Dr. Nelie R. Noble defends the Dakhmas

May Wiser Counsel Prevail

My views regarding Doongerwadi, and the method of disposal of the dead are well-known to my fellow Zoroastrians, and hence upto now I did not think it necessary to express my views in the Press.

Now that three of the past Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet have openly expressed their opinion, Dr. A.F. Golwalla and Mr. Jamshed G. Kanga having signed the letter of the DDD-AG, and Mr. E.B. Desai by his letter to the Press, I felt that I should also let my views be known to those Zoroastrians who may not be aware of them. It was in the year 1874 that the fight to preserve and protect Doongerwadi lands came to the attention of the public.

Two persons by the name of Jacob and Jamal had constructed a structure on Doongerwadi lands, to which the then Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet objected. But when the two tresspassers persisted in continuing with the construction, the Trustees, with the help of some strong, tough members of the community, got this illegal structure demolished overnight.

These brave men, when arrested by the Police openly declared that they were not afraid since they knew that the Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet were behind them.

The then Police Commissioner, Mr. Souter, came on horseback to inspect the site, but a very staunch and tough Irani Zoroastrian would not allow him to proceed further, and threatened to throw the Commissioner and his horse down the hill.

The case came up in Court, and lawyers of the stature of Barrister Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, and Barrister Mr. Anesty fought the case. They were men of stature and not of straw. All those who had been arrested were honourably acquitted.

Again, in the year 1922, the question of the method of disposal of the dead came up before the community.

The elite group at that time consisted of Sir Dorab and Lady Tata, Sir Ratan and Lady Tata, Mr. F.E. Dinshaw, Bahadurji Barrister, Lady Dinbai Petit, Mr. Jehangir B. Petit, Mr. Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha, who formed the "Parsi Cremation Society", and applied to the Bombay Municipal Corporation for a piece of land to establish a Parsi Crematorium. But the Parsi community rose up in arms, and they, under the leadership of Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy oppose, the very idea of having a Parsi Crematorium.

In the Corporation at that time there were members of such stature as Municipal Corporators Sir Cowasji Jehangir, Sir Homi Mody and Sir Feroze Sethna who would not succumb to any glamour of becoming Municipal Commissioners, nor of pomp and self aggrandisement. They were not prepared to give away an inch of Doongerwadi lands, nor for having a Parsi Crematorium elsewhere.

And the idea of a Parsi Crematorium was scrapped. Thereafter, in the year 1972, under the bogey of lack of vultures at Doonger-wadi, a move was made to have a crematorium on Doongerwadi lands. At that time also young educated men and women opposed the idea and took a deputation (morcha) to the Office of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, and the idea was dropped by the Trustees. Finally, I would appeal to all my fellow Zoroastrians to desist from hurting the religious feelings and sentiments of the Parsi community.

I quote the words of the late Sir Pherozeshah Mehta.

"These are our sacred grounds, The abode of our dear departed, The bones of our forefathers rest here, The Peace of Heaven reigns here, He, who disturbs this Peace Shall do so at his peril."

May wiser counsel prevail.

Dr. Nelie Rustomji Noble

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