I’m sure you must have seen the MID DAY report, which was forwarded to me by a friend in Mumbai.
While the report is dated 15th November I was in Udwada on the 13th, just two days earlier, on perhaps my last pilgrimage to this Holiest of the Holy Zoroastrian Fire Temple. The IRANSHAH. After the prayers and offerings were done , I was interested in finding out firsthand about the problem related to commercialization of the land adjoining the IranShah about which I was told just two weeks earlier in New Delhi. What I found I would like to share with you and your readers and maybe through your columns arouse interest amongst our community about the real & present danger of losing the sanctity of The Holiest of Holy Place of Worship on this Planet for the Zoroastrians. This is what I found:-
The Vada Dasturji or the High Priest was away in Mumbai where he now lives. So chatting with the Dustur in-charge and those who sit in the outer room, regarding what was the current situation about the problem, one of them was kind enough in deputing this gentleman who is kind of a night watchman at IranShah, to show me to the site.
I was given a ride on his Vespa around the site, where I took some pictures of the vast well maintained lands with mango and coconut orchards and a good sized bungalow in their midst.
This is the gentleman in the picture with the Vespa in front of the barricaded gate with the sign board that reads, “Nucleus Developers of Lower Parel, Mumbai”. The property is well protected in with a barbed wire fence. The Gate to the property I was taken to was not more than 100 yards or so east of IRANSHAH and about the same or little more North from the popular ASHISHVANG HOTEL. It was manned by 2 or more gruff looking men armed with “lathis”,(bamboo sticks). At the far Eastern end of this the partly orchard land are the bungalows of the IranShah Dasturji’s.
Google Earth at 1100 ft elevation gives you a good idea of the proximity and lay out of the land and the Fire Temple in UDWADA. The road over the small bridge inside the land is clearly visible on Google and as seen in the attached pictures.
When I talked with the owners/managers of the Globe Hotel where I stayed, they seemed complacent, for they gave me an impression as if the problem had been resolved for good.
When I talked with the dastur of the Pundol Agiary next to the Globe, he blamed the Trustees of IranShah for the mess they had created by selling the land at a throw away price some time ago, as they wanted funds for a school.
Continuing walking towards the Iran Shah came to the first house facing the Fire Temple. Climbing the half a dozen steps leading to this house with the joolow (swing), this used to be one place my late wife & I used to visit to buy most of the offerings to be made in IranShah during our pilgrimage. Such visits averaged once every two years and going back over 47 years. The lady who managed the mini stall knew Villy as a teenager they were good friends and this lady’s house used to be a place for a cup of tea and fresh bhakras, as well as a place to use the rest room after a long journey from Mumbai, Nargol or Valsad . However on Tuesday there was an elderly gentleman supporting thick glasses minding the stall. While purchasing the sukar & kathi, I tried to start up a conversation with him about what was happening around and tried to find out how involved the resident Parsis were regarding this new threat. He said thing were quiet for now but who knows what is up the sleeve of the developer. I was very sad to hear what he said next. That his wife who earlier managed the place had passed away, he had seven brothers all of them gone, now he is the last one left, praying and waiting for Ahura Mazda’s call anytime.
His talk sets me thinking. What happens to this old man’s house which bears a plaque “DIN DASTUR HOUSE 1340 –1310”. Will some non-Parsi buy it. Do we have a listing of how many Parsi houses are lying locked unused or for sale. Zoroastrians from elsewhere may be interested in buying them or rebuilding them as their holiday homes, thus maintaining the Zoroastrian presence around the this Mecca, this St Peters, this Temple Mount, this Kedarnath, this Holiest of Holy Place of Worship of the Peace loving Zoroastrian. Where are the so called leaders of the Community?
I wonder how many Parsi young men are left in Udwada. As the ghost of Yugoslavia emerges in my mind. Horrorific pictures of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in New Delhi go into fast rewind in your mind’s eye. I shudder to think of another ethnic cleansing in Udwada, will the rest of the world ever know about it?
A young couple who were purchasing Sukhar out-side the gate of Iranshah, surprised me by calling out “Rusi Uncle, Oer Kochh Kay I am Khushnuma and this is Noshir , Abu Dhabi, and Detroit IL,” The Petition and Letter you emailed us we forwarded to the Chief Minister and to the Minister for Minority Affairs as you had suggested, what is happening now? These were our dear young friends on my email list and whom we knew in Abu Dhabi some 25 years ago. Another dear old friend who was there in Udwada that day and personally confirmed rushing the Petitions too, was Mahrukh of Dubai & Melbourne Australia. Seems that Zoroastrians outside India were more concerned about the Udwada Problem than those at home.
While in Mumbai and prior to my visit to Udwada, majority of the people I talked with were under the impression that the matter had been resolved and there were sms messages and emails thanking Ahura Mazda for the quick resolution of the problem.
As if shell shocked I say to myself, “Somebody has got to tell the community in India that their euphoria is sadly misplaced and untimely, it is only the first round and unless they don’t get over their complacency, put their petty differences aside, stand up united as a Community in large numbers and be prepared to take the matter to the highest Court in the land, this Holiest of Holy places of the Zoroastrian may soon lose its sanctity for good.”
The stay order before the Tribunal expires on December 8th, when there is another Court hearing. The Advocate representing the IranShah case is not getting the support he requires , and it seems the so called elected leaders of the Community in India have been under the Rip Van Winkles affect, leaving the local aged Dasturs to take on the legal challenge.
The Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid hasn’t yet agreed to see any Zoroastrian representative or even the High Priest of Udwada.
Mr. Narinder Modi who was of great help last month and the only official to take the issue seriously. He went out of the way to extend his help but now it is said he is losing his patience at the Community’s lethargy or complacency in the matter.
Through your columns may I request your readers to voice their protests about the commercialization and eventual industrialization of the land around this our Holliest of Holy Place of Worship, buy addressing their concerns to aforesaid Minister in New Delhi and to the Environmental Groups in India complaining of the Ecological Damage and Destruction. Organizations like the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Gujrat Pollution Control Board, Awaz Control. And, through your columns perhaps set off a loud alarm to wake up some of those elected Rip Van Winkles.
Tandaroasti & Yazdaan panaah Baad,
PS: Just heard early this morning ( Monday 22nd Nov ) Vada Dasturji is leaving for AHMEDABAD