Yazdi Desai: SC should not rule on basis of emotion

Published: Dec 15, 2017, 06:13 IST | Yazdi Desai

Some reports, and I would term them irresponsible, have called yesterday's Supreme Court decision, granting interim relief to a Parsi woman - who was barred from entering fire temples and Towers of Silence in Gujarat

Yazdi DesaiSome reports, and I would term them irresponsible, have called yesterday's Supreme Court decision, granting interim relief to a Parsi woman - who was barred from entering fire temples and Towers of Silence in Gujarat, after marrying outside the community -'landmark' are stretching the truth a fair bit.

While men who marry outside the faith are not barred from fire temples, Parsi women in inter-faith marriages are not allowed inside
While men who marry outside the faith are not barred from fire temples, Parsi women in inter-faith marriages are not allowed inside

This decision is not landmark in any way. The petitioner, Goolrokh Contractor, whose parents are in Valsad, married a Mumbai man and became Neha Gupta. She now says her name is Goolrokh Gupta. I have been following the case since the time it was filed, through communication with the trustees of the Valsad Anjuman. The Valsad Anjuman looks after the Doongerwadi (Tower of Silence).

This is no judgment. The case has been deferred to January 17. The Court has taken cognisance of the lady's plea, that in case her parents pass away before January 17, she be allowed to enter the Tower of Silence for the last rites. She has been allowed to go up to the 'Bungli', which is not a consecrated place. It is a place where funeral prayers take place.

One must also remember that this is one case, and restricted to Goolrokh, so to the term 'landmark', like I said, is hyperbole. The Gujarat High Court had examined her case and ruled against her, the high priests of the Parsi-Zoroastrian faith also ruled against her, submitting an affidavit to the high court.

The SC will have to take these rulings - the religious and the legal - into account when the case comes up on January 17. I would call this a reaction or a response to an emotive statement made by the petitioner. I would say the SC should not rule on the basis of emotion.

Our personal religious laws go right to the very essence of our faith. We are against inter-caste marriage because it is the only way we can preserve our identity and community. We have had a patrilineal system since thousands of years, and that is possibly why we have survived. You may call me racist. So be it.

Even though this case may not have the weightage that reports have given it, it is definitely a step that will embolden other women to challenge our laws or existing rules. I say to my community, to the women, that you can do what you want. Do marry outside, nobody can stop you. Yet, when you do so, do it knowing fully well the rules and laws that this faith is governed by. Do not then say that you will challenge and change them.

I sign off with a message: It is very easy to discard and do away with traditions and practices, but very difficult to preserve and nurture that which is precious. The government has recognised that our Parsi Zoroastrian community needs to be preserved and not allowed to die out through the Jiyo Parsi Scheme, involving funding of Rs 14 crore. We must not dissipate this commendable intention of the government.

As told to Hemal Ashar

The columnist is chairman, Bombay Parsi Punchayet Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com


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