“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” – Voltaire
The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) has been in the news once again for the wrong reasons. A Chargesheet has recently been filed against former BPP Chairman, Dinshaw Mehta, for alleged misappropriation of BPP funds. An important point to note is the fact that the current BPP Board has not filed this complaint; the police complaint was originally filed by the previous Board of trustees, when Dinshaw Mehta was Chairman. The current Board of the BPP has nothing whatsoever to with this sordid saga of former, closely united friends-turning-foes and trustees who saw nothing wrong in purchasing injustice through corrupt and unfair means.
It is easy to blame it all on one trustee and it may be noted that I hold no brief for this trustee. But, was it just one trustee or the entire board which planned everything, knew everything and got their hands dirty? Ironically, those who had their hands dirty in this crime against the vulnerable and homeless, were trustees who are otherwise perceived even today as orthodox and defenders of the religion. However, can bribing the judicial system be considered legal, ethical or religious? Can buying a favourable judicial order, just to feed the inflated egos of power-hungry trustees, at the cost of the poor and needy, be forgiven, let alone forgotten. But public memory is short and therefore a quick flashback would not be out of place…
The Case Of The 104 Housing Applicants…
When the new Board of Trustees took charge in October 2008, it had the choice to be graceful and honour the allotments made by the then previous Board of Trustees, headed by Mr. Minoo Shroff. Instead, when after a few months the Charity Commissioner warned the Board of Trustees to allot the flats to the 104 housing applicants or face serious action, they decided to go to the Bombay High Court! It’s important to note here that it was the BPP Board that took this matter to the High Court. Out of the then Board of seven trustees, I was the only trustee who refused to join them.
The BPP Board was so desperate to have its way that it stooped to unfair means and corrupt practices. Cash sum of Rs. 65 Lakhs was the means to achieve an ignoble end. The cash sum of Rs. 25 lakhs, allegedly embezzled by Dinshaw Mehta, was part of the Rs. 65 lakhs, that was required for this shameful and utterly un-Zoroastrian act of cowardice.
The mission was accomplished and among the housing applicants who were denied justice, was a deserving blind Parsi and a Chasniwala’s family. But the trustees celebrated their temporary victory of proving themselves right through wrongful means.
Thorn In The Flesh…
At the time when I was a trustee on that Board, I was treated like a pariah. I was denied access to minutes of the meetings and I was forced to fight for my right of access to these minutes at the office of the Charity Commissioner. The BPP Board deployed corrupt practices here too and managed to obtain a favorable order.
In fact, once, about twenty-five odd Parsi riff-raffs were brought into the Board Room to do a ‘gherao’ and intimidate me. But I stood my ground. At Board meetings, my colleagues would neither talk to me nor allow me to participate in discussion. Instead, they would pass snide remarks. All the important discussions would take place in Late Mehli Colah’s cabin. I was just not allowed to function, let alone, be effective!
The final straw was the well-crafted, paid propaganda in various media and at public forums that the six trustees are all united and want to do so much, but, Noshir Dadrawala is our only ‘thorn in the flesh’!!! They used to say, “But for Noshir, we are all very united, harmonious, like-minded and ready and willing to bring about positive transformation within the community.” That’s when I decided to give ‘unity’, ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ a chance. On 31st March, 2011, I walked out with my head held high and wishing the ‘United Six’ peace and harmony for the rest of their term. But, as we all know, the rest is history! Today, I don’t consider myself vindicated. It’s simply the triumph of Truth over Falsehood and recognition of what was Right over what was fundamentally Wrong.
The High Price Of Universal Adult Franchise…
Has Universal Adult Franchise been a boon or bane for the Parsi community since the year 2008? Perhaps the views of late Nani Palkhivala on Universal Adult Franchise may ring a familiar bell for Parsis, despite the community’s claim to being ‘enlightened’! He stated that citizens vote for and elect their leaders based on criteria that do not justify leadership – like commonalities in caste, religious preferences, etc.
Since October 2008 have we not, as a community, elected men and women on the basis of – ‘if I’m Orthodox, I will vote only for an Orthodox or if I’m Reformist, I will vote only for a Reformist’! Based on this parochial mind-set, when an interviewer asked Nani which way he thought our country was headed, Nani replied, “I think we are headed for a disastrous future. Not because our people are not intelligent. There is enough intelligence but there’s no wisdom or buddhi as the ancient Indians called it. We are misleading the people. It is not that the nation is left to fare for itself. It is positively misled. And it is positively misled by those who come to power on adult franchise.”
Does this not ring a familiar bell again? In recent history, have we not as an ‘enlightened community’ rejected men and women of the highest integrity, expertise and track record of service? Imagine what a man like Keki Mistry of HDFC could have done on the housing front. What a loss it has been for the community to miss out on the legal acumen of a man like Nadir Modi. Think about the huge administrative skills and medical experience a lady like Dr. Katy Dinshaw could have brought to the BPP and the community.
Late Nani had lamented, “… No country has ever paid so highly a price for adult franchise as India. No democracy has ever paid so highly a price for adult franchise as India.”
Echoing Late Nani’s sentiments, may I dare say, that no community has ever paid so highly a price for adult franchise as the Parsis!