GOOLRUKH CONTRACTOR GUPTA, 51 Activist fighting for the rights of Parsi women
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.
Goolrukh Contractor Gupta