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Women's-rights activists blocked from entering temple in India

By Daniel Uria
Bhumata Ranragini Brigade's leader Trupti Desai and 26 other supporters were detained by police after attempting to enter the sacred platform inside Shani Shingnapur temple on Saturday. Desai sought to enter the temple following a Bombay High Court ruling defending women's right to worship, but the group was met with resistance by locals and authorities.
 Screen capture/Google Maps
Bhumata Ranragini Brigade's leader Trupti Desai and 26 other supporters were detained by police after attempting to enter the sacred platform inside Shani Shingnapur temple on Saturday. Desai sought to enter the temple following a Bombay High Court ruling defending women's right to worship, but the group was met with resistance by locals and authorities. Screen capture/Google Maps

NEW DELHI, April 2 (UPI) -- Angry villagers and local authorities stopped women's-rights activists from entering Shani Shingnapur temple on Saturday, despite a Bombay high court ruling defending women's rights to enter.

Bhumata Ranragini Brigade leader Trupti Desai and 25 other supporters were detained by police to avoid conflict with the villagers, authorities said.

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On Friday, the high court in Mumbai ruled women have a fundamental right to enter Hindu temples across the state of Maharashtra, breaking with a centuries-old tradition. The court also found the government has the responsibility to protect women's rights.

The activists tried to enter the temple on Saturday but were met by a wall of angry villagers -- both women and men -- and authorities who oversee the temple.

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"If chief minister Devendra Fadnavis does not order police to allow us to worship at the restricted Shani platform area inside the temple in keeping with the HC order, I will file an FIR against him for violating it (the ruling)," Desai told Times of India.

Desai and about 25 other activists set out to enter the sacred chauthara, or platform, inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, citing the high court's ruling.

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The group was told that no one was allowed inside the sanctum regardless of gender. Desai said the policy change was made in response to her efforts to enter the temple.

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"In case of Shani Shinganapur, the temple trust used to allow men at chauthara and only after our agitation started, they had put restrictions on males. So we should not be restricted," she said.

All India Mahila Congress President Shobha Oza and Delhi Commission for Women chairwoman Swati Maliwal called the actions of locals and authorities "completely shameful" and criticized their dismissal of the court ruling.

"What is happening right now in Maharashtra is a contempt of court, which needs to be completely stopped," she said. "It is the responsibility of the government to actually intervene and ensure that these women get access to the temple, which is their right and had been denied to them for so many years."

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