Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Indian Parsis seek NCM’s help to dispose of dead

NEW DELHI: India’s official National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has come to the rescue of the tiny Parsi community, which is worried over the disposal of their dead because of the dwindling population of vultures.

It has decided to set up a nursery for breeding vultures around Mumbai, where most Parsis reside. Dr Mehroo Dhunjisha Bengalee, a Parsi member of the NCM hailing from Mumbai, has been given the responsibility to coordinate with experts to set up the nursery.

The Parsis have always had a representative in the NCM, but it is perhaps for the first time that the representative is doing something that benefits them, thanks to the issue pursued vigorously by Ms Bengalee.

“The Parsi community strongly raised the issue of vultures disappearing from Mumbai. We do share their concern, and hence wish to contribute as much as possible to address their problem,” said Commission Chairman Muhammad Shafi Qureshi.

He said, “There was a time when hundreds of vultures used to hover above the city’s sole functional Tower of Silence, or dakhma, at Kemp’s Corner to feed on the remains of Zoroastrian Parsis, a ritual that the community has been practicing since long.”

The entry of the NCM into vulture conservation will also solve the problem of disposal of animal carcasses, since otherwise there are hardly any efforts to save vultures except the work of a conservation and breeding centre in Pinjore, Haryana, a joint venture of the Bombay Natural History Society and the Haryana Forest Department.

The NCM chairman said the commission would not only be a facilitator but also ensure that its “breed vultures mission” takes off smoothly and as soon as possible. “We are determined to take the move to a logical conclusion. It is an extraordinary problem, and the commission cannot afford to be complacent about this,” he said.

According to an estimate, over 90 percent of the vultures in the country have vanished, and those surviving are estimated to be dying at the rate of 30 to 50 percent annually. These birds have not been sighted in Mumbai for almost a decade now.

In the absence of vultures, the Parsis in Mumbai have installed solar concentrators – reflective mirrors that magnify the heat from the sun – to char the remains placed inside the Tower of Silence.