'Activist' disrupts Pride fundraiser party

A man claiming to belong to a UP-based political party walks into gay party with cops in tow, threatens, humiliates attendees as cops remain silent spectators

In yet another incident of the disruption of a party organised by queer groups, a fundraiser for the January 28 Queer Azadi Pride March held in a suburban lounge was interrupted on account of a baseless complaint.

Haji Ahmed Sahab entered the Gossip fundraising party   being held at a lounge in Oshiwara  on Friday, and began to threaten the venue manager and the 270 attendees. Four policemen in uniform, and one in plainclothes accompanied him.

(From left to right) Vivek Anand, Pallav Patankar and Ashok Row Kavi
condemn the disruption of the party at a press conference

Claiming affiliation to a national political party, Ahmed incorrectly asserted that his organisation had filed a stay order against the 2009 Delhi High Court judgement which decriminalised homosexuality. He reportedly told the attendees that they were indulging in illegal activities and threatened to expose their identity to the media if they didn't leave the premises immediately.

Gossip is a queer party organising group started by Sibi and Namrata (who only go by their first names) that has conducted 10 parties in popular suburban clubs in the past year. Acting on Ahmed's complaint, the police checked the premises and the venue's permits, and found everything to be above board. 

Party ends, organiser courts arrest
Despite this, however, the venue manager asked the attendees to leave after Ahmed reportedly threatened to file a complaint against the lounge for allowing the party to be held.

Haji Ahmed Sahab who threatened the party attendees. 
Pic/Shadab Khan

Enraged at Ahmed's haranguing, Humsafar Trust CEO Vivek Anand, and Director, HIV/AIDS programme for the Humsafar Trust Pallav Patankar, party organiser Sibi and media professional Praful (who did not wish to reveal his surname), who were among the attendees at the party, went to the Oshiwara police station at 3 am and asked the cops to arrest them if they were indulging in illegal activities.

"We were told that our actions were perfectly constitutional, and that they had no basis to arrest us," said Anand.

"While the police has the right to act on a complaint, we are against them being silent spectators to our harassment. Ahmed barged into a private party, took videos and intimidated the attendees by threatening to expose them to the media, and calling their actions illegal. He acted like a goon in front of the cops, and they didn't stop him," Anand added.

Eyewitness accounts
According to Prateek, one of the several attendees present at the party, Ahmed took videos and threatened attendees that he would expose them by calling the media to the venue.  "Ahmed kept saying he had pictures and videos as 'proof'. I don't understand -- proof of what? Being gay is no longer a crime." After the party was brought to a halt, a group of incensed attendees gheraoed Ahmed's car.

Misinformed social 'activism'
When contacted, Ahmed defended his actions and said, "I'm not against gay people, I am against prostitution. This party took place in a dark room. I am against bad practices in society." When asked what connection lay between a fundraiser party and prostitution, Ahmed was unable to offer a rational explanation.

"Intercourse between men before Section 377 was unnatural. After Section 377, it has become natural (sic)," he replied. Ahmed filed a complaint against the partygoers, saying that they damaged his car when he was trying to leave the venue. 

The self-proclaimed activist said he belonged to a UP-based political organisation, Rashtriya Ulama Council. When Sunday MiD DAY got in touch with their Maharashtra president, Sayyed Nooruddin Aftab, to enquire whether the organisation supported Ahmed's actions, Aftab said, "The man is a fraud. He is no longer part of our organisation. He joined us in 2010, but didn't do a single day's work."

Complaint filed
The party organisers filed a written complaint on Saturday at the Oshiwara police station against Ahmed, stating that he harassed, humiliated and tortured the attendees.

"We went to examine the licences of the venue, acting on a complaint by (Ahmed). We found they were in order. We were not targeting the attendees," said a policeman of the Oshiwara police station, who did not wish to be named.

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