BPP Elections

Open letter by Kersi Sethna

Dear Madam,

By my mail of 5th April 2016, I had sought clarification from the BPP as to who is a Parsee under the Election Scheme and thus entitled to vote (copy of my letter to the BPP is given below).

I had been informed that recently a Parsi lady after marriage to a renowned Muslim lawyer was asked by the BPP, at the time of issuing fresh certificate in her married name for registering as voter, for an Affidavit stating that she has not renounced the Zoroastrian faith due to marriage to a non-Parsi and continues to profess the Zoroastrian faith. She had informed BPP that on marriage she had already provided to the BPP an Affidavit to this effect stating that she has not renounced her Zoroastrain faith, as she wanted her body to be consigned to the Towers of Silence. However the BPP administration demanded for another affidavit stating the same thing in order to issue a fresh voter certificate in her married name and allow her to vote on the ground that that affidavit pertained only for consigning her body to Doongerwadi and not for voting rights.

Upon coming to know of this, I immediately wrote to the BPP asking them on their stand when it comes to Parsi women married outside for voting at these upcoming elections. I brought up the example of Yasmin Jal Mistry, daughter of fellow aspirant candidate Arnavaz Mistry, and business partner of sitting Trustee Kersi Randeria, and colleague Trustee with Kersi Randeria on their cosmopolitan trust, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of India (ZTFI). I inquired from BPP whether after marriage now Yasmin Maqsood Shiekh was a registered voter still under her maiden name or had applied for change of name and sought information within two days from the BPP if she had been asked in either case to provide a similar affidavit in order to vote. I pointed out that she is reported to be married under Nikha, the Muslim personal law under which conversion is a must and hence an Affidavit is necessary to confirm the truth.

I presume that at the Board Meeting of 5th April 2016 my mail must have been discussed. On 7th April, I met the CEO of BPP Cawas Panthaki and inquired of him about the decision regarding Yasmin Maqsood Shaikh’s Affidavit. Cawas was belligerent and informed me that he was going to write to me to give him proof of her wedding by Nikah. I informed him that I had no proof but the natural inference was by Nikha when one marries a Muslim. On my query as to why an Affidavit was not taken from her as mandated under the Election Scheme in case of inter-caste marriage, he gave the most unsatisfactory excuse that she has not asked for a voting certificate in her married name but was still using her voter certificate in her maiden name and hence there was no need for an Affidavit. On my query whether he was aware that she had married a Muslim, he replied in the affirmative and gave the same lame excuse that she has not asked for a fresh voting certificate in her married name.

On my insistence that once you are aware of her marrying a Muslim, it is your duty to insist on her Affidavit proclaiming her continuing to follow the Zoroastrian faith just as he had done for the earlier Parsi lady who was not ashamed to declare her married name in the voter’s certificate, to which he had no answer. He told me that Kersi Randeria informed the Board that he is personally aware that she has not converted on marriage and continues to profess the Zoroastrian faith and under the Election Scheme Trustees have the discretion not to insist for such a demeaning Affidavit from Yasmin, his business partner.

Yasmin married many years ago much before she even came in contact with Randeria or became her partner nor was he present at her wedding or even her reception and would have no personal knowledge as to the actual wedding formalities and hence his statement would be based only on hearsay evidence.

This is against the very essence of transparency and accountability under which we appointed the current Trustees. It is my opinion that until such affidavits of Zoroastrian faith are provided by Parsi women married out – they should not be allowed to vote OR the BPP give up its ‘discretionary power’ under the Scheme demanding for affidavits only from a select few and allow all Parsi women married out to vote for the BPP elections, without insistence for such an Affidavit.

There should be no preferential treatment to be offered to any person because of personal relationships they have with the current Trustees. All in our community are equal and no one should be unnecessarily targeted or favored by the Trustees. I wish to bring about this change for equality between all ladies married out whether personally known or not to the Trustees.

Yours sincerely,

Kersi Sethna,
Candidate No. 4

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