Parsis don’t want to join world body

March 1, 2005

Bardoli: The Bombay Parsee Punchayet (BPP) wants to join an organisation called the International Zoroastrian Organisation, largely promoted by diaspora in North America, which is liberal about accepting non-Parsis to Zoroastrianism.

But thousands in the community who protested in Gujarat on Sunday say the community’s vast religious properties could be in danger of being taken over by converts from outside India.

Over a thousand Parsis gathered in the small town of Bardoli in South Gujarat on Sunday to protest against plans by the BPP and other community organisations to join a proposed world body of Zoroastrians, which is liberal about accepting converts.

They passed a resolution opposing the move.

But the BPP, the largest representative organisation of Parsis, said the resolution carried no weight because those gathered at Bardoli represented the minority opinion in the community.

The BPP wants to join the International Zoroastrian Organisation, but the organisation is yet to be formally registered.

However, opponents of the world body are worried about the prospect of the BPP joining a body that will also include organisations like FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian Anjumans of North America) that allow converts to become its members.

Lately, the religion has gained converts in Latin America and East Europe. Orthodox community members feel that the converts would swamp the tiny community numbering just over a lakh.

They fear that the community’s vast religious properties could be in danger of being taken over by non-Parsi converts from outside India.

The trustees in the BPP feel that the world body will represent Zoroastrian political and economical interests.

The body will bring under one wing, representative organisations like BPP in India and associations in Iran, America and elsewhere. The constituents will have voting rights in the world body.

“FEZANA has made converted Zoroastrians its members. They are trying to impose this practice here. They want to legitimise the practice here,” says Khojeste Mistree, a Zoroastrian scholar.

The only person in the crowd who opposed the resolution did not want to be named, because he thought he would attract the hostility of those in favour of the resolution.

He said that he was not worried about the world body controlling trust properties in India.

“Those who spoke at the meeting are not presenting the facts properly.

Every trust or agiary in India has individual trust deeds that have strict rules about who could be the beneficiaries. It will not be easy for outsiders to just come and claim rights to the trusts and agiaries,” he said.