Heritage Walk at Doongerwadi

Dr. Viraf J. Kapadia opines on the subject in the Mumbai Samachar.

Since the last few days turmoil has enveloped the orthodox members of the Parsi Community when the proposed 2 hours heritage walk by Asiatic Society with fees of Rs. 100/- and 200/- on Sunday, 11th Dec. 2016 at 10.30 to 12.30 with a tour through our Towers Silence (Doongerwadi) was announced by Yazdi Tantra on his web – site.

A complaint was filed on 09-12-2016 by Mr. Eric Dhatigara u/s 295A & other Cr PC provisions for hurting the religious sentiments of Parsis by defiling and desecrating our holy cemetery lands, which was handed over by me to Malabar Hill Police Station as well as DCP Zone 2.

On Saturday 10-12-16, Eric and I visited Malabar Hill Police Station at their request and informed them that Doongerwadi was the final resting place of our deceased community members followed by 4 days religious rituals, rites and practices for the souls of the departed and complained that it could not be desecrated as a tourist site or sightseeing for non-Parsis to view our sacred precincts to be seen by paid tourists. This is sacrilege of highest order and should not be permitted. Whilst we were there we saw Mr. Sharukh Billimoria, of Godrej Baug and a close relative of Chairman Yazdi Desai come out of the chambers of the Senior Inspector probably with some message from Yazdi Desai.

That night both Yazdi and his wife visited Malabar Hill Police Station and I was reliably informed the next day by a sub Inspector that Yazdi had not filed a written complaint but had orally advised the Senior Inspector that if I was not allowed to participate or protest at Doongerwadi next morning everything would be peaceful and there would be no breach of peace. Both Yazdi and I were served notice u/s 149 for breach of peace yet only I was summoned on Sunday and not Yazdi.

On Sunday 11th December 2016 a police constable visited my residence and informed me that I was summoned to Malabar Hill Police Station by Senior Inspector. When I went there I was requested to sit there along with the Senior Inspector in his cabin for almost 5 hours till the tour at Doongerwadi ended. Thus it was only on specific oral complaint of Yazdi Desai, inspite of his denying it, that I was made to sit in the Senior Inspector’s Cabin at the police station for 5 hours. The Inspector was very cordial and polite and gave me tea and snacks in his cabin and I had very informative discussions with him and even he was surprised how our Trustees were allowing the cemetery to be used as a tourist spot. I acknowledge with gratitude his very polite handling of the controversial situation.

I am informed that on Sunday at around 11 am, Ramyar Karanjia came with his group of around 30 tourists not through the main gate but slyly through Khareghat Colony staircase from the rear and the side entrance. The small group of protestors lead by Mr. Aspi Deboo achieved their purpose by positioning at a strategic spot and stopped the tourists from reaching anywhere near the Dokhmas. Kudos to Mr. Aspi Deboo.

I am informed that the only Trustee present there that day was Mr. Viraf Mehta who requested Ervad Ramyar Karanjia in the community interest to restrict his tour only upto the pavilion and not beyond, which was grudgingly accepted by Erv. Ramyar. A human Chain of protestors was lined up just in case restricting their entry beyond the pavilion. The police were also there in strength and formed another chain not to allow anyone beyond the pavilion. Thus the proposed tour of Doongerwadi by non Parsis turned out to be a damp squib and the organizers had to refund the fees already collected due to failure to allow them to tour Doongerwadi.

The shocking remark of our so called scholar priest Erv. Ramyar Karanjia that it is all right if ladies in their periods (menses) visit Doongerwadi has already stunned most of our community members.

It is also shocking that the present chairman saw no merit in the opposition shown by the orthodox. In view of his stance not to withdraw permission for non Parsis to tour Doongerwadi or at least restrict them only upto the pavilion (which ultimately only Trustee Viraf Mehta managed to achieve) but also allow non Parsis to tour all open spaces in Doongerwadi speaks volumes of his orthodoxy claims. Yazdi has joined hands with hardcore known reformist Kersi Randeria and Zareer Bhathena who desecrated Lalbaug Agiary, just to win his election which he could never have without their support and now it is payback time for the Reformist to extract to further their Reformist Agenda by using Yazdi Desai.

By conducting tours of our holy lands of Doongerwadi admeasuring over 55 acres, we will be unnecessarily drawing attention of other communities who have less than 10 % of areas for their cemetery in South Mumbai and the consequent threat of acquisition proceedings from politicians for our lands to appease this large vote bank. As it is, in mofussil area where Parsis have diminished substantially, other communities have approached the Collector to requisition our Parsi Aramgahs for their community use and the same situation would get repeated here if we continue to expose our land to non Parsis and do not stop this tours by non-Parsis of our cemetery lands once and for all .

Respectfully Yours

Dr. Viraf J. Kapadia