Seventy-one-year-old Dhan Baria is thrilled with the Bombay high court’s judgment in favour of the two Parsi reformist priests.
The priests had been banned from conducting prayers at fire temples run by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) because they performed the last rites of Parsis opting for cremation and burial — a cause that Baria has felt passionately about ever since she visited the Tower of Silence at Malabar Hill when her mother died in 2005.
“There are thousands of bodies rotting in the Tower of Silence. This verdict is a deserved blow to the Punchayet,” said Baria, who runs a children’s charitable trust at Marine Lines. Baria claimed that the BPP has failed to decompose bodies with solar power after the disappearance of vultures. “This judgment should be a lesson to other priests to start performing last rites for any Parsi.” Khushroo Madon, one of the two priests branded “renegade” by the BPP, applauded the judgment as the victory of truth. “I know I have done nothing irreligious. The BPP trustees have unnecessarily been interfering in religious matters without reading the scriptures correctly,” he said.
The Punchayet will move the Supreme Court against the judgment. “A priest who disobeys our tenets and then tries to pray in the Tower of Silence is unheard of,” BPP chief executive officer Mehli Colah said.
Reformist Parsis said the court’s ruling that the BPP trustees have no say in religious matters was a progressive move. “This is the right step to stop the Talibanisation of the community by the BPP,” said Vispy Wadia, founder of the reformist group Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism.
Jehangir Patel, editor of the community magazine Parsiana who was present in the court when the judgement was pronounced, praised Justice DY Chandrachud for his decision.
“The judge constantly emphasised that these are modern times and one cannot be retrograde. I hope the Supreme Court upholds this,” said Patel, who claimed that the BPP has needlessly spent a large amount community funds to fight the high court case. “It is all about their ego, and makes no sense.”