Residents of Udvada, a holy place for Parsis, met on Sunday to oppose a government notification which they say virtually seeks to freeze any development in the town to protect its heritage value.
The importance of Udvada in Parsi history and religion centres around the Atash Behram (sacred fire) housed in the fire temple there. The Udvada Atash Behram is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian fire temples in India and the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world.
"We honour the sacred fire temple and the ancient Parsi houses at Mirza street but why should the other 14 to17 local falias (streets) suffer because the government wants to label it a heritage precinct?” asked Raju Patel, sarpanch, Udvada gram panchayat.
According to the notification, Udvada is world famous as the holiest place for Parsis and has been declared as a notified area by the urban development department of Gujarat. A four-member committee has been told to prepare a proposed development plan for the existing Udvada gram panchayat within the next six months.
District authorities have been instructed by higher ups to stop clearance of any non-agricultural activities at Udvada village, sources from the collector’s office said.
Villagers say the government notification published in February is ambiguous and that they will protest against the implication that the notification applies to the entire Gamtal and revenue area of Udvada village. The villagers want the notification to be restricted to a limited area around the fire temple.
Harish Mangela from the fishermen community of Udvada village said it was unfair that they would not be able to expand their own houses to accommodate the growing family.
P Bharthi, district development officer, Valsad, also confirmed the ambiguity in the notification and said she had asked for a clarification from the department concerned.