Mumbai, November 30 (Times of India): After five years and a series of legal battles and protests, women re-entered the iconic Haji Ali dargah on Tuesday.
In a gesture that earned the dargah trustees fulsome praise, they not only helped women devotees offer flowers and the ‘chadar’ at the saint’s tomb, but also offered them tea. Around 100 women from across the country reached the Haji Ali dargah around 3pm. “The trustees were very cooperative and made us feel comfortable,” said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which led the struggle for women’s entry to the shrine.
She added that the women sought “divine blessings to remove the patriarchal mindset that denies women equal space in religious places”. “Now we hope that those who practice and promote the patriarchal mentality will mend their ways,” she said.
Some said they were pleasantly surprised to see the changed attitude of the dargah trustees. “If they had earlier treated us the way they did on Tuesday, we would not have launched the agitation. They offered us tea too,” said Khatoon Shaikh, BMMA’s Maharashtra convenor. Apart from praying at the dargah, the women also enjoyed the sama (Sufi qawwali) session.
“We have made arrangements to ensure that the women worshippers are not inconvenienced. We are complying with the affidavit we submitted to the Supreme Court, according to which men and women worshippers are allowed an equal space. Both stand in separate queues and two metres away from the saint’s tomb and pray,” said trustee Sohail Khandwani.
Till 2011, women worshippers were allowed access to the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum, but their entry was suddenly blocked. In 2014, BMMA petitioned the Bombay high court against the ban and, on August 26 this year, the high court lifted it. The dargah trust challenged it in the Supreme Court. The SC upheld the order.