Accompanied by police, Desai and her supporters followed the prevalent customs and prayed outside the inner sanctum, as permitted by the dargah trust and departed a few minutes later.
“I have prayed that women should be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah, as was the case till 2011… Next time, we shall make attempts to pray there,” Desai told mediapersons later.
However, she threatened to launch a protest if the dargah did not allow women to offer prayers till the spot where the men are allowed, within 15 days.
“This is a fight to gender equality at religious places. Today, we witnessed the point where men are allowed and women are not permitted. The dargah trustees must allow women further till the spot where men are permitted within 15 days, failing which we shall protest,” Desai said.
Thursday’s visit to the dargah was a follow-up of the aborted agitation carried out by Desai and other NGOs on April 28 under the banner of ‘Haji Ali For All’.
In view of a potentially sensitive situation and entry of political parties on the scene, the police intervened and did not permit Desai entry to the dargah.
The shrine trustees reiterated that permitting women upto the tomb of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari would be “anti-Islam” and claimed immunity as it was a ‘minority trust’.
The iconic Haji Ali Dargah, where people of all faiths throng, is situated on a small rocky islet in the Arabian Sea, around 500 metres from the Mumbai shoreline at Worli.