the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians was started
in the aftermath of a sad and avoidable incident.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
dust settled and the ranting and raving stopped. The Panchayat
gave their opinion. We could use the Dokhma provided
either a spouse or parent gave an affidavit at the time
of consignment that the deceased was a practicing Zoroastrian.
all arrangements had to be done by the family with no help
from the Tower of Silence.
body would be consigned to the "Choitra" Dokhma.
this time our support had grown considerably and we decided
to form an Association.
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
"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".
"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.
"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
following 10 are the founder members of the Association :
P. Amersey (nee Tata)
V. Crishna (nee Godrej)
A. Mahajan (nee Sidhwa)
D. Rafaat (nee Cursetji)
B. K. Dubash
M. Narang (nee Sidhwa)
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.
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 Associations candidates were :
Berjis M. Desai.
Mr. Berjis Desai was successful.
established our rights, the Associations main concern
is to ensure the rights of our children.
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.
gain a break thru, we need the communitys 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.
is our hope that our efforts will remove a barrier to the
practice of our great religion and its growth in the world