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Indian Villagers Defy Court Order, Block Female Activists from Hindu Temple

Indian devotees gather at the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar, some 200 kilometers east of Mumbai, April 2, 2016. Angry villagers blocked a group of women activists from entering the inner sanctum of the temple.

Hundreds of villagers blocked a group of about 30 female activists Saturday from entering the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple in western India.

A high court in Mumbai ruled a day earlier that women have a fundamental right to enter temples in the state of Maharashtra. A 1956 law makes it a crime to keep women from entering Hindu temples, but authorities at some temples have barred women from worship, citing centuries of tradition.

The female activists accessed the compound of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra but were prevented from entering the inner sanctum by temple officials and villagers. Local authorities removed the women to an area about 100 meters away for their safety.

“The honorable court has recognized our right to pray,” said Trupti Desai, the female activists’ leader.

Desai told local media that “police must provide us protection and allow us to enter the shrine.”

She added that her group would stage similar protests at other shrines.

Women are barred from several places of worship in India, including Mumbai’s Muslim holy site, the Haji Ali Dargah mausoleum, and the Hindu Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.