Parsi body to intervene in Calcutta HC case

Mumbai: The Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India (FPZAI) on Sunday decided to intervene in the originating summons filed in the Calcutta High Court by a woman seeking entry for her grandchildren, born to a non-Parsi father, to a fire temple.

The federation, an umbrella body of over 69 anjumans in the country, is against allowing the children in the fire temple.

The federation’s executive council meeting was held on Sunday at a community hall in Mumbai, where 14 out of the 16 members voted in favour of intervening in the matter, while two abstained from voting.

“We decided to intervene so that we can present the correct picture to the court in terms of what is accepted and what is not in our religion. We don’t want this case to set a precedent,” said Farrokh Rustomji, secretary of the FPZAI.

“Ultimately, the decision in this case may have a snowball effect. Therefore, we are going to cite past judgements, wherein entry was denied to non-Parsis so that the court is presented with all the sides,” he added.

Earlier this year, Kolkata-based businesswoman Prochy Mehta filed the originating summons in the Calcutta High Court after her grandchildren, aged 10 and 7, were denied entry into the Late E.D.B. Mehta’s Zoroastrian Anjuman Atash Adaran, the only fire temple in the city. Ms. Mehta’s daughter Sanaya has married a Hindu man. She said her grandchildren used to visit the fire temple earlier, but after a new priest took over the agiary in 2013, the temple restricted their admission.

“That’s the rule. It is not accepted in our religion,” said Mr. Rustomji.

FPZAI president Yazdi Desai said the federation needs to impress on the Calcutta High Court not to disturb the existing definition of who a Parsi Zoroastrian is: a descendant from Persia practising Zoroastrianism. “It is most unfair and selfish of Sanaya Mehta to conveniently marry outside the community knowing the consequences, and to now approach the court to change centuries-old rules to suit her,” Mr. Desai said.

Parsis marrying outside the community has been a concern for orthodox members who believe in maintaining ethnic purity.

Despite the dwindling number of Parsis, these members believe that no compromises should be made on this part.

Of the 57,000-odd Parsis in India, about 400 live in Kolkata. Of these, 60% are above 60 years of age. There are only 33 minors, of which 15 are offsprings of Parsi women who have married outside the community. Last year, all seven marriages that the community members attended in the city were interfaith.

Delhi-based Adil Nargolwala, one of the two members who abstained from voting on Sunday, had a different take on the issue.

“These are old practices that we should do away with,” said Mr. Nargolwala, who is a member of the FPZAI’s executive council and the secretary of the Delhi Parsi Anjuman, known to be one of the liberal anjumans in the country.

“I believe in equality. If the children of a Parsi father who married a non-Parsi woman are accepted, so can be the children of a Parsi mother married to a non-Parsi man. There is no need for this discrimination in today’s cosmopolitan world,” he said.

Mumbai-based businessman Vispy Wadia, a founder member of the Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ), which was formed to fight discrimination towards liberal Parsis, says the legal intervention would be unnecessary wastage of community funds.

“The FPZAI’s decision to intervene is nothing but vote bank politics to appease the orthodox segment in the community,” he said.

He said the intervention would not affect the outcome of the case in any way. “But once again, a huge amount of money will be wasted. A few years ago, over ₹3 crore was similarly spent on mindless litigation to ban two Parsi priests,” Mr. Wadia said.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 8:23:23 PM |

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