Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Khojeste Mistree & Yazdi Desai Respond to Dinshaw Tamboly

From Khojeste Mistree & Yazdi Desai to Parsi Times

This case goes much beyond just banning 2 Renegade Priests…….

Khojeste Mistree and Yazdi Desai, BPP Trustees

In recent days, some members of the community have raised concerns about the amount of monies being spent by the BPP on litigation in the Renegade Priests’ Case. The case is presently pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, and one has to wonder why these concerns are being raised now, when the matter is on the verge of being heard by the highest Court of the land. What has compelled these individuals to put pressure on the BPP Trustees to stop spending monies on this particular litigation, days before the Hon’able Supreme Court hears it? Could it be, that they are apprehensive about the Hon’able Supreme Court’s Order being in favour of the BPP’s stand, especially in the face of a 5 member Bench Supreme Court Judgement on Ratilal Gandhi, and hence the pressure to somehow stop the further funding of this case?

Some facts about the case:

Whatever be the reasoning behind the efforts to cripple this litigation, in view of the matter being publicly discussed, it is important to put certain facts before the community.

1)      There is no doubt that these days any litigation is extremely costly. But lest the community forgets, it was not the BPP Trustees who initiated this particular litigation! The BPP was dragged to the Hon’able High Court on an issue that would have died a natural death had not 2 individuals (NOT the priests concerned) taken the matter to Court.

2)      The reason we say that the matter would have died a natural death, is because the 2 priests concerned, namely Khushru Madon and Framroze Mirza, were unaffected by the ban, which did not allow them to perform ceremonies at the Doongerwadi Complex and the two agiaries controlled by the BPP. They were not interested in challenging it and continued their defiant actions of performing cremation ceremonies and conversions outside the jurisdiction of the BPP, earning richly from a small but affluent group of Parsis, who formed the pro conversion and pro cremation lobbies. One of the priests has even travelled abroad to perform conversions in Tajikstan and elsewhere and has even sought to confer priesthood on a Russian in Sanjan.

3)      The matter would and should have ended there, but for the fact that two community members (Mr. Homi Khushrukhan and Mr. Jamshed Kanga) took the issue to the High Court, on the grounds that the BPP trustees had no religious authority to ban priests from praying at the Doongerwadi Complex and the 2 fire Temples under their control.

This, in itself was a misguided exercise, because the BPP trustees have not effected the ban on their own authority. We have simply upheld the authority and implemented the directives of the learned High Priests who head the ecclesiastical group (such as the Sanjana and Bhagaria panths) the 2 renegade priests belonged to and who had imposed a ban on the 2 priests for their cremation-conversion activities.

4)       When the Originating Summons came up, the Hon’able High Court threw out the Petition filed by Homi Khushrukhan and Jamshed Kanga. Even at this point of time, the two renegade priests remained indifferent to the outcome of the case. Surely, that should have been reason enough for the matter to have been closed? Surely that was the right time to have shown concern for conserving BPP funds, especially when the 2 renegade priests were not interested in challenging the ban on them?

5)      But instead of ending the matter there, more litigation was thrust upon the BPP Trustees! An Appeal was filed with the Divisional Bench against the Order of the Single Judge inthe High Court and the BPP Trustees had no option but to once again spend monies on the litigation.

It is only after the Divisional Bench of the Hon’ble High Court passed judgement against the BPP in favour of the 2 community members, that the BPP Trustees had to challenge the Order in the Hon’able Supreme Court, that concerns for BPP funds being “wasted” on this litigation, began doing the rounds!

Some of the Serious Ramifications of this Order:

In view of the fact that this litigation was not initiated by the BPP in the first place and was thrust upon us, to fault us now for spending funds to defend our action of supporting and enforcing the High Priests’ directives, which are vital to safeguarding our religious traditions, is to unfairly target us!

This case is simply not about 2 priests being banned from praying, professionally, at the Doongerwadi Complex and in the 2 Fire temples controlled by the BPP, as is wrongly being projected by some.

Under the guise of seeking an interpretation of the Trust Deed, a whole lot of other issues have been agitated in the High Court, like the alleged efficacy/failure of Dokhmenashini, the alleged legitimacy of cremation and conversion, the role and authority of the BPP Trustees, the role and authority of the High Priests, etc., as the Judgement has touched on all of these issues.

Read the Judgement which the BPP Trustees are challenging in the Hon’able Supreme Court, which if left unchallenged, would severely undermine the Dokhmenashini system, the authority of the BPP Trustees, as well as the authority of the High Priests and leave utter chaos in its wake. As BPP Trustees we cannot allow this to happen.

Former BPP Trustee Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly has written an open letter to the BPP Trustees regarding the Renegade Priests Case. We would like to refute salient points made by Mr. Tamboly. Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly Seeks to Conflagrate the Issue even further:

Nothing wrong with the term “Renegade Priest”

Mr. Tamboly opens his letter by expressing his distaste for the term “Renegade”. He states that this term is an uncouth term which is “insulting” and “offensive” and should not be used to “describe others whose views and actions are not in sync with theirs”. We wish to draw the attention of Mr. Tamboly to the definition of the word “renegade” as per the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (p. 979) which offers a few meanings, one of which is “having resisted tradition”, “unconventional”, proving in fact that the term is absolutely appropriate and fits in perfectly with the term “renegademobeds” (priests). It does not behove an eminent community member like Mr. Tamboly to unnecessarily try and whip up emotional hysteria, when none should exist.

Double Standards?

Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly, has gone on record to question whether BPP charity funds can be used for this litigation. He goes on to ask, shouldn’t these funds be used instead to clothe, shelter, feed, medicate etc. the financially challenged members of our community?  One wonders where Mr. Tamboly’s self-righteous indignation had disappeared to, when he himself as Trustee of WZO Trust Funds has used WZO Charity funds, which were specifically donated and earmarked for building houses for the poor in Gujarat, to fund the debt-ridden editor of the Jame, Rusi Dhondy so that he could use the Jame and Dhondy’s name to attack and mock the traditionalists and the orthodox. ! In fact, it is a matter of record that the first major division in the community was caused by Dhondy’s inflammatory writings in the Jame, which were ghost written and funded by the same Mr. Tamboly, from WZO Charity funds!

Closer to present times, Mr. Tamboly is seeking crores from the community to build and maintain a Cremation Prayer Hall, of which he and his nephew  are also Trustees. This Cremation Prayer Hall will be open to all communities. Surprisingly, the same Mr. Tamboly who is indignant at the BPP for spending charity funds for the Renegade Priest litigation has taken Rs 1.8 crores from A. H. Wadia Trust, of which BPP Trustee Mr. Munchi Cama is the managing trustee for this Cremation Prayer Hall.

Can we redirect Mr. Tamboly’s same question back to him – shouldn’t this Rs 1.8 crores of Charity funds be used instead to clothe, shelter, feed, medicate etc. the financially challenged members of our community? Using Mr. Tamboly’s own comments “Isn’t it a shame to expend such vast sums of money, which should have been put to much better and fruitful use? Especially when cremation facilities are existing and readily available and accessible in Mumbai? Why waste crores of Charity Funds to build a Cremation Prayer Hall which will also be used by other communities?

Mr. Tamboly appeals to the BPP Trustees to keep the community together and not divide and cause friction. We are a little taken aback by Mr. Tamboly advising us about not causing friction in the community. He seems to have forgotten when he was a BPP Trustee and in the year 2000, the huge uproar and dissent in the community when the erstwhile trustees (including Mr Tamboly) agreed to give a Bungli at the Doongerwadi Complex for cremation purposes. At that time, public meetings addressed by the High Priests and other community leaders were held, door to door signature campaigns were undertaken, petitions and meetings were held with the Trustees to make them rescind their decision, reams were written in the Press, including the secular media. Does Mr. Tamboly not consider that as causing friction and dividing the community? There is even now a case pending in the High Court, filed by the same 2 community members – Homi Khushrukhan and Jamshed Kanga, against the BPP, demanding a Cremate ni Bungli at the Doongerwadi Complex and Mr. Tamboly has given an affidavit strongly supporting them!

It is this kind of double-talk from one of the most vocal critics of the renegade priest litigation, that makes one wonder, if it is Mr. Tamboly’s concern for the underprivileged in our community or for the furtherance of his own radical personal views, which is driving him to question the cost of this litigation.

Why Blame the High Priests?

Mr. Tamboly clearly has a very low opinion about our High Priests, as they do not seem to concur with his reformist beliefs.  He says that “…..the High Priests are known not to speak in unison”. Then Mr. Tamboly should similarly have very low opinions about lawyers and doctors – who often give differing opinions. In fact the BPP Trustees, now and when Mr. Tamboly was a Trustee did not speak with one voice over many issues – the analogy should extend to all ?

In fact, in the Renegade Priests matter the High Priests have spoken and supported us, in unison. 5 of the 6 High Priests of India are strongly with the BPP.

It would help, if Mr. Tamboly did some serious reading on priestly history, as he would find out for himself, that the High Priests over the decades have been very united in their religious advice and guidance to the community, at large.  Yes, dissent shown by 2 or 3 High Priests over the past 100 years is a fact, which is overly highlighted, but what about the dozens of High Priests over the same period of time, who have unitedly expressed their views on socio-religious matters, with one voice!

What does the BPP Trust Deed State :

Trustees must stay true to the wishes of the Settlors of the Trust. As much as one would like to settle issues amicably, one cannot, as a trustee, compromise on the very principles on which the Trust was entrusted to us. It is sad that Mr. Tamboly, being a former Trustee of the BPP needs to be reminded that the BPP was constituted first and foremost to look after the Doongerwadi complex for the purpose of Dokhmenashini. That is the main Object of the Trust. Charity, philanthropy, housing, etc., were undertaken by the BPP Trustees much later. That is not to say that any of those heads have been neglected by the present BPP Trustees. In fact, the record will reflect that during our term, we have increased monthly financial help to the disadvantaged of our community, the 2nd and 3rd child Scheme has been enhanced substantially, the  mobed scheme has been introduced to help our mobeds who earn a pittance, etc. But to expect us not to defend a case which challenges the very authority of the BPP Trustees to protect the Doongerwadi Complex and Dokhmenashini, on the premise that the forced litigation against the BPP Trustees is costly, is audacious and absurd.

Why should the BPP Trustees say no to Cremation and Conversion as well as not encourage a handful of Priests who promote such irreligious activites:

Cremation is against the Zoroastrian religion and therefore cannot be legitimized by the BPP Trustees under any circumstances, more so as the BPP is the apex Body of the Parsi Zoroastrian Community.

Conversion, has the potential to open up the flood gates (especially in view of our vast housing properties) and will weaken the unique ethnic identity of our miniscule community and drive it into oblivion! As Trustees of the apex body of the Parsi Zoroastrian community, we would be abrogating our responsibilities if we were to ignore the potential danger posed to our community by a few renegade priests, who continue to promote cremations and conversions. Our firm position is that no renegade priest should be allowed to perform any ceremonies or rituals in all the BPP controlled religious institutions.

The BPP Trustees and Homi Khushrukhan and Jamshed Kanga are continuing to explore the possibility of out of court settlement, but we certainly are not going to agree to settlement terms which are a sell out. 2 BPP Trustees – Munchi Cama and Dinshaw Mehta who are overwilling to sign consent terms which would give legitimacy to cremation and conversion and destroy the ethnic fabric of our Parsi Irani community, should take a good look at their election manifestos, where they have promised to uphold customs, traditions and follow the High Priests in matters of religion. These 2 trustees should resign and seek re-elections on a pro-cremation and pro-conversion platform.

It is also very pertinent to note that Dinshaw Mehta had no problem spending 2.25 crores upto November 2013 on the Renegade Priests case, but he suddenly changed his religious convictions after 4 Trustees filed a Criminal Complaint against him.