Thursday October 21, 2021

Protection of Parsi cemetery from land mafia demanded

September 20, 2021

Rawalpindi : President of Parsi Union of Rawalpindi Isphanyar Bhandara has demanded of the government to protect Parsi cemetery, tucked between the shops of the New Jewellery Market near Benazir Bhutto Hospital, along Murree Road.

Currently a handful of Parsi community families reside in Rawlapindi. Isphanyar Bhandara, former member of the national assembly from the minority community, Sunday while talking to ‘The News’ asked the government to secure this graveyard for being an important part of the cultural heritage of Rawalpindi, a reminder of an era gone by to current and future generations. However, so far it has not received any attention or recognition from the central, state or regional government bodies. Built in 1890s by a Parsi merchant family, this single-story building has quite a colonial edge to it. The entire building is plastered with red mortar. The rather well maintained and clean red-bricked structure contains an open courtyard and continuous verandahs that consist of pointed arches and surround the building from three sides. There are also a large number of white wooden doors and windows. Next to the building, there is a path lined with palm trees and date trees, adding to the serenity of the monument. The path leads to a black metallic gate, which opens into the graveyard. The well-planned graveyard located within the compound is lined and shadowed with tall evergreen trees. It houses several graves, including those of babies and elders.

Isphanyar Bhandara, alleged that this important part of the cultural heritage is about to be lost to the lust of some traders. He said the nearby New Jewellery Market has almost concealed its front passage. A small passage in the centre of new Jewellery Market leads to the main gate of the cemetery.

Isphanyar Bhandara regularly visits the graves of his ancestors including that of his father every Sunday. He lamented as how the commercial centre along the cemetery that is over 250 years old has concealed it from the eyes of common man.

A grave of Behram Jee Hormas Jee Boca, who died in 1860, is also part of the cemetery. He said members of Parsi community were famous merchants of Rawalpindi when Pakistan came into being. Along with other communities like Hindus and Sikhs, the members of Parsi community had done great services for this city.

Isphanyar Bhandara said that government should declare this graveyard as heritage and take steps to secure its land as it is being squeezed. He said that land mafia is very much interested to grab its remaining empty land where our worship place ‘Aagiary’ and other old sites are standing. He said that the matter is subjudice between the management of the cemetery and a neighbor who claims its land.

He said that the graveyard comprised about 15 kanal of land and now it has squeezed to 8 to 9 kanal of land. He said before taking charge of this graveyard in 2008, the former office-bearers of the Parsi union illegally sold some parts of graveyard and now commercial and residential buildings are being built there.

Isphanyar Bhandara asked authorities concerned to come forward and secure this graveyard as it is the cultural heritage like other buildings of the city. He said some shopkeepers also removed the writing of ‘ownership of Parsi graveyard’ written on the upper shade of the market passage which is unfair. “If we continue to neglect our religious minorities, we are in danger of losing our heritage, culture and legacy. There is a dire need to take up immediate protection and conservation of the Parsi cemetery, in order to safeguard the interests of past, present and future Parsi generations of Pakistan,” he added.