Bombay HC Rules To Let Women Devotees Enter Haji Ali Dargah Sanctum
It is a landmark judgement for sure, though the irony cannot be missed. It has taken a judicial authority to rule that women devotees be allowed to practice their faith in a saint. Today, august 26, 2016, will be marked by the women devotees of Haji Ali Dargah , in Mumbai, as a day of celebration. They can once again go into allow them into the sanctum sanctorum, the inner and most revered area. These are the orders of the Bombay High Court.
The court ruled on a public interest litigation (PIL) that had challenged the ‘ban’ on women devotees from entering the shrine. According to a report by The Quint, Bombay HC has also said that it will ensure “necessary protection” to the respondents of the PIL. Those challenging this gender-based ban had said that there was no prohibition on women visiting graves.
The Haji Ali Dargah that sits in luminous glory into the sea, is built over the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.), and is visited by thousands of devotees every day. However, the trust that oversees its functioning has maintained that it was a “sin” for women devotees to be near, or touch the grave of male saint.
Of course there is no evidence given, how a woman’s touch would ‘pollute’ or otherwise affect the shrine. Science for sure has never agreed, however, the interpretation of faith, especially by the men who claim to be its keepers are rarely based on science.
While, the Bombay High Court has said the ban on women is unconstitutional, the Dargah Trust is ready to approach the Supreme Court.
According to this report in The Hindu, banning women from entering the sacred area was “against Article 14 (equality before law within India), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex), 19 (1)(d) (to move freely throughout the territory of India) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Indian Constitution.” The PIL was filed by Noor Jahan of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan in November 2014. According to it women were visiting the dargah, till June 2012, when the Trust suddenly announced a ban on their entry into the sanctum.
Interestingly, many major world religions, which are based on teaching human values of compassion, empathy, love and kindness, often have “rules” and “regulations” that seem to apply to women only. The absurdities of calling menstruation unclean, labour pain as ‘punishment’, women as being inferior to men often find their roots in the orthodox representations of ancient religious texts. Change is coming, slowly. There is hope, that one day keepers of all religions will realise, that men and women are the same in the eyes of God.