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Parsis divided on body disposal committee issue

Varied reactions are coming in from members of the Parsi community on the issue.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2006 14:27 IST

From hailing it to labeling it as a time buying move to outright dissatisfaction, varied reactions are coming in from members of the Parsi community to a proposal to set up a committee to discuss and try and solve the vexed issue of dead body disposal.

The proposal was mooted at a closed-door meeting of prominent Parsis held in Mumbai by the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) on Thursday at the Charni Road based Banaji Agiary (Fire Temple).

The issue of an alternate method of body disposal had reared its head once again when in September, a 65-year-old lady Dhun Bharia, having being told that the body of her mother would take at least one year to be disposed off, had taken clandestine photographs of the inside of the Tower of Silence, a prohibited place.

The pictures had shocked many in the community and divided it into the orthodoxy wanting to continue with the traditional practise while the liberals demanding that alternate methods like burials and cremations be allowed.

What is also fast becoming a matter of concern for the BPP is the proposed move by a prominent Parsi to file a writ petition in the matter in the high court soon. "A senior counsel practising in the Bombay High Court is contemplating to file the petition soon over the matter of the Doongerwadi (Tower of Silence) and demanding a cremation ground inside the doongerwadi area", said Berjis Desai, spokesman for the Alternate Disposal Choice, a proposed public charitable trust.

"If this does not work out, then our group will go ahead and file a writ petition", added Desai.

For the BPP, the issue is clearly an "internal matter" and it would like to keep it within the community. Even in Thursday's meeting, BPP Chairman Minoo Shroff went on cajoling the invitees not to drag the issue into the public, saying that the meeting itself was closed to the media.

The trustees say they are very clear in their minds that a core committee should be set up and it should come up with a decision in 30-60 days. "The committee will be formed in this month and then we will decide further", Minoo Shroff, Chairman, BPP, told HT on Friday.

But Dhun Baria and a group of Parsi reformists supporting her are dissatisfied with Thursday's "inconclusive" meeting. They claim this was just a "time consuming tactic".

"We had given them a deadline till October 12 to arrive at a decision. But yesterday's meeting was completely unfruitful", said Baria adding that the Punchayet was just trying to extend the issue.

Baria said she will write a letter to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh asking him to intervene in the matter. "We will ask the CM to pressurize the BPP to agree with our demands. We are also prepared to approach the Union Government if need be", said Baria.

"The BPP is just trying to pass on the buck and is dragging its feet", said Vipsi Wadia of Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ), a reformist group.

The BPP has also turned down suggestions made in yesterday's meet of holding an impartial enquiry by a committee headed by an ex HC Judge, also a Parsi.  "No such team will be sent to examine the condition of bodies inside the Tower of Silence", asserted Shroff.