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Mumbai: Parsi Gates battle moves to WhatsApp

Updated on: 12 August,2020 07:04 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

simmering issue in focus as community gets virtual window to air sentiments; BPP to move ahead by approaching BMC for discussion

Mumbai: Parsi Gates battle moves to WhatsApp

The new proposed location for the Parsi Gates is opposite the Kishco Cutlery store on Marine Drive. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Yet another meeting took place about the proposed shifting of The Parsi Gates at Chowpatty-Marine Drive on Monday. The subject has been simmering for a while now as the BMC plans to shift the gates further south because of the Coastal Road project. The new proposed location is opposite the well-known Kishco Cutlery store, on Marine Drive.

An earlier meeting on June 30, which was held between a few representatives of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), custodians of community affairs, other invitees and BMC representatives, had created a storm. The issue has polarised Parsis, with WhatsApp being the medium of fierce fighting.

This is the reason BPP trustee Viraf Mehta convened a virtual meeting about which he said, "The sentiments of many can be heard and we go with a fresh perspective to the civic authorities asking for more time, and apprising them about fears and wariness about the new location." Mehta further said, "A lot of people are against the shift, so the meet has been convened to hear out the community members." First speaker Havovi S said, "The Parsi Gates are part of the heritage Marine Drive precinct. It does have spiritual significance. When people pray at a particular place for so many years, like they have been doing here, the place is charged with a certain spiritual energy."

Viraf Mehta, BPP trustee and convenor of the meeting

Early stage
Several life-changing instances were cited about the power of prayers at the Parsi Gates, and it was stated that not just Parsis, "but Hindus also access the place to go to the beach when they have to pray to water."

Havovi questioned the suitability of the new proposed location. Some participants said that the "community should have been approached at the planning stage itself."

Questions were raised about whether the heritage committee had given permission for shifting. A participant raised a concern that with the shift, "effectively it means there is a new location, so the heritage aspect or value of a structure that is moved may disappear altogether."

Not combative
Mehta reassured all that, "we are taking the community's view with this meet. When the meeting was held with the BMC officials we were told that the tetrapods will be removed at the new location, a staircase will be made for people to access the water and it was to be a replica of the current gates."

Those attending the virtual meet said that the point was to discuss the matter with the civic authorities. "We do not have to be combative but work with them. That is the way to go ahead," many said.

Yet another participant 'Xerxes' claimed, "Two high priests were consulted. The site does have significance when you take into account the sentiments and the number of years for which people have prayed here. Yet, it is not a consecrated site. Since there are no high priests present at the discussion, it is important to put forth their point of view."

Entire stretch
Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena said, "The entire stretch from Princess Road flyover to Mafatlal club is to be reclaimed for Coastal Road. There will be land in front of the Parsi Gates, if they stay at the same place, then with the reclamation there will be no access to the sea."

As the meeting closed, several points were made. The way ahead was to take sentiments to the BMC, make a technical presentation if possible about the feasibility of maintaining status quo when it comes to the location of the gates, check heritage permissions and have a dialogue with officials about a possible solution.

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