Udvada: The Land Controversy – 2

Dear Sir,

15 days

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,

Rusi Sorabji
PS:  Just  heard early this morning ( Monday 22nd Nov ) Vada Dasturji is leaving for  AHMEDABAD

7 comments

  • Danger at Udvada
    It is high time the Big Talkers at BPP and the so called Saviours of our Religion should wake up to one of the most important tasks at hand, by taking up the matter at the highest level, of our Paak Iranshah at Udvada being throttled by the thoughtless developers in connivance with corrupt politicians!!! If these Akaabars sitting in the ivory chairs at the BPP call themselves the Godfathers of our Zoroastrian Religion, they under the mighty leadership of their Presidentsaheb pitch the tents just outside the Gates to the problem land adjoining our Paak Iranshah and go on a hunger strike with their supporters, instead of creating senseless hooliganism at the Dr.Meher Master Moos’s Institution at Sanjan!!! This is the time for the BPP and its great Presidentsaheb in the company of another great Sethia of WAPIZ to do something worthwhile for their Religion and Community!!! We all hope and pray that may Lord Ahuramazda bless and help our Vada Dasturjisaheb, who had been to Ahmedabad, through the offices of the Friend of our Community Shri Narendrabhai Modi, C.M. of Gujarat, in saving our Paak Iranshah from experiencing a catastrophy!!!

  • Well said Ratan Mehta.

    Not so long ago, a woman in West Bengal, one Women prevented one of Indias very large and powerful industrial houses from establishing a large factory and its infrastructure in the State that would cover many thousands of hectors of wilderness. Here we have several highly qualified so-called Elected Leaders of the Parsi Community and Defenders of the faith, abandoning their High Priests to fight a legal battle with a large professional developer. High priests who lack funds or the legal expertise. What a shame. Only 6 days to go. Can we outsource the job to the lady from West Bengal to fight the Developer???

  • High priest Khurshed Dasturji saheb has repeatedly said in all his speeches that the Iranshah fire temple belongs to the 9 families of the Udwada Anjuman with him as the head. No one else can comment, interfere help in the affairs of the Atashbehram. Therefore by law the Bombay Parsi Punchayat trustees cannot interfere in the affairs of Iranshah or else Dasturji saheb will be annoyed.

  • Five days left

  • TWO working days left.

  • Last day to stand united

  • Dear Friends,

    Early this morning I was informed that the Udwada Land case judge has asked for some papers, these are being gathered, the date for the next hearing will be confirmed once they have been presented & examined . So the Stay Order Stays.

    That gives a few more weeks. A few more weeks for the Dasturjis, “ the I specialist”, “the egotist”, WAPIZ , BPP and other major Zoroastrian Organizations World-wide to forget their differences and put their heads, hearts and hands together to fight this important legal battle, should Parsis and Zoroastrians not want the sanctity of their Holiest of Holy place of Worship to be lost.

    The sad part is our High Priest, Dasturji Khurshedji Dastoor and his team have a very serious legal battle on their hands in Ahmedabad.

    I am told that The Collector of Valsad, who was on the stage or amongst the invitees that Sanjay Day was a witness to the ugly, Un-Parsi, Un-Zoroastrian incident. Wonder what impression he carried of the Parsis or conveyed to his superiors in Ahmadabad.

    Recalling this was not the first incident in Sanjan this year.

    The Dasturjis are a lot of good souls and very caring human beings who understand the need to keep the community united, but for them to tell the laity to keep their hand off non-religious matters, especially persons or entities who offered or could offer to help, is a serious matter, at least in this instance.

    As I recently told an important Zoroastrian personality, that as a sportsman of old , I feel badly distressed when I see team-work within the community absent, especially when the Community is faced with a very grave threat.

    Could it be that the “team” is without a Captain.?

    Would it be different if we had somebody like a Pope?

    Do we require or must we have a Council Of Dastoors/ Mobeds, like the one in Iran or North America. One who does not have to fear anyone or be afraid of threats?

    As some used us to say, THINK POSITIVE.

    Rusi Sorabji

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