With their village famous for houses adopting “open-door” policy getting a bad name overnight, residents of Shani Shingnapur, trustees of the temple and the temple priest have clarified that women are treated equal to men and have never been insulted at the temple. They also claimed that no ‘purification’ ritual was carried out after a woman entered the shrine last week. The village and temple administration attacked television channels “for presenting a distorted image” of the village. They also denied that women were barred from the shrine.
“Who told you a purification (doodh abhishek) was carried out at the temple? And who told you women are discriminated…it might be happening in other states, but not here…,” said Nitin Shette, a trustee. “If anyone says a purification process was carried out after a woman climbed the barricaded platform, it is a bid to spread false information and harm the image of the temple. The ‘doodh abhishek’ is carried out every day as an age-old practice and not because of any untoward happening,” said Shette, adding that men and women were treated equally and doors of the temple premises were open to all.
Corroborating his views, Swapanrao Bankar, another trustee, said, “Whatever television channels are showing, don’t believe in them. To increase TRP, they have taken to presenting false information.” Shette said television channels had done disservice to the village by blaming it for insulting women. “There is no question of insulting women. They are free to offer prayers like men. They can move freely within the temple. Anybody can come here and experience it first hand…women are treated with full respect.”
Bankar said women who climbed the shrine were not aware that nobody was permitted in that area. “There was a small opening to the shrine area. That day it was not barricaded. The woman, apparently from a far-off place, climbed the area….” Bankar said women and men both were prohibited in that area.
“This is because we want to keep the shrine neat and clean. Also, there is oil on the floor. The chances of devotees falling and hurting themselves cannot be ruled out,” he said.
Temple pujari Sanjay Joshi said a “doodh abhishek” did take place but that was regular. “It is a daily practice…No villager told me they wanted to perform an abhishekh for purifying the shrine. If anybody is saying anything like this, it is a lie.”
Village sarpanch Balasaheb Bankar too denied that villagers performed any purification process or protested against the so-called defiling. He said “dhoodh abhishekh” was performed twice a day and it was a regular process, adding that villagers neither recommended nor carried out any purification process. His father Vinoba Bankar slammed those spreading “falsehoods”.
The temple administration, which suspended six security personnel, explained that the action was carried out as they allowed a security breach.