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A.I.M.Z., the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians was started in the aftermath of a sad and avoidable incident.

A young Parsi Zoroastrian lady passed away tragically in a car accident in 1990, leaving behind a non-Parsi husband and two children. The natural instinct of her parents was to consign her body to the "Tower of Silence" and perform her obsequies as she was a practicing Zoroastrian and had married under the Special Marriages Act of 1952. This is a special Act introduced by the Government of India to enable persons of two different communities to marry and allow each spouse to adhere to his or her own religion, thus avoiding conversion as was the practice in the past.

The Parsi Panchayat Trustees refused to accept the body of Mrs.Roxan Darshan Shah at the Dokhma despite being assured by her parents that she was a practicing Zoroastrian and had married under the Special Marriages Act. The incidents that followed in the aftermath of the above episode created a low point in the history of the community.

High Priests, eminent lawyers and certain section of the Community went quite mad. Dr.Kotwal, High Priest said that all inter-married ladies were engaged in "adultery" and their children were subsequently illegitimate "bastards".

Hysterical rhetoric was heard at hurriedly called meetings to ban the inter-married ladies access to all fire-temples. When it was brought to the notice of the orthodox that Parsi men married to non-Parsis should also be included in the ban, they half-heartedly agreed to include them in the denouncement.

Luckily for us, there was the silent majority, who slowly spoke up and in our support. Mr.Jehan Daruwalla of the Mumbai Samachar was one of our most solid supporters. Mr.Rustomji Gagrat, Mr.Rustom Gai, Mr.Rusi Sethna – all came out strongly in support of our cause.

The Parsi Panchayat Trustees suddenly decided that they were going to mediate and convened a meeting in their office. Those present were the Panchayat Trustees, Dr.Kotwal, leading the Priests, Parsi journalists and orthodox supporters. Our side was represented by Mrs.Smita Crishna, Mrs.Meher Amersey and Mr.Rusi Sethna.

Again, insults were hurled and we were asked to build our own Dokhmas in New Bombay. In no uncertain terms Mr.Sethna explained that the community had no legal standing in denying our Rights as we had married under the Special Marriages Act and were still practicing the Zoroastrian religion. The Trustees seems to have got the message but to save the face, had to take the opinion of various Scholars and Judges, who only reiterated what Mr.Rusi Sethna had earlier conveyed to the Trustees.

The dust settled and the ranting and raving stopped. The Panchayat gave their opinion. We could use the Dokhma provided –

a. either a spouse or parent gave an affidavit at the time of consignment that the deceased was a practicing Zoroastrian.

b. that all arrangements had to be done by the family with no help from the Tower of Silence.

c. the body would be consigned to the "Choitra" Dokhma.

By this time our support had grown considerably and we decided to form an Association.

In 1991, the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians was formed as a Society registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. The main objects of the Association being –

(1) "The main object inter-alia is to assert, establish, agitate for, protect and safeguard the rights, privileges, benefits of and available to Parsi Zoroastrians married to any person who is not a Parsi Zoroastrian including to take all steps and proceedings for speedy and effective implementation and enforcement of all such rights, privileges and benefits".

(2) "All Parsi Zoroastrians married to non-Parsi Zoroastrians and the children above 18 years of such marriages are entitled to become Members with full voting and other rights. Any person above the age of 18 years, who sympathises with the aim and objects of the Association is welcome to become an Associate Member. The constitution of the Association has been framed on modern democratic lines with regular elections and a respect for the views of every person.

(3) "We believe that instead of sporadic and ad hoc efforts by aggrieved individuals, well directed and organised efforts under the umbrella of an Association, will yield better and faster results."

The following 10 are the founder members of the Association :

  • Meher P. Amersey (nee Tata)
  • Smita V. Crishna (nee Godrej)
  • Adi B. Godrej
  • Berjis M. Desai          
  • Vera A. Mahajan (nee Sidhwa)
  • Meher D. Rafaat (nee Cursetji)
  • Ardeshir B. K. Dubash   
  • Khursheed M. Narang (nee Sidhwa)
  • Gayo Pedder
  • Kavas Pertigara

After forming the Association, we received good press coverage. The Times of India published an interesting piece on the Association and a sequel followed. Several letters were also published from various readers. The "Bombay Samachar" and the "Parsiana" have always been very warm in their support. The BBC World Service Radio recently came down and interviewed our members and broadcast it under the programme "Focus on Faith". "The Deccan Chronicle" from Hyderabad and the "Khaleej Times", Dubai, also carried articles on our Association.

For the 1992 Electoral College election, the Bombay High Court sanctioned the Election Scheme for electing the Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat. The Scheme provides that in order to be a candidate either for the Trusteeship or as a member of the Electoral college, which elects the trustees, or to vote at such elections, the trustees may require a statement from any person, male or female, that he or she continues to profess the Zoroastrian faith. In this manner, it is well established now that a Parsi lady married to a non-Parsi can not only stand for elections to the Electoral College, but also for the Trusteeship. Again, the declaration has to be made by both men and women and such declaration is required not only by reason of marriage with a non-Parsi but also in other cases. We feel that this is a step in the right direction and does not discriminate against women in any manner. Accordingly, we now find the names of several of our members on the list of voters for the Electoral College. We are happy to inform you that some of our office bearers had stood as candidates for the election to the Electoral College, which were held on 5th and 6th December 1992. This is an emphatic assertion of our legal and constitutional rights. The Association’s candidates were :

  • Mrs. Meher Amersey
  • Mrs. Vera Mahajan
  • Mr. Berjis M. Desai.

Only Mr. Berjis Desai was successful.

Having established our rights, the Association’s main concern is to ensure the rights of our children.

The children of the male married to a non-Parsi Zoroastrian do not seem to face any discrimination or rejection by the Priests and community. An example being that of the Baughs and Agiaries, which are not available to inter-married ladies for Navjote ceremonies or wedding dinners.

To gain a break thru, we need the community’s support in the matter. If issues are taken up by all concerned members of the Society, then the orthodox will be forced to change. Today, almost every home has inter-marriages and the trend is only growing, which means more and more children are going to be the products of inter-marriages. If the community, in its prejudice, closes its doors to them, these children will also turn away in disappointment and fear of rejection. Apart from defying the very concept of constitutional equality, this form of bigotism is against the tenets of our enlightened religion. The gratuitous advice of some that we should start our own religious institutions brings in a form of ‘caste divide’ into our small and dwindling numbers. Separatism is not the answer for a miniscule community.

It is our hope that our efforts will remove a barrier to the practice of our great religion and its growth in the world community.