How safe are our Parsi Community Properties?
“Muslim Activists start a movement to evict encroachers from Wakf properties” is a headline of a news item in the TOI of 28 Dec 2016. Apparently, “dismayed by the lackadaisical attitude to stop encroachments on Wakf properties, some Muslim activists have launched a movement, to save the same”.
Wakf properties are those “properties which Muslims have endowed for the welfare of community members”. Our Parsi community also has large tracts of properties left behind by our elders, spread all over the country, from Amritsar in the North to Calicut in the South and from Diu in the West to Darjeeling in the East. As Jerry Pinto observed, in his essay “The Parsis”, these are “huge assets that are held in common for the good of the community”. Whilst most of our properties in Mumbai and other major towns are safe with the BPP and other respective Anjumans, there are many which remain unattended and uncared for. In Mumbai itself there are a large number of properties which do not fall under the purview of the BPP and are managed by a few nominated Trustees.
It is reported in this news item that a Wakf member had planned to sell an Eidgah land to a developer but timely intervention saved the property. Our community has also experienced similar situations when some parties with vested interests attempted to sell the Dharwar Aramgah (burial) land to a developer. A timely enquiry carried out by the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India (FPZAI) revealed that this was being done clandestinely, without any one’s knowledge, including that of the Panthaky of the Hubli Dadgah who had been looking after this facility at his own expense. Timely intervention saved this property. Ironically, it is believed, that the same developer was involved in the purchase of the Aramgah land at Bhusawal, obviously with the assistance of some in-house connivance.
Nearer home, we recently had the case of three community Trusts who sold their lands in the suburbs of Mumbai to a developer under the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme. Encroachments, was the excuse proferred by the Trustees. The question here is, WHY did the Trustees allow this encroachment to take place? Why wasn’t action initiated to prevent this encroachment? Was it the same “lackadaisical attitude to stop encroachments”?
Whilst the FPZAI is making a valiant effort to protect our Parsi properties through their Defunct Anjuman Scheme, there aren’t very many takers for it. Most Anjumans have expressed their apprehensions on the efficacy of this proposal and have declined to participate in it.
With crores worth of community property lying unattended and uncared for all over the country, is it time for us also to start a movement to protect our properties with all seriousness.
¢ Should we seek the assistance of the Govt?
¢ Is there a need to institute a forum which should have the requisite legal sanctity and financial backing?
¢ Is there a need for us to seek instructions from the Judiciary?
In such scenario’s, the management of these properties could be left to the respective Board of Trustees as hitherto however the final disposal, if any, should be approved by this duely constituted new body. Our community representative on the Minorities Commission could initiate a dialogue on the protection of our community properties, at the highest level with the concerned Minister.
Whilst we continue debating on the way-ahead, each one of us, as concerned members of the community, should remain ever-vigilant and ensure that none of our properties are encroached upon, nor allow any vested interests to poach on them. More so in view of the fact that most of our holy precincts in the city of Mumbai, fall under the “Heritage” category, the “Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)” of which commands a very lucrative premium.
Trustees are just the custodians of the lands & properties entrusted to them, we, the community members, are the real owners of these “family jewels”.
Commodore Medioma Bhada (Retd), email@example.com.