to the trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah to immediately withdraw the restriction imposed on entry of women."
The Bombay High Court is hearing a petition challenging the Haji Ali Trust's decision to ban the entry of women into the sanctum of the shrine.
"We are sincerely requesting the trustees to withdraw the ban before the HC gives its final order," said Anand.
Anand said he has full faith in the judiciary but is appealing to the management of the dargah to uphold the right to equality of women at religious places.
Representatives of the forum will try to meet the trustees to convey their sentiments on the issue. The new body would soon hold a peaceful dharna outside the shrine, which houses the tomb of a Sufi saint and also a mosque, he said.
Trupti Desai of Bhumata Brigade, who successfully spearheaded the agitation seeking entry of women in Shani Shinganapur's sanctum, said fighting for women's right was part of her mission and she would proactively take part in this movement too.
Mariam Dhawale, state president, All India Democratic Association, said after the Haji Ali Dargah row is solved, the forum would launch a similar movement to demand entry into other religious places where such a ban is in place.