Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Jame Response on the Recent Happenings

The below is an Op-Ed piece sent to us by Shernaz Engineer, Editor Jam-e-Jamshed

Shernaz writes…

Four BPP trustees proposed a “ban” on the Jam-e-Jamshed on June 28, 2016, to which several pages of last week’s Parsi Times (July 9, 2016) were devoted. Jame does not intend to devote several pages dealing with their baseless allegations, which smack of venom.

However, here are some thoughts…

Seeing the community’s backlash, the ‘majority’ trustees are now trying to backtrack on the word “ban” – claiming the word “ban” was never used. Then why did BPP chairman Yazdi Desai write to the Jame Editor (and subsequently print that very email in the Free Press Journal and the Parsi Times) wherein he categorically states in his own words: “I proposed the ban and I am grateful that 3 of my co-Trustees saw merit in the proposal and supported the ban.”

Some BPP trustees are now harping that it is only a question of economics and nothing else. If that were so, Yazdi Desai’s email to the Editor should have simply said that the BPP does not find it economically viable to advertise in the paper. He should not have, amongst other objections, launched into a tirade objecting to letters in the Jame written by community members, simply because these letters raised questions relating to electoral processes and transparency in the flat allotments by the BPP.

Desai also brought up the issue of paid advertisements released in the Jame during Armaity Tirandaz’s last election, as though this was the first time that he had come across election advertisements of a controversial nature! He seems to have forgotten all earlier elections with their scathing advertisements, as well his own very recent WAPIZ Page (April 2016) that took potshots at Armaity Tirandaz.

So, why are some BPP trustees acting holier-than-thou about some controversial Election Ads that appeared in Jame during the April election, as they do in every election?

Is it not obvious that the venomous attack on the Jame and its Editor is simply because the lady candidate supported by these trustees lost the election?

Ever since the introduction of adult franchise, electoral battles are creating enormous bad blood, vitiating the harmonious working of the BPP trustees in their entire term of office.

An independent press has a crucial role to play in maintaining checks and balances. Some BPP trustees would like to silence Jame and, hence, they have unleashed an onslaught on Jame and, more personally, on the Editor, in order to malign, defame and marginalise the independent press.

If the Jame Editor could be silenced, then no platform would be available for aggrieved community members to voice any criticism of the BPP. The BPP would become authoritarian and ‘majoritarian’. Decision making could be determined by groupism.

Their fellow trustee’s publication, Parsi Times, would dutifully praise BPP’s achievements (it can hardly be expected to criticise the actions of its master!).

The said trustee and owner of the paper would go on getting his own employees to “interview” him, making them ask exactly the questions he wants to get asked, so that he can further attack Jame and its Editor – as he did over several pages last week.

As per the apparent game plan, with Jame neutralized, there would be no independent publication which would reach the majority of the community all over India and abroad, and vested interests would blow their own trumpet through their mouthpiece of a publication!

Curbing the voice of dissent is dangerous for any society. Jame and its Editor have nothing personal against the BPP or its trustees. But our role as media demands that we do not hold back critical news, views, letters or advertisements. At the same time, we are equally open to printing clarifications.

The greatest tribute to Jame was paid by none other than the doyen of WAPIZ, Founder Chairman Areez Khambatta, who decided to resign instantly from WAPIZ, the organisation he founded and nurtured.

He recorded his protest at WAPIZ, for ignoring his advice not to malign Jame. In his own words Jame is “a pillar of society”. If nothing else, this great sacrifice by Areez Khambatta should stir all concerned to adopt a more right-thinking approach.

It is significant to note how Mid-Day, a third party publication, saw the issue of the so called “ban” on Jame, in its July 5 issue with the article: “Is business or politics behind clash between BPP and Parsi Paper?”

Further, the article stated: “Parsi Punchayet declares a boycott on one of the oldest community newspapers for negative stories but others allege ulterior motives”. It also raises the questions of “Newspaper Rivalry” and “Election Fallout” as elements of the “ban”. Need we say any more?

In light of all this, to belittle this entire sordid episode as merely being a matter of advertising rates, certainly lacks credibility.

What should be a matter of deeper concern to the Parsi community are the limits to which some BPP trustees can go in order to get a stranglehold on the media.

The Parsi Times announcement in its June 18 issue, that they will run an “exclusive” monthly column called ‘BPP Connect’ to disseminate BPP progress and future plans, belies the excuse of “high” advertising rates being allegedly charged by the Jame. Jame has never charged for placing genuine information and articles before the community. Therefore, why should such information not be shared with all Parsi publications instead of running an “exclusive” column only in Parsi Times – a newspaper owned by a sitting BPP trustee? Does this not show a motive to favour Parsi Times and marginalize Jame?

It is said: “There is no free lunch”. The offer of “free advertising” to BPP in the Parsi Times is offset by getting “exclusive” rights to become the BPP’s mouthpiece, in a bid to boost Parsi Times’ circulation, which is lagging way behind Jame’s enormous community-wide reach.

In the circumstances, is it not established beyond any doubt as to why the so called “ban” on Jame has been proposed/imposed?

Jame has carried positive news items on BPP continuously. The recent month-long HPY with weekly reports, Dadi Engineer’s condolence meeting with Yazdi Desai presiding, Matrimonial Meet announcements etc. are all prominently featured in Jame, for which BPP does not pay.

The backlash of anger against BPP’s reprehensible “ban” from the Jame readership was, perhaps, not expected by the concerned BPP trustees! By now they must have gauged that community members are in no mood to accept their allegations and actions made with ulterior motives.

It is about time the trustees got down to working in the interest of the community, rather than going on wasting time settling scores and trying to get even with those who are simply doing their job fairly and squarely, like the community’s 184-year-old, independent newspaper – Aapru Jame.