A day after the Bombay High Court ruled that no law prevented women's entry into places of worship, women activists seeking entry were assaulted and prevented by villagers from praying at the Shani Shingnapur Temple on Saturday.
A tense atmosphere prevailed in the pilgrim-cum-tourist site as Bhumata Ranragini Brigade President Trupti Desai and a band of around 500 women supporters entered the village and attempted to approach the temple precincts.
Hundreds of villagers, mostly women, formed human chains and prevented the activists from proceeding for 'darshan' at the Shani Temple in the centre of the village.
Chaos prevailed as an aggressive Desai and her team reached the village and proceeded straight to the temple. They were stopped in their tracks by villagers as well as police.
"This is a contempt of the Bombay High Court… the court had ordered that if women are stopped, the police must intervene and allow them to go to the sanctum sanctorum," Desai told mediapersons.
The chaos degenerated into a free for all with the resolute activists being pushed around and assaulted by the agitated villagers and police virtually barricading the temple complex.
Desai warned that if the women were stopped from going to pray right under the nose of the police, she would lodge a complaint against the concerned officials.
"Why is the police remaining silent? Was Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis lying when the assurance was made before the court? He should have issued the necessary orders as submitted to the court, why was it not done? Should we lodge a police complaint even against Fadnavis?" she asked.
Desai declared the women would not leave the village without having an audience in the sanctum sanctorum of the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple.
In a ruling with far-reaching implications, the Bombay High Court on Friday had declared that no law prevents women from entering places of worship and there should be no gender discrimination as far as entering a place of worship is concerned.
The verdict by a division bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice M. S. Sonak of Bombay High Court had come on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activists Vidya Bal and senior lawyer Nilima Vartak.
Disposing off the PIL, the judges had directed the Maharashtra government to take proactive steps to ensure compliance with the laws, saying it is "the fundamental right of a woman" and must be protected.
The state government assured it was totally opposed to gender discrimination and it would scrupulously implement the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956, which stipulated six months jail for violators.
Women devotees are not allowed to worship at this temple, dedicated to Lord Shanidev – the personification of planet Saturn.