Mumbai: Parsi factions' fight hits fire temple cause

Updated: Dec 19, 2018, 11:59 IST | Arita Sarkar

Infighting scuttles protests against Metro tunnel under fire temples, which were planned to coincide with Prime Minister's visit to the city

The court has allowed the MMRCL to continue the construction work of a Metro tunnel under the two Atash Behrams in the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The court has allowed the MMRCL to continue the construction work of a Metro tunnel under the two Atash Behrams in the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate

If the court orders on the Parsi fire temple weren't disappointing enough, the community's efforts to organise a peace march in their fight to save the Anjuman and Wadiaji Atash Behrams aren't shaping up too well either. Owing to differences over requests for donations, members of the community have publicly voiced their objections, with a couple of them even parting ways with the core team of Save Our Atash Behrams group.

Problems began surfacing when certain messages were circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook, criticising a member of the core team, Rukshad Panthaki, for allegedly requesting donations to print banners and posters for the peace march. One such donation request also mentioned the names and contact details of three other members of the core team including Rumy Zarir.

The messages soon spread within the community, raising suspicion over the motives of the core team. Zarir raised strong objections against the request for donations and decided to quit the group a couple of weeks ago. He found it unethical to ask for donations without knowing about the costs involved in the peace march.

Recalling a meeting of the core team, Zarir said that Rukshad had voiced the idea of asking for donations for the march. "We didn't even know what kind of expenses we were dealing with. You cannot go around asking for money. If the amount was reasonable then we as core members could contribute. But the message was posted with my name and number without my permission. One needs to be transparent and extra careful while handling public money," he said, adding that he was, however, committed to the cause.

Critics of the donation idea also alleged that former Bombay Parsi Punchayat trustee, Dinshaw Mehta, was trying to politicise the march. The message said, 'DRM (Mehta) came out with a WhatsApp message throwing his weight around over the march and sensationalised it by promising to get the press and a memorandum to the chief minister'.

A post by Mehta recently appealed to the community to gather for the peace march on December 18 while none of the core members had made such an announcement. Another member of the core team, Rukhshana Modi, reportedly quit the team after this post. Modi, however, denied the rumours and said that she quit the group for personal reasons.

'Not collecting cash'
Ratan Patel, who heads the core team and is one of the petitioners in the case, said he approached Mehta to ensure that more people participate in the march. "I had also reached out to Anahita Desai. The core committee is not responsible for everything and if help is being offered then we will take it. We are trying to do something good but people try to pull you down," said Patel. He added that they never declared the date but they had wanted the march to coincide with the PM's visit to send the message across.

He also said no money had been collected so far. "Close friends have offered their contribution in the form of banners and posters. We will approach them when needed. We are not collecting cash at all. We have been using our internal resources to organise the march," he said. Panthaki too agreed. "If a person leaves, it may be for another reason. I don't know why he (Zarir) left as I haven't spoken to him yet," he said.

Rumours, rumours
Mehta said that these rumours were being posted by members of the reformist group who are trying to destroy the Atash Behrams. "The core team approached me to help them and they set December 18 as the date for the march. I have no role to play in it. The traffic police didn't give permission because of the PM's visit and the lawyers also advised them that since the matter is subjudice, the march should be conducted after the next SC hearing on Jan 4." Since the Bombay HC allowed the MMRCL to continue the construction work of a tunnel under the two Atash Behrams on Nov 30, the core team of Save Our Atash Behrams has been trying to garner support to stop the work.

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