Dear TZML (Traditional Zarathushtris Mailing List) friends,
Attached please find the text of the speech delivered by Vada Dasturji Nadirshaw Unwalla at the Vada Dasturjis' Public Meeting held on 21st April, 2001.
Dasturji Unwalla spoke in Gujerati, but his speech reproduced here has been translated into English by Shehnaz Munshi. Words in parenthesis are her own.
Karl K. Sahukar
Respected Dasturji Sahibs, nayab dasturji sahibs, athornan sahibs, scholar priests, and devout ladies and gentlemen,
The learned Dasturji sahibs of our community who have traveled all over the world and are renowned for their learning have presented a clear picture (of the existing problem) before you. There is not much left for me to say. Besides, even before I could start Noshir Dadrawalla warned me to make my speech short…it takes me 24 hours to come to Bombay by train and if I take a plane, it would take me one and a half hours, so I thank-you for allowing me to speak for 10 mns. after undertaking such a long journey (laughs) and I shall endeavour to tell you whatever I can in the time allotted to me.
This is a meeting of the Dasturs. Dasturs have come here to explain things to you. So, let us understand what the word Dastur means? A Dastur is one who holds your hand and guides you. The Pahlavi word for Dastur is dastwar; the word dast stands for hand and war is authority –so one who leads with authority. In other words, Dasturs have religious authority to guide the community on the right path as outlined by the scriptures. And therefore today’s conference has been called to so that the dasturs gathered here can give us guidance.
Members of the DDD-AG group who are all educated and learned men, some well versed in matters of law, others, big names in the medical field, went to the Trustees of the Bombay Parsee Punchayet and threatened to take the Trustees to court, if they refused their demands. When the dakhma of Bangalore was built, we gave the then Dewan sahib a memorandum (he uses the word memorial, but I suppose he means memorandum.), a three-page memorandum where everything was explained in great detail. We had clearly stated therein that we could not admit any practice other than dokhmenishini .We immediately got the permission (for it). After this, several persons who were opposed to the dakhmas wrote letters to the Dewan sahib stating that they were in favour of an aramgah and therefore the Mysore government should give them some relief. The government then was known as the Mysore Government and it was a very sagacious body. The Trustees of our Parsee Punchayet also wrote letters to the Dewan sahib. Muncherji Kharegat and Sir Cawasjee Jehangir also wrote that dokhmenishini was what the community desired. And what do you think was the Dewan sahib’s reply to the anti dakhma brigade? He stated that this is matter for the community to settle and the Government cannot interfere.
A former trustee of the BPP who is against dokhmenishini has got a letter (of objection) written from the Municipal Corporation, but the Corporation cannot interfere in this matter at all. The Governmental authorities; the Municipality are bound to follow the religious opinion given by the Dasturs in such matters. Dasturs, who are experienced and who have studied the scriptures in depth. We have all read the detail article written by Eruch Desai as well as the one written by Dr. Nelly Noble and what did we learn from these articles? It is stated (in the article) that several years ago, some intruders had built houses on the Doongerwadi lands. The Trustees wanted to remove these encroachments. It is stated that the then Commissioner went to the disputed spot on horseback and tried to exert his influence (in favour of the encroachers). The Zoroastrians of those days opposed the Commissioner and told him (to mind his business) and even threatened to throw him off the horse. That is the kind of spirit we need.
Today, the members of the DDD-AG group have threatened our Trustees and they are scared! There is no need for them to be scared at all. We have evidence with us. Let me give you Bangalore’s example. When the aramgah at Bangalore was shut down, we passed a Resolution. I would like to clarify over here, that there was an aramgah at Bangalore but the land on which it stood belonged to the Government and not to the Anjuman. The Anjuman therefore took its (control) away from my hands. So, (to continue) we passed a Resolution that no mobed will perform the ceremonies for the first four days after death, in case of a Zoroastrian who choses burial as a method of disposal and the Trustees will not render any assistance in such a case. I have brought the Trust Deed of the Bangalore Anjuman and these conditions form part of the Trust Deed. We have nearly 750 to 800 Zoroastrians in Bangalore and we have more than 250 members in our Anjuman. Another point I wish to make is that it is often stated that the Bangalore Anjuman is an orthodox Anjuman. So it is. But it is also modern (in certain respects). The Parsis of Bangalore are a socially advanced lot. They are progressive and fun loving. But if there is a problem, (in any religious matter), they will be the first to seek my guidance. Barring a few exceptions- maybe eight or ten- they will all come asking, "Dasturji we want to do this, is it right / please advise us..etc.etc." When they apply for membership (of the Anjuman), we make them sign a declaration stating that they have read the laws governing the Trust Deed and that they shall abide by the same. If a similar arrangement is made everywhere, then no one can go against (what has been signed).
So, today the Dasturs have taken great pains to make you understand the position. They are learned, they are advanced (in their fields) and today everyone has listened to them peacefully and with great attention. I therefore want to make a request to them. The Zarathosty Brothers are doing very good work and several scholar priests are giving lectures (under their auspices). However, people don’t attend these lectures in large numbers. But if monthly or bi-monthly lectures are held in large halls such as this, where our Dasturs explain different aspects of our religion, then no one will dare to leave the faith and go elsewhere.
Today the DDD-AG have asked for the use of bunglis; to-morrow they will demand a crematorium (there); we give an inch and they will ask for a foot. Therefore, we must nip this in the bud. We must not get intimidated. The Government will never interfere. Every community has the freedom to follow its religion. No one can go against what is stated in the religion. The late Jehangirji Chiniwalla who had fought our case in the District Court had told us that canon law is written law. This is what you have to bear in mind always- that no authority can override religious laws.
We faced destruction at the hands of the Arabs and also at the hands of Alexander. Whereas, today members of our own community are ready to sell the religion. If we all come together (on one platform), we will definitely succeed. I have been told that priests are being paid Rs.2, 000/- to Rs.5, 000- to perform the geh sarna ceremony of a Zoroastrian who has been cremated. Thus, the very religion for which we came and settled in Hindustan is being sold for money! I appeal to the mobed sahibs - ponder deep and ponder well, over what you have learnt today, let it touch your hearts so that you may follow (what has been said in all that you do).
VADA DASTURJI SAHEB NADIRSHAW UNWALLA
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