From Roots to Wings

June 10, 2011

Advocacy in Action | Understanding Parsi Population Decline in India: A Historical Perspective

Filed under: NextGenNow,Zoroastrianism — jimengineer @ 12:57 pm
A NextGenNow Commentary:
NextGenNow supports and is proud to collaborate with Dinyar Patel, Ph.D. candidate, Modern South Asia, at Harvard University. We are pleased to showcase his striking research on understanding Parsi population decline in India and the broader impact to the worldwide Parsi Zarathushti community.
Late marriages, late pregnancies and too few couples having more than one child per family have led to stark population decline and sadly the continuation of a downward trajectory for our tiny but storied community since the late 1800s. The good news, in plain English, is that the trend is reversible and it means marrying younger and having more children, not just in India, but around the world.
NextGenNow has been working actively in collaboration with leaders of the 5th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress, June 30 – July 5 in Vancouver, to raise awareness for this pressing next generation issue and present a renewed focus on Dinyar’s work. Accordingly, we are pleased to announce Dinyar will be presenting Understanding Parsi Population Decline in India: A Historical Perspective, in Vancouver. Also at the congress, NextGenNow Director Armaity Homavazir will moderate a lively panel session on inter- and intra-generational dialogue and collaboration, as well as an important solutions-based session titled: ‘Putting it all Together.’
Dinyar’s research dispels the divisive and political fear-mongering within the community, namely that we are ‘losing’ our numbers and identity due to inter-racial (or inter-cast) marriages. The reality is that deaths have outpaced births, folks are marrying later in life, and particularly in India, longstanding edicts on who is considered a Zarathushti has led to fragmentation and continued division.
The time has come for every Zarathushti organization to rally around Dinyar’s research and develop a solutions-based ecosystem in which real-world  embrace Dinyar’s efforts and research.
A Parsi Zarathushti scholar in the making, NextGenNow backs Dinyar’s efforts to foster broad-based awareness, understanding, and community bridge-building to reverse the troubling and spiraling downward trajectory of Parsi population decline.
The NextGenNow Leadership Team:
Mantreh Atashband, Toronto
Jim Engineer, Chicago
Armaity Homavazir, Toronto
Dr. Nikan Khatibi, Laguna Niguel, CA
Zubin Mistry, Washington, D.C.
Dear all,
As many of you know, I recently gave at talk at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai on the topic of “Understanding Parsi Population Decline:  A Historical Perspective.”  This talk, similar to the talk that I gave in Houston in December 2010, consults the scholarship of professional demographers in order to clear up popular confusion in the Parsi community over why, precisely, our population figures have been declining over the past few decades.

It highlights the fact that ALL professional demographic studies show that intermarriage, or migration to the West, is not the prime reason for population decline.  Rather, the defining reasons are late marriage and non-marriage in the Parsi community, and the resultant few number of children born.  This has translated into smaller and smaller generations of Parsi youth, and a larger proportion of aged persons, something starkly obvious here in Mumbai and elsewhere in India.

Thanks to Kainaz Amaria, a US photojournalist currently based in Mumbai, this talk was videotaped and is now posted online in three different parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

In particular, I would like to direct you to 33:23 of Part 3, where Dinshaw Mehta, chairman of the BPP, acknowledges the seriousness of the demographic problem and pledges that the BPP will give it the attention it deserves.  I have been in touch with Mr. Mehta since then.

The chairman of the BPP has acknowledged our demographic crisis.  Now it is time for those of us in North America — who face additional challenges caused by a geographically dispersed population — to give this critically-needed attention, support, and funding.  This really should be the #1 priority of FEZANA, and the later that we put off decisive action, the greater our number of lost opportunities, and the smaller and weaker our future community will be.  All other issues and concerns pale in comparison with the stark reality that we are currently not doing enough to ensure a robust “next generation” for the community.  The seriousness of this crisis is readily apparent from the “Promoting Marriage” survey report I sent around late last month.

It is time to move from talk to action.

Best regards,



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