Borhras and reform
Dawoodi Bohras - Borhras and reform

Erasing the memory of great Bohra philanthropists

Dawoodi Bohras are made to be proud of the majestic building standing opposite Charni Road Railway Station in Mumbai. They are told that this is “Saifee Hospital” that their late Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb had dreamt of. But on this majestic building there is no sign board saying “Saifee Hospital” anywhere. This is something unusual, especially in a city like Mumbai, and for Dawoodi Bohra establishment, as they leave no opportunity in glorifying the name of their last two Syednas!

This is because the Supreme Court of India in its judgment delivered in 2000 has categorically stated that:

"The gates and entrances to the Sanatorium and Mosque portion of the building shall bear only the name of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium. The gates and entrances to the Hospital portion of the building will bear the name of Saifee Hospital on the gate posts and name of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy on the opposite gate posts, in letters of equal size and prominence. If the name of Saifee Hospital put up on any exterior surface of the Hospital Wing then the name of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy shall be placed alongside the same or one after the other with due regard to the aesthetics of the building with equal size and prominence."

This means that if Syedna Saheb's trustees put up a sign board of “Saifee Hospital” then they will also have to put up a sign board of "Sir Adamji Peerbhoy", a name which they are trying to erase from public memory and space.

Not only this, the cunning and dishonest trustees have played another trick. In the plans submitted to the Supreme Court the entrance to Sir Adamji Sanatorium was given in the rear of the building. Hence the Supreme Court had to order in its judgment that:

"The plans annexed to the Affidavit dated 8.10.1997 at Volume XIV pages 2237 to 2262 shall be amended to bring the entrance of the Sanatorium Wing to the front of the building facing Maharishi Karve Road."

The entrance of Sanatorium was shown in the plan at the rear of the building so as to make sure that it was not visible to the public. The Supreme Court had also imposed one more condition:

"Wings A and B of the Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium shall not be demolished unless and until a sum of Rs. One Crore is deposited by the trustees of the Saifee Hospital in a separate Bank Account to be opened for this purpose. The Trustees of Saifee Hospital are directed to complete the construction of the Sanitarium of minimum built-up area of 16,000 square feet within five years from the date of demolition of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium Trust's property"

From such specific and strict orders it is evident that the Highest Court of this country did not trust Sayedna Saheb's dishonest trustees, and was suspicious that they will do every thing possible to erase the memory of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy. That is why at one stage of the trial the Supreme Court even asked the trustees of Saifee Hospital to build the “Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Hospital” on the land of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy.

We know that till year 2000 an equally majestic sanatorium stood on this land which was built by the legendary Dawoodi Bohra philanthropist Sir Adamji Peerbhoy. He had purchased the land and constructed this sanatorium and the adjoining mosque in 1885 with his own money for the use and benefit of the members of his community. For his outstanding charitable work the 49th Dai, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb (the father of Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb) had conferred the title of “Rafiuddin” (high in religion) on Sir Adamji Peerbhoy.

During First and Second World Wars when prosperity came in the Dawoodi Bohra community due to increase in trading activities, many Dawoodi Bohra philanthropists like Sir Adamji Peerbhoy, Hasanali Dholkawala, Nooruddin Moriswala, Abdul Tayyab Maskati, Lukmanji Bootwala, Ismailji Machiswala, Adamji Jhanjaria, Karimjees, Jivanjees etc etc., created trusts and built several sanatorium, hospitals, musafarkhanas, mosques and educational institutions in the community. In last 100 years their names have been intentionally erased from the memory of Bohras, even though Bohras continue to enjoy the benefits their charities. Today these institutions have been named either "Saifee or Burhani" and are projected as "Ahsanat and Karam of Aqa Mola." Today Bohras hardly remember the names of our pioneer philanthropists. Their names have been successfully erased from public memory and public space.

It all began with Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb who actively downplayed the importance of past philanthropists in order to glorify his own image as "Shamshul-Duatul-Mutlaqueen" (Shining like Sun among all other Dais) and mark his era as “Golden Era”. And all this without contributing a penny from his side or from crores of rupees collected from the Bohras every year.

Sir Adamji Peerbhoy is lucky that his name still survives today albeit through court orders. His grandsons, late Advocate Abid Merchant and late Mr. Mansoor Jani fought in the courts of law for more than 30 years bearing considerable expense against the Bohra establishment’s devilish design to erase the name of their grandfather. But in the case of other philanthropists, they were not so lucky. Their heirs, willingly or unwillingly submitted to the coercion of the establishment. Thanks to the efforts of Sir Adamji's grandsons, Saifee Hospital trustees are still Sir Adamji's lessee and even today Sir Adamji Peerbhoy is the actual owner. Sir Adamji Peerbhoy's sanatorium also exists in his own name. His mosque and his dargah in the compound of his mosque are still in existence.

That is why in the final judgment the Supreme Court thought it necessary to define the Dawoodi Bohra beneficiaries of Hospital and Sanatorium. The order thus specifies:

"......Dawoodi Bohras regardless of whether they have taken the Oath of Allegiance (misaq) or not and regardless of whether they have been excommunicated or not."

Syedna Saheb's dishonest trustees are trying to hide this fact from the community as you can see from a huge board put up on the front façade of Saifee Hospital building on the occasion of so-called 100th Birthday of Syedna Saheb. It reads as:-

Medical Staff
and Employees
Respectfully offer
on his 100th Milad (Birthday)
25th March, 2011-20th Rabi-al-Akhar

Please note the mention of “APS TRUST”. The dishonest trustees of Syedna Saheb want to hide the name of Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium from public by abbreviating it as APS Trust. They would have omitted mentioning APS TRUST altogether, but they were under compulsion to do so. According to the Supreme Court order they cannot mention '”Saifee Hospital” anywhere without mentioning “Sir Adamji Peerbhoy” with it. But still it is a violation of the court order as the court has asked to write the name of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium Trust in full.

We are seeking clarification for this under the Right to Information Act, and our solicitors in New Delhi already working on it. It would be interesting to see how they wriggle out of this one.

Saifee Hospital front - note the abbreviated 'APS Trust'