On 5th May, 2019, in an expected turn of events, the FPZAI (Federation of the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India), which has not held its AGM for the last two years, suddenly called for an EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting), which was held in the Annexe Hall of Mumbai’s Banajee Atash Behram, at 11:30 am. Chaired by the President of FPZAI and BPP Chairman, Yezdi Desai, the EGM was attended by some of the Anjumans – mainly from South Gujarat – as also by Vada Dasturji of Udvada, Khurshed Dastoor.

The agenda of the EGM comprised a number of issues to be discussed – most of them, having a bearing on the relationship between BPP and FPZAI. The meeting commenced with a Humbandagi led by Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor, invoking blessings for peace and unity in the community.

Immediately post the Humbandagi, things got heated when BPP Trustees – Armaity Tirandaz, Zarir Bhathena, Kersi Randeria, Noshir Dadrawala, Xerxes Dastur and Viraf Mehta – arrived at the venue and were surprised to find that no seating arrangements were made for them, as has been the normal practice in the past. This resulted in a heated exchange, particularly between Dinshaw Mehta, representing Bardoli Anjuman, and Yazdi Desai, about the latter’s decision to keep BPP Trustees out of the meeting. However, things were resolved – not by choice, but by circumstance – as Noshir Dadrawala personally moved in some of the chairs and placed them at the front of the hall, where the Trustees sat, and the meeting started.

Discussions came to a head yet again with topics regarding defunct Anjuman properties and the use of bouncers being deployed at the entrance of the Hall to allegedly prevent BPP Trustees from entering the meeting. The argument intensified when the item related to the ‘change of FPZAI’s office address’ was about to be put to vote. Fast and furious allegations and insults were traded across the room.

Finally, the much-needed voice of sanity was raised by Adil Nargolwala, representing Delhi Anjuman, with a plea directed towards Desai, wherein he stated that it was apparent that Desai, as BPP Chairman, was unable to carry his Board with him and was in a minority of 1, with all the other 6 Trustees opposing his stance. Nargolwala suggested that it was not in the interest of the FPZAI to divorce itself from the BPP, as neither the current Chairman nor the trustees would be there after a few years (having completed their tenures) – but the BPP would no longer be part of the FPZAI, nor serve as the big brother that it has always been.

It was also discussed that if the FPZAI members were to succeed in severing ties with the BPP, there loomed the possibility of a legal case to contest any such move. Noshir Dadrawala also observed that the “tutoring and brainwashing” of members of the present Anjumans, particularly those from Gujarat, was not the way forward for a healthy debate, and went against the ethos of any intelligent decision-making. Adil Nargolwala asked if that was really the direction we wanted to take, and requested Vada Dasturji to present his views on this rather unpleasant issue.

Vada Dasturji spoke passionately and at length about the problems facing the community and about his experiences as a member of the Minority Commission as well as a religious leader. He lamented the ongoing divisive infighting and the lack of the much-needed cohesiveness to solve community issues. His emotional and impassioned speech won the day, as the few FPZAI members who had spearheaded this EGM, decided to concede to the issue. All other resolutions, which were part of the same directive, were then dropped by them and none were voted upon.

The house then discussed the topic of joining the world body or the Global Working Group (GWG). What was interesting to note was that the FPZAI, which had all this time always shot down the proposal of the GWG to be part of a world body, now appeared to have taken a diametrically opposite stand and joined the Global body. This was all the more glaring, as the reference to the global diaspora and members, who could trace their origins back to Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians, were allowed to be members or beneficiaries of the GWG. Surprisingly, the FPZAI stayed silent on this major issue, unlike in the past, when the issue would be at the heart of FPZAI’s discussions. But this time, FPZAI seemed to look the other way, on a previously integral issue, and allowed it to go through.

Even Adil Nargolwala, known to hold more progressive (less orthodox) views about who qualifies to be a Parsi/Irani Zoroastrian, expressed happiness with the current definition of the beneficiary/member, as laid out in the GWG document. He also expressed surprise at the FPZAI for not arguing this. A few lone and nondescript voices murmured in subdued tones, but these soon died out, for lack of support. One pertinent question asked, was why, after all these years of vehemently resisting to merge with the GWG, the need was now being felt to become a part of this world body.

The next interesting or questionable decision arises as regards some kind of a discreet understanding between some FPZAI members and those spearheading the GWG, to give no representation to the BPP. This in itself raises many questions as to why the single largest body of Parsis in the world (BPP) and its elected representatives, is being conspired against to be kept out in this rather surreptitious manner. This question is surely going to be raised in the future and will seek answers from those who have come upon this underhanded working equation. However, we believe that the BPP cannot and will not be kept out, despite the deviant agendas of certain individuals.

The meeting concluded on a humorous note with Surat’s legendary artist, Yezdi Karanjia’s entertainment and regaling shayaries and the rendition of the Parsi Anthem and the National Anthem. In spite of a rough patch, Parsi Times hopes that the peace achieved in the Meeting will continue in the future and all matters will be discussed amicably with transparency, in keeping with the best interests and welfare of the community.

The 2019 AGM is now scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad on the 20th and 21st of July, 2019. One has seen a reference by one of the members who spearheaded the anti-BPP drive, that it is possible that the AGM may once again look at raking up the BPP-ZPFAI issue in Ahmedabad and try to squeeze through its very amendments which were foiled in this AGM, thanks to Nargolwala and Vada Dasturji. One can only hope that this does not happen and the BPP and the FPZAI do not get involved in a long and unpleasant legal battle which will only be detrimental for the community.

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