His centennial birth year is an opportunity to celebrate the man who set up the Border Security Force and laid the ground for the first Public Interest Litigation case

Though he was born a Parsi on May 22, 1916, Khusro Faramurz Rustamji, one of modern India’s most celebrated police officers and the first Director General of the Border Security Force, was cremated, according to his wishes, as per Hindu rituals in March 2003. A passionate nationalist, Rustamji also wrote extensively on minority rights of Hindus and Muslims, and rued the fact that his journalistic writings were not acknowledged. However, now, in the 100th year of his birth, Rustamji’s writings are finally being acknowledged as religiously as his remarkable leadership in the police and BSF.

In 1971, in an acknowledgment of his leadership capabilities, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote a letter at the end of the India-Pakistan war, in which Rustamji had so brilliantly deployed the might of the BSF, a force he nurtured: “As the first line of our defence, the Border Security Force had to bear the immediate brunt of the enemy onslaught. The manner in which they faced the fire and support they gave to the army played a crucial role in our ultimate success.” Defense Secretary KB Lall, in his letter to the Home Secretary also praised the role of the BSF: “A special word of thanks to the Director General of the Border Security Force and to the men and officers under his command, is overdue. It is their initial initiatives, their boldness courage and, if I may say so, imagination, which provided eventually an opportunity to the Defense Services to do their part.”

In the midst of Pakistani fury when Bangladesh was preparing for the swearing-in ceremony, selection of the place was critical. Rustamji was clear he wanted this historic ceremony to be witnessed by the maximum number of people. The spot also had to provide for the possibility of strafing by a Pakistani plane which did this ruthlessly all over East Pakistan. Accordingly, a triangular piece of land jutting into India with a beautiful mango grove was selected in a village called Baidyanathtala which later became Mujib Nagar. It was a unique way for the new Government of a new nation to be sworn in, in the midst of a global Press.

Rustamji nicely summarised this. He said, “The first process of Government of a newly born nation was to commence not in a man-made, gaily decorated and illuminated building of carpeted floor and chandelier decorated ceilings but in a place which had for its canopy the sky, and for its decoration the trees. Decades or centuries hence when the citizens of Bangladesh would look back on the birth of their country and the tragic circumstances attending it, they could legitimately be proud, among other things, of the fact that their first Government sworn to democracy, secularism, and socialism came in an area where nature had bestowed her gifts in profusion and in the wake of ceremonies which were not only immaculate but also daring in their conception and courageous in their execution.”

After his retirement in 1974, Rustamji was much sought after for his expertise. As Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, he structured the BSF, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force in the Central Police Organisation. He also initiated the formation of the Indian Coast Guard and was responsible for setting up the National Police Commission. He later became its member from 1978 to 1983.

Not many know about this but, in 1978, Rustamji visited the jails in Bihar and wrote about the conditions of the undertrials languishing for long periods. Two of his articles in The Indian Express formed the basis for the first Public Interest Litigation case, Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar, which led to the release of 40,000 undertrials all over India.


Encounters with Zoroaster at the National Museum

Delhi residents, and visitors lucky enough to be in the city right now, have a week left to visit a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition at the National Museum. The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, a landmark exhibition in more ways than one, closes on 29 May.


One of the key ideas of the exhibition, Sarah Stewart said, was to show that there is more to the Parsi community than popular stereotypes and caricatures. “So while the Parsi community in India has shown tremendous interest in enjoying the exhibition, what we really hope is that everybody else will also enjoy it,” Stewart said.


Stewart, a lecturer in Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, is one of several experts jointly curating this major exhibition that was originally organised at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery in London in late 2013. This March, after months of planning and, as Stewart explained, a mammoth logistical effort, the show reached the National Museum in New Delhi.


The show, “a visual narrative of the history of Zoroastrianism”, brings together a stunning range of 300 objects from all over the world, including from lending institutions such as the British Museum, the British Library, the National Museum of Iran and the State Hermitage Museum. It is unlikely, Stewart said, that such a collection will ever be shown again at the same place and at the same time.


The exhibition is a rich retelling of the history of the one of the world’s greatest religions. One of the highlights is a replica fire temple installation, modelled on the Maneckji Navroji Sett Fire Temple in Mumbai. This is the closest that many visitors will ever get to seeing the insides of a Fire Temple. Mint on Sunday asked the National Museum’s Joyoti Roy to pick out some of her favourite pieces from this great show and tell us why they are so important.

The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination is open at the National Museum until 29 May 2016, 10 am to 5pm. Closed on Mondays and National Holidays. Entry with Museum ticket.


Dr. Adenwalla – Smile Maker

Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Hirji S. Adenwalla is, quite possibly, the only surgeon in the world who has been exclusively performing cleft surgeries for the last 15 years.

He is the head of The Charles Pinto Cleft Centre at Thrissur’s Jubilee Mission Hospital in south India, the very first hospital to apply for Smile Train’s partnership in the country back in 2000. Under Dr. Adenwalla’s direction, the centre has become one of India’s leading comprehensive cleft training centers and attracts young medical students from all over India.

He sets a strict pace for his team to follow. He has seen more than 16,000 cleft lip and palate surgeries performed at his centre. He performs cleft surgery three times a week.

And, he’s 85-years-old.

Treating children with clefts has become his obsession. An obsession that caused him to pull the emergency stop on a moving train when he saw a child with an unrepaired cleft outside on the platform.

His consultation room has of a portrait of René Laennec, the inventor of the stethoscope, and is covered with signed black-and-white photos of surgical pioneers from around the world.

In our opinion, Dr. Adenwalla is the ultimate smile maker as he changes the faces of India’s cleft children one little smile at a time.


Also check out http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/giving-a-new-face-to-the-disfigured/article3047164.ece

Race and religion

Does it even matter?

I recall a certain adage:
“Never judge a book
By its cover”

Zoroastrians are exactly

As pure as driven snow

Some of us (Zoroastrians)
Do practice Racism Discrimination

Racism towards are women folk

Asho Zarathushtra doesn’t condone
Racism Discrimination Bigotry

Nor does He condone the

Twisted messages down

People’s throats

High time the Zoroastrian Community

Stood in unity to figure out a way

To bring down The Wall


Farida Bamji @2014