Darius Khambata was one of the speakers on Day 02 of the recently concluded Iranshah Udvada Utsav 2015. His talk raised a lot of controversey over what was said/heard/implied…..or NOT….by those present, and those that went by hearsay.
He clarifies his stand in a letter to the Editor of the Jame Jamshed that was shared over social media by Jame.
MAHARASHTRA’S EX ADVOCATE GENERAL DARIUS KHAMBATA CLARIFIES:
Some of the reactions to my speech at the Udvada Utsav on 26 December 2015 lead me to issue this statement.
It appears that some may have understood me as proposing some policy allowing conversion to Zoroastrianism and they apprehend this will lead to the ‘floodgates’ being opened. This is not what I intended. What motivated my speech, was a desire to initiate a discussion and hopefully to forge a consensual solution to what several members of the community see as a serious and longstanding question.
I prefaced my speech with the qualification that I was going to speak on the difficult issue of inter-faith marriage, which I am told is increasing each year.This was the theme of my speech. I do not advocate adopting any policy of conversion to Zoroastrianism.
I spoke at length of the universality of Zoroastrianism to support the proposal I made at the conclusion of my speech. What I said on universality was based on the opinion of several distinguished priests and scholars including Vada Dasturji Dhalla and on the findings of the Bombay High Court in the Parsi Panchayat Case . These findings were based on the evidence of amongst others the then Vada DasturjiJamasp Asa. This was to support an inclusive, rather than exclusive, approach.
When I spoke I did not, and even now do not, expect that every Parsi/Irani (referred to collectively as “Parsi”) will agree with me. I respect the views and the sincerity of those who do not and I recognize that there is also scholastic and religious writing that suggests that Zoroastrianism is only for Parsis. I am not persuaded to this point of view but merely ask each Parsi to read both views, analyze and think for himself or herself and have a dignified dialogue. As I said at Udvada, I have no religious or scholastic expertise. But I do read and think for myself.
The legal solution I proposed for acceptance of children of inter-married Parsi mothers is based on the Privy Council judgment in Saklat v. Bella which permitted Trustees to exercise discretionto allow such children to be admitted to an Agiaryprovided they were Zoroastrians. The principle in Saklat v. Bella cannot be applied to benefits such as free or subsidized housing, medical, education, etc. since that would adversely affect the rights of Parsi Zoroastrian beneficiaries. I made this clear during my speech.
When I said that therefore there was nothing wrong if our Atash Behrams and Agiaries allowed entry to all who were navjoted ZoroastriansI was speaking in the context of such universality of our religion and the judgment of the Privy Council. I relied on the universality of Zoroastrianism and the Privy Council principle to call, at the end of my speech, for allowing entry into our AtashBehrams and Agiaries to Parsi women married outside the faith and to their navjoted Zoroastrian children.
I respect the sentiments that have been recently expressed and wish to clarify that I am not calling for allowing entry to our places of worship to just anyone who has had a navjote but docall for allowing entry to inter-married Parsi women and to their navjoted children.We cannot shy away from issues of unfairness, discrimination and exclusion. There was no intention to offend anybody. As I said in my speech we should talk to and not at each other.
My speech was preceded by three excellent scholarly discourses. I believe that the audience was mature enough to have this issue raised before it. I am grateful for the dignity and tolerance of the audience, which, barring some, applauded me. Even those that disagreed were gracious enough not to interrupt or disrupt my speech. I respect their right to disagree. Many people laterthanked me for saying what I did.
The more I read about Zoroastrianism and the more questions I ask myself, the greater is my belief in it and my passion for it. We must be a united, happier and stronger community to meet the challenges ahead such asof education, jobs, housing, the plight of several Parsi priests and our dwindling numbers.
I am proud of my Parsipanu and equally proud to be Zoroastrian. We should all be proud of the UdvadaUtsav which showcased so much Parsi talent, warmth and goodwill. Our community lives Zoroastrianism by adherence to truth, freedom of expression, philanthropy and happiness. In the name of Ahura Mazda let us not lose either that spirit or our unity.
7 January 2016
Darius J. Khambata