In a recent historic judgment, the Bombay High Court declared that women can enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, located at the southern part of Mumbai. This place of importance contains the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.
Through its judgment, the High Court lifted the ban that prevented women from entering the sanctum sanctorum. The Court said that if women were banned from entering the Dargah, it would be in violation of Articles 14, 15 and 25. However, following a plea by the Haji Ali Trust, the order has been stayed.
The Bombay High Court judgment has greater significance when compared to the issue of women’s entry in Sabarimala. In both the cases, women are being prevented from worshipping the deity. However, experts say that Sabarimala is a place where the deity is perennially celibate, and so the cases aren’t the same.
Rahul Easwar, author and activist, who is also the grandson of Kandararu Maheshwararu, senior supreme priest of Sabarimala, has said that the judgment regarding the entry of women in Haji Ali Dargah is not applicable to Sabarimala.
“The temple is a place where there is a sanctuary and idol presuppositions. We even have a High Court verdict in favor of this. In Sabarimala, every year, lakhs of women visit the temple. The only thing that exists is the restriction in age for women. The reason why I said the Haji Ali Dargah judgement is not applicable to Sabarimala is because in the former, women’s entry to a particular area is not at all allowed. But in Sabarimala, there are no such issues for women,” he says.
The Kochi Post asked him about a Twitter post in which he offered help to the Haji Ali Trust fight the case in the Supreme Court.
“Our Muslim brothers are already insecure. There is no need to irritate them. Moreover, Haji Ali is a Sufi Islamic mosque. What extremism the world faces today is Salafi extremism. Indian Muslims are the so-called Sufis. Sufism is a part of Indian culture. That is why all religious people respect and visit that place. So I don’t think certain beliefs of theirs should be opposed in any way,” he says.
Mr. Easwar was also asked about the recent Facebook post by BJP General Secretary K. Surendran, in which he hinted at supporting the matter of entry of women in Sabarimala.
“I humbly disagree with what he said. Hindu is not only Vedic, it is Tantric too. There is no temple in the Vedas. In, Bhagavat Gita, you cannot find a word called temple. So, Vedic and Tantric are the two hands of culture of this land,” he says.
K.P. Haridas, Organising Secretary of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, said that if a court order comes then everyone has to abide it.
“What the common minds of Kerala need is to continue with the ongoing process at Sabarimala. If some change is necessary, then it should be made. But we don’t have that responsibility. It lies with the ideologues and others who are responsible for the same,” he says.
Advocate and media critic A. Jayashankar said that the trend is that in these types of cases the Supreme Court is favoring women. He feels there is a chance that the Sabarimala issue will head that way.
When The Kochi Post asked him about Mr. Surendran’s stand on the issue, Mr. Jayashankar said, “What he said is his personal opinion. There is a mix up of opinions on this issue within the BJP and the RSS. The RSS central leadership is of the opinion that women of all age should be permitted in Sabarimala. However, the local leadership is against that stand.”
The Haji Ali judgment appears to have not played a role in changing the minds of the Thantris or those who are part of the Travancore Devaswom Board. They continue to be firm on their stand to not encourage women, other than those under the age group of 10 and those above 50, to enter the temple.
Main photograph by Leniko, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.