Why are we so mean?

Mumbai has a historical mansion on Mumbai’s Malabar Hill. For the last 25 years, the mansion is vacant today, gates rusted and overgrown creepers allover. Mohammad Ali Jinnah — the founder of Pakistan had built it. Jinnah wished to spend the last few days of his life. His only daughter Dina Wadia the mother of Nusli Wadia, the industrialist owning Bombay Dying wishes to spend the last few days of her life in a mansion that her father dearly loved. Dina is a British national and 88 now.

In a letter to the PM last July, Dina, who said the house bears “great sentimental value” to her, wrote: “It is now over 50 years since my father’s death and I have been deprived of my house. He bought the house in 1917 from his hard-earned money as a lawyer, got married and lived in it till partition. This is the house where I grew up and lived till I married. The property is lying idle for 23 years. It is completely neglected. I request you to return it to me after considering the two legal opinions of retired Chief Justices of India.”

According to government sources, Jinnah did not will his house to his daughter, but to his now-deceased sister Fatima, who migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and was declared an evacuee. The house was therefore taken over by the Indian government.

However, Dina has said the will was never executed and hence for all practical purposes her father died without a will. Her argument is that since Jinnah was a Khoja Muslim, who are governed by the Hindu law of succession when it comes to property and inheritance, Dina would, as a daughter, have first right to her father’s properties over his brother and sisters if he died without a will.

However, the Government of India is clearly in no mood to hand this over. Advait Sethna, GOI advocate says, “Mr Jinnah had made a will, which, according to the petitioner is unprobated and as per this will the executor is Ms Fatima who is the sister of Mr Jinnah and therefore we are saying it becomes an evacuee property. And under the Evacuee Act the ownership comes to the Government.”

The mansion is historical in every respect. Jinnah played a role that India, more so Congress Party might not like. But no doubt, Jinnah remains a historical figure. The mansion has also seen Mahatma Gandhi visiting Jinnah for the final conciliation.

But why should it not be given to Dina who was born and brought up in the mansion. She must have real emotional attachment with it. Once she has appealed to the PM and gone to the court too, the mansion must go to her on humane ground, may be with certain cnditions. Why should the law that Britishers framed, decide everything? Why should India not consider Dina more as the mother of Nusli rather as the daughter of Jinnah?

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