Jiyo Parsi, a Government of India supported scheme to arrest the decline in population of the Parsi Zoroastrian community in India, launched its advertisement campaign a week ago, with a conference held at the Cama Oriental Institute. The Jiyo Parsi scheme comprises two basic components the advocacy component and the medical component.

It is a multi-pronged approach to help Parsis increase their numbers. Currently, there are at least 69,000 Parsis in the country. The advertisement, run in the community-specific press, uses trenchant wit, provocative lines and humour to tell the community to marry early, have more children and generally go forth and multiply.

Yet, at the conference, it was evident that the community needs to do some soul searching. While the Jiyo Parsi scheme advocates said that the campaign was under the ambit of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of India which is patriarchal if not the law, then at least attitudes must change towards inter-caste marriage. Most of the points were raised by the Parsi audience themselves, many who felt that the community was too insular and treated women, especially those who married outside, unfairly.

Another factor is access to fire temples, even in a limited way, just inside the premises for non-Parsi spouses. A point was made that they should be at least allowed into the premises as no other community restricts access to others into its place of worship. The Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) offered no comment, though they were present at the conference. There was also the feeling that the community was too insular. The speakers were on the backfoot with question and had to say that they respected all religions.

It is plain though that this community, westernised and progressive in so many aspects, now needs to hold a mirror upto itself. A more inclusive approach — looking at what the young are feeling about a society in flux and not keeping those of other communities ‘out’ of certain premises needs to be debated, discussed and dissected threadbare. An ostrich-in-the-sand attitude may be safe but is no solution to the issues that are simmering within the community.