Pankaja Munde defends Maharashtra temple’s practice of barring women

MUMBAI (TIP): Defending the practice of not allowing women to perform ‘puja’ at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra rural development minister Pankaja Munde said on Thursday traditional rituals cannot be “linked with insult” of women.

Munde’s statement, which came in the wake of a woman offering ‘puja’ at the temple by breaching security, drew sharp reaction from opposition NCP.

“These are traditions and cannot be linked with insult of women fraternity,” Munde said, defending the age-old ‘ban’ after a woman devotee’s action last week created a furore.

“The outrage over the woman entering the Shani temple is a non-issue,” the BJP leader said.

Chitra Wagh, women’s wing president of the state NCP, criticised Munde’s statement. “In a progressive state like Maharashtra, instead of appreciating the move to break the traditions that are against women, the BJP minister, by making such a statement, has taken state back to an era where women were not treated at par with men,” Wagh said.

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The temple, which attracts thousands of pilgrims daily, is devoted to Lord Shani and women are traditionally barred from offering prayers at the shrine, located about 250km from Mumbai.

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