Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Voting rights? But whom do we choose?

Ask Parsi youth, who want to know whether issues like housing will be resolved

MUMBAI: Last week, the High Court passed a judgment, one that would in many ways shake the age-old hierarchy of the Parsi community: Every Parsi above 18 years can now elect the trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP). It is a big deal when one considers that it is this institution which controls the purse strings of the Parsi trusts and the allotment of thousands of homes to community members.

While the Parsi youth have welcomed this move, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. “If the candidates in the election are going to be the same trustees as before, what’s the point?” asks Viraf Balaporia, 27.

He’s not the only one asking this question. Jehangir Dadachanji, 23, is also deeply cynical. “I can foresee the tamasha. Just like it is with our country’s elections, we’ll have contenders going around begging for votes,” he says glumly.

But despite their reservations, young Parsis believe that it is a step in the right direction. The key is to ensure that they don’t lose the momentum. Sanobar, 20, a stunt professional and physiotherapist, is more gung-ho than Jehangir and Viraf. “Maybe now the BPP will work for the welfare of our community, and not for themselves,” she says. To ensure that this happens, Sanobar would like youth representatives on the board. “Of the seven trustees, at least two should be a part of the youth,” she says. “The elders can continue to keep our traditions and values in check, while the youth can tackle the issues we face today.”

Two of the most talked about issues are the decrease in numbers and burial rites. Many believe that at the rate at which the number of Parsis in India is falling, it is only a matter of time before they lose their status as a community and become a tribe. The second issue of burial rites is also related to the decline in numbers, but of vultures, in this case. But while the community elders debate over morals, and quibble over religious principles, the youth are more concerned about the housing problem. The BPP, they feel, is not carrying out their role in this regard.

Ruhanghiz Sethna, 29, a homemaker, says. “I know that there are houses on properties owned by the BPP that lie vacant. So far, internal politics of the BPP has determined the owners of these flats.”

Viraf Pithawala, a 33-year-old banker feels that the elderly trustees have forgotten how important it is for the youth to get a place to stay. “We delay our desire to settle down until we have a home. This is a factor that affects the size of our community. If the BPP can promise flats to newlywed couples, they might get married and start a family sooner.”

Sanobar has another solution to their shrinking population. “The BPP should take a stand allowing all Parsis, not just men, who marry outside the religion to be allowed to continue practising their faith. And, yes, incorporate their children in the community, too.”

Original article here.