People tend to do anything and everything in the name of religion, so much so that the Haji Ali Dargah Trust banned women from entering the Dargah on no concrete grounds. However, it wasn’t long before agitated women activists entered the Dargah in all humility, after 5 years of long court trials and protests.
A Little Background
Until 2012, women were allowed to enter the Dargah of Haji Ali but were not given the right to enter the inner sanctum of the Dargah. Then, on one fine morning, the Dargah Trust decided to bar women, almost completely stating that it was against the Quran and Hadith.
The sudden move made by the trust started a wave of conversations that led to it being acknowledged by the Bombay High Court as a violation of various constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan first filed a PIL against the Dargah Trust requesting the protection of Articles 14 and 15 (rights to equality and non-discrimination), and 25(1) (right to religious freedom) of the Constitution. The arguments made by the Dargah Trust were rather absurd and baseless. It said that the Islam mandated the exclusion of women from the inner sanctum, however, nothing of such reference was found in the Quran and Hadith. The trust also invoked Article 26(b) that grants religious establishments to manage their own affairs.
Seeing this as an issue of equality and discrimination, Article 26(b) was withheld. The judgement was made in the favour of the women, with an added access to the inner sanctum of the Dargah.
Not A First
Debarring women from entering mosques or temples is surprisingly a widely accepted and comparatively common phenomenon in India. Some examples include Lod Kartikeya Temple, Rajasthan, Lord Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala, Mangal Chandi Temple, Bokaro etc. A common song sung at such establishments is the fact that a woman menstruates. Authorities fail to understand that a woman does not menstruate all the 365 days a year, and not letting her enter a place of worship based on a completely natural phenomenon is quite disturbing.
All in all, the entire Haji Ali episode is sure to tell us just how easily and conveniently the rules of religion are moulded to suit the ideologies of people who fail to understand its essence. Luckily enough, 300 years of freedom struggle has at least taught us to stand up, and demand rights that are ours by birth.
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