Finally, the wait of the women to get equal access to the Haji Ali Dargah was over. After 5 years, a group of 75-80 women all over India entered the Haji Ali Dargah on Tuesday afternoon, said an activist.
Noorjehan S. Niaz, the co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) told IANS, “It will be routine now, we have not informed the police or the Dargah Trust. We shall pay our respects and come out.”
The women were allowed entry up to the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah till 2012, but suddenly the Dargah Trust denied the women access to the grave.
In 2012, BMMA and others challenged it in the Bombay High court. On 26th August, Justices Revathi Mohite-Dhere and V.M. Kanade ordered the Trust to allow the women and the Trust challenged the HC’s decision in the Supreme Court.
On 24th October, the Supreme Court gave its verdict that the shrine should give equal access to men and women. The Trust authorities sought four week’s time to change the required infrastructure. It said to the SC that “it does not want to take an adversarial position on the issue and wants time to resolve the matter”.
Niaz stated that today the women offered floral tributes ‘chadars’ and pray for peace at the Dargah. “It was a fight for equality, ending gender bias and our Constitutional rights. We are happy that it has resulted in women and men getting equal unrestricted access right till the sanctum sanctorum.”
Suhail Khandwani, a trustee of the Dargah said that there were separate entries for men and women and nobody would be allowed to touch the peer’s tomb.
Under the new arrangements, all devotees would pray and wait nearly two metres away from the tomb.
In 1431, the Dargah was constructed in memory of a Muslim merchant Sayyed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari of Bukhara in modern Uzbekistan. A large number of pilgrims of all regions from all over India and abroad visit the Dargah for the saint’s blessings.