Last Rights

GOOLRUKH CON­TRAC­TOR GUPTA, 51 Ac­tivist fight­ing for the rights of Parsi women

India Today - - COVER STORY - —Uday Mahurkar

It was around 2004 when the Parsi An­ju­man Trust of Val­sad de­nied en­try to Dil­bar Valvi, a Parsi woman mar­ried to a Hindu, dur­ing her mother’s last rites at the Tower of Si­lence. “She was made to sit one kilo­me­tre away at a spe­cial place as­signed for Hin­dus for her own mother’s last rites. I could not bear it,” says Goolrukh Con­trac­tor Gupta, who is a Parsi mar­ried to a Hindu.

And so be­gan Goolrukh’s fight, cul­mi­nat­ing re­cently in a Supreme Court in­terim or­der whereby she and her sis­ter Shi­raz Con­trac­tor Pa­to­dia, also mar­ried to a Hindu, will be al­lowed to at­tend the last rites of their par­ents Adi and Di­naz Con­trac­tor, both 83, at the Tower of Si­lence when they die.

How­ever, she in­sists, it is not her fight alone. “I am fight­ing for the rights of the women of the en­tire com­mu­nity,” she says. “Parsi men mar­ried to Hin­dus are not treated in the same way. In fact, even the chil­dren of Parsi men who mar­ried out­side the com­mu­nity are al­lowed en­try into the fire tem­ple if they have un­der­gone the Navroz (thread) cer­e­mony.”

In­ci­den­tally, Goolrukh’s fa­ther and her ma­ter­nal un­cles con­trolled the trust at Val­sad till 2003 and there were no such ob­jec­tions against Parsi women mar­ried out­side the com­mu­nity at that time. It was only after a new set of of­fice-bear­ers took over that this sys­tem of ex­clu­sion of Parsi women mar­ried to men of other faiths be­gan.

For four years, Goolrukh wrote let­ters to the new mem­bers of the trust re­quest­ing them to sus­pend the rule. When she got no re­sponse, Goolrukh ap­proached the Gu­jarat High Court in 2010 with the help of Percy Kav­ina, a well-known Parsi lawyer in Ahmed­abad, who took up the case. Their first plea was re­jected in 2012. But Goolrukh did not give up. She de­cided to take her plea to the high­est court of the land and found sup­port from some of the best lawyers in the coun­try, Har­ish Salve and Indira Jais­ing among them. Her big­gest in­spi­ra­tion, says Goolrukh, is her mother, a lawyer and so­cial worker in Val­sad.

DANESH JASSAWALA

Goolrukh Con­trac­tor Gupta

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