Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Strife over death at Parsi meet

Punchayet will form panel to decide alternative ways to dispose dead The body disposal issue reared its head last month when Dhun Baria clandestinely shot a video and took photographs of Tower of Silence

Sorab Ghaswalla Mumbai

A MEETING of eminent city Parsis convened on Thursday by the Bombay Parsee Punchayet (BPP) to debate the contentious issue of disposal of bodies mooted a proposal of forming a core group of about 10 people. This group, representing all sides, will arrive at a conclusion within 30-60 days, said some members who attended the meeting but did not wish to be named.

BPP Chairman Minoo Shroff mooted the proposal of forming the group. While Shroff ‘s suggestion was accepted by liberals, a section of the orthodoxy said they retained the option of getting back with a decision on the committee soon. By and large though, sources said, the pro posal did appeal to the majority.

Delegates representing the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ) said they had to get their Board’s nod regarding the group.

Around 75 members, including high priests, lawyers, writers and social workers, representing the orthodoxy and liberals, were invited by BPP for Thursday’s meeting at Banaji Agiary in Charni Road. Held behind closed doors, arrangements were made for general members, who were allowed to listen.

The urgency of the matter is an impending move by some members to file a writ petition, said BPP sources. Members pointed out that these people, despite being invited to attend the meeting, refused. The BPP chairman, said sources, appealed to delegates to resolve the issue within the community and not drag it into public domain.

The issue of body disposal reared its head in September when a Parsi lady Dhun Baria, on being told that her mother’s body would take at least a year to decompose due to lack of vultures at the Tower of Silence, clandestinely shot a video and took photographs of the ground. The pictures of bodies in various stages of decomposition horrified Parsis and divided them into those supporting the old system of disposal and those who wanted other options.

Some members like Jamshed Kanga and those representing the Alternative Disposal Choice (ADC), a proposed public charitable trust, suggested that an impartial enquiry committee headed by an ex-high court judge, also a Parsi, be constituted to look into the workings of the Tower of Silence. They also wanted the committee’s report to be made public in order to allow members to make an informed choice on the preferred system of disposal of bodies. This proposal, though, was not put up by the chair for consideration, said sources.

TWO VIEWS Traditionalists ? Disposal of bodies is reli gious issue, sys tem working fine ? Cremation or burial against Zoroastrianism Pragmatics ? Dwindling vul ture population has weakened system ? Solar panels not functioning properly