Trupti Desai is an Indian political activist and the founder of the Bhumata Brigade, a Pune-based social activist organization. She and the brigade have campaigned to get entry for women to religious places like the Shani Shingnapur Temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple, the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple and most recently the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.
Desai was born in Nipani taluka in the Indian state of Karnataka. Her father left the family for an ashram and she was raised with her two siblings by her mother. She studied home science at the Pune campus of Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) Women's University but discontinued after first year due to family problems.
Desai is married and has one son. Her husband Prashant claims that she is "extremely spiritual" and is follower of Gagangiri Maharaj of Kolhapur. However, rumors are spread by right wing activists that she has been recently converted into Christianity.
In 2003, Desai was a social worker with Krantiveer Jhopdi Vikas Sangh to help rehabilitate slum dwellers. From 2007 to 2009, Desai staged protests against the financial irregularities at the Ajit Cooperative Bank involving a fraud of ₹50 crore (US$7.2 million). In January 2009, she led a group against then deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar. An arrest warrant was issued against her in 2013 for heading the group that allegedly "slapped the effigy of Pawar, used abusive language and held an illegal agitation despite prohibitory orders". Desai was immediately released on bail, claiming that the arrest was just a tactic to stop activists from protesting. She founded the Bhumata Brigade on 27 September 2010. Since its founding, the brigade has grown from 400 to 5,000 registered members as of January 2016[update]. In 2011, she also participated in the anti-corruption movement.
In November 2015, a woman entered the Hindu shrine of Shani Shingnapur Temple, where women were not allowed. The priests of the temple suspended the security guard on duty at the time and carried out a cleansing ceremony of the idol. This event of discrimination towards women agitated Desai, who along with other members of her Brigade staged various forced entries into the shrine. The state Government and the district level court of Pune directed the temple officials to allow women in the shrine based on their constitutional rights. On 8 April 2016, the day celebrated as Gudi Padwa—the new year day of the Maharashtrian calendar—Desai along with other female members of the Brigade entered the shrine of Shani Shingnapur Temple.
Post Shingnapur entry, Desai reached to the Mahalakshmi Temple in Kolhapur where the temple management committee allowed her entry but the priests became violent against her. Five priests were arrested for attacking Desai and the protestors. She also entered the inner sanctum of the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple near Nashik where she was peacefully escorted by the police, but only with wet clothes similar to how the temple allows men.
In April 2016, she made an attempt to enter the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai; however, an angry mob made it unsuccessful. Desai claimed that she received a death threat if she again tried to enter the dargah—a type of Islamic shrine. On 12 May 2016, she made a successful second attempt and entered the mosque under tight security but not in the inner sanctum where women are not allowed.
In November 2018, She made an unsuccessful attempt to visit the Sabarimala temple in Kerala during the Mandalam-Makaravilakk pilgrim season. The temple had legal as well as religious restrictions that prevented the entry of women of menstruating age (approx. 10-50 years) since 1991 which was overturned through a historic verdict by the Supreme Court of India in October 2018. Eventhough a dozen women of menstruating age group had attempted to visit the temple after the verdict came, all of them proved unsuccessful largely due to protests. Trupti was also blocked by protesters at Cochin International Airport on 16 November 2018, while on her journey to Sabarimala. She decided to return after getting stranded inside the airport for more than 14 hours and vowed to come back again.
- Goyal, Prateek (30 January 2016). "Meet Bhumata Brigade's Trupti Desai: Devout Hindu, aggressive activist". The News Minute. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- Anand, Geeta; Raj, Suhasini (29 April 2016). "Forging a Path for Women, Deep Into India's Sacred Shrines". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
- "Shani Shingnapur temple entry ban row: Who is Bhumata Ranragini Brigade's chief Trupti Desai?". Zee News. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- Joshi, Yogesh (29 January 2016). "Trupti Desai: The woman spearheading Shani Shingnapur protest". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- Chavan, Vijay (3 October 2013). "Activist gets arrest warrant 4.5 years after FIR is filed". Pune Mirror. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- Waghmode, Vivek (17 April 2016). "5 priests among 7 booked for assaulting Trupti Desai". Times of India. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- Hebbar, Prajakta (29 April 2016). "Trupti Desai Claims There's A Bounty Of ₹1 Lakh To Stop Her From Entering Haji Ali". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- "Activist Trupti Desai enters Haji Ali, stops short of going into inner sanctum". The Times of India. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- "Social activist Trupti Desai to visit Sabarimala during Mandalam month". Mathrubhumi.
- "Trupti Desai heads back home after protesters bloch her Sabarimala trek, says "will certainly return"". news18.