New Delhi: Miffed with the Maharashtra government’s move to take control of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district, the trustees and villagers of the area have begun a hunger strike.
The decision to take over the reins of the temple was taken after a cabinet meeting on the issue. A bill may be introduced in the monsoon session to formalise the decision. Once implemented, the law will give the government powers to appoint trustees as well as manage the assets of the temple.
While several Hindu outfits in Maharashtra have opposed the move, the state government defended the decision, saying it was forced to take the step due to frequent complaints of mismanagement by the trustees. It added that keeping in mind the growing number of visitors to the temple, there was a need to provide better amenities and facilities.
At present, the Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur, Shirdi temple in Nashik and Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple are governed by the state government.
The Shani temple was in the news in 2016 when a woman pushed through the barricades and entered the sanctum sanctorum to offer prayers, breaking a centuries-old tradition that allowed only men inside the complex.
Temple authorities performed a ‘puja’ to “purify” the deity, leading to a country-wide debate on gender equality and the right to pray. In a historic decision, the trust finally allowed women to pray in the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Lord Shanidev.