Art of Negotiations: Sri Sri Leads Talks to Solve Temple Tangle

Posted on: Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Posted by: Art of Living Universe

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Two meetings between Shani Shingnapur top shots and Art of Living guru in Bengaluru.

Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar emerged as the mediator-in-chief in the Shani Shingnapur stalemate even as both the traditionalists and the liberals hardened their positions on allowing women into the temple's sanctum sanctorum.

Temple trustees — who have fought for years to preserve the temple's tradition of not allowing women into close proximity of the deity — held a series of meetings with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Bengaluru on Friday to break the deadlock.

According to a source present at the meetings, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar proposed two solutions:
  1. Allow both men and women into the temple's sanctum sanctorum, just like it is done at Kashi Vishwanath temple, one of the holiest Hindu shrines.
  2. Follow the Tirupati-Balaji template, where the sanctum sanctorum is out of bounds for both men and women.
While both solutions have been suggested earlier also, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's intervention means the state's political establishment has decided to move towards a resolution instead of stalling for more time. Also, given Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's rapport with some of the most senior Union government leaders, it is clear the initiative has the approval of the Centre, too.
The state government itself has shown no urgency to engage with the temple's trustees, who said they were taken aback by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis's tweet, saying Indian culture supports gender-neutral access to temples and shrines.

A senior trustee said he and his colleagues camped in Mumbai for two days after a march on Wednesday, led by Pune activist Trupti Desai, was stopped 70 km from Shingnapur town, but were not granted audience. He, however, refused to reveal who and how they were put in touch with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The source present at the Bangalore meetings said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has agreed to visit Shani Shingnapur next week to hold a dialogue with the town's residents, who are dead against opening the temple's sanctum sanctorum to women. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a previously scheduled programme at Balewadi and Alandi in Pune on February 7. He is likely to squeeze in a visit to Shani Shingnapur during the visit.

Apart from tradition, their opposition stems also from the town's economy, which is intractably linked to the temple. Currently, the temple trust allows men to enter the sanctum sanctorum and perform a brief 'aarti' if they pay Rs 11,000 for the access. The hundreds of shops in the town thrive on the oil and other pooja material devotees buy from them for the aarti.

Trustees said their hand has been forced by the protesters and the support they have won in the government on the one side and, on the other, by the rising tempers in the town. "Our fear is that some protesters will try to force entry into the temple at some point and there will be a clash. The consequences could be serious," said a trustee seeking anonymity.

The Nationalist Congress Party, which controls the shrine (the party has nine nominees on the trust), also seems to favour opening its sanctum sanctorum to women. Member of Parliament and party president Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule has said the issue should be resolved through talks.

Trupti Desai has already made it clear that Wednesday's march was not her group's last attempt to storm the temple. She told Mirror on Friday: "I have given a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and he has promised to look into the matter. I will wait for eight days and will then try to approach him again if the situation doesn't change. The last resort, of course, is force," she said.

Meanwhile, a PIL filed by Dr Vasudha Pawar at the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday has further racheted up the pressure on the government and the shrine's trust. In a preliminary hearing before the admission of the PIL, justice s R M Borde and K I S Cheema issued notices to the state government, the central government and the state government's social justice department. The next hearing is scheduled for February 16.

Source: Pune Mirror

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