NEW DELHI –– Police in western India have prevented hundreds of women from marching to a temple traditionally open only to men.
The protesters want access to pray in its inner sanctum, but were stopped in a village 70 kilometres from their destination in Maharashtra state.
The group want to end the “humiliating” practice of barring women from the main shrine at Shani Shingnapur.
Reports say about 600 police were deployed in the area. The women were denied permission to hire a helicopter.
#RightToWorship began trending in India as the protest gathered momentum.
The Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmadnagar is dedicated to Lord Shani, believed to be a personification of the planet Saturn.
“We are determined to end the distasteful practice on Republic Day,” Trupti Desai, the president of the group, told one Indian newspaper.
However temple priests and residents nearby had opposed the move, and had said they would form a human chain around the temple to prevent the women from entering.
The protest, led by a women’s group called the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (Women Warriors Of Mother Earth), saw the participation of up to 1,000 women, according to some Indian media reports.
A majority of the protesters were travelling to the temple by road, but were stopped by a large group of policemen at the town of Supa, around 70 kilometres from the temple.
The women have said they will not move until they are allowed to continue their journey to the temple.
The campaign has gathered traction in Indian media and on social media, with many people using the hashtags #RightToWorship and #RightToPray to express support for the women.