Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Maharashtra govt favours lifting ban on women at Haji Ali

The Maharashtra government, on Tuesday, favoured lifting of the ban on entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali shrine unless its controlling authority proves the measure has been put in place as part of its religious practice with reference to Quran.

The BJP-led government's view was conveyed to the court, hearing a petition challenging the ban, by state's advocate general Shrihari Aney.

The Durgah Board, however, told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere that the women have been barred from entering the sanctum sanctorum since it houses the tomb of a male saint. In Islam, it is a sin for women to touch a male saint or his tomb, it said, defending the ban.

Petitioner Raju More, however, contested the Board's argument, contending Haji Ali's official website says nobody was actually buried inside the tomb.

"I also gave the court a printout of what is officially mentioned on the Haji Ali's website in support of my argument," he said.

After hearing their contentions, the court asked all the parties to submit their arguments in writing within two weeks.

The court had on February 3 sought the state government's opinion on the PIL challenging the ban.

The HC had indicated last month that it would wait for the Supreme Court's ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple in Kerala before deciding on the plea.

A petition in the apex court has sought entry for all women and girls into the Sabarimala temple which prohibits girls and women aged 10-50 years from visiting the shrine.

The Maharashtra government's submission on the issue came amid an ongoing row over a similar ban on women at a Shani temple in Shani Shingnapur. The authorities had recently thwarted an attempt by a women's group to enter the temple's sanctum sanctorum by detaining them.

The agitating women are now waiting for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's decision on whether the ban should be lifted.

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