Ed: This report by Pallav describes an incident at the Friday Jan 13, 2012, fundraiser for Mumbai’s Queer Azaadi March. It is being shared on Orinam with consent of the author. Follow the QAM blog for updates, and support their efforts!
The Gossip Fund raiser party was held last night in Metro Lounge in Oshiwara. Gossip had a QAM fundraiser wherein every entry contributed Rs.100 towards QAM. The party had revved up enough numbers and people seemed comfortable in the disc area and the terrace above. At 11.45pm Vivek and I were about to leave the party when Sibi mentioned that there was an issue downstairs.
As we walked towards the exit we had venue staff telling us that we could not leave since there were police outside. A guy with a ponytail, beard, kohl-eyed and wearing a vest was standing there instructing the police to go and check on the party. He said his name was Haji Ahmed Sahab Bawa (HASB) and he claimed to be a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). He also was showing videos that he had clicked inside the party. He was threatening the venue staff that he would raise complaints against them and that seemed to have freaked them. There was confusion for some time as to whether we could leave or not. Some of us stood at the gate asking the cops what was the exact reason that they were there for. The cops mentioned that they were checking on the venue’s permissions and seeing if everything was in order . Although the cops were not being very aggressive, HASB was giving directions to the cops as to what they should do . He kept talking incessantly on the phone shouting “Media Ko Bulao”.
Sibi tried to speak to the cops and HASB by mentioning that we are doing nothing illegal and that section 377 reading down clearly states so. HASB mentioned that his party has ordered a stay in the Supreme Court against reading down of section 377 (factually incorrect). He kept threatening the police and the venue staff.
Vivek and I tried to understand from the police , what exactly was the issue and we were not getting any clear answers. We asked the police that we would like to address the issue at the police station and understand what is the reason that the party is being stopped. They mentioned that they were from Oshiwara Police Station. We ensured that all party goers be safely allowed to leave the venue and police co-operated. As we walked out there was a huge crowd that had collected on the street outside. HASB came out and I yelled out to him that we want to see him in the police station and understand his issues. He did not hear me out and ran towards the car as I ran behind him yelling at him to come to Oshiwara Police station. He was accompanied by a guy who held me and pushed me away, I asked him if he was police , since he was in plainclothes. I told him that he has no proof that he is the police. He pushed me away again, I told him that he has no business touching me. This guy also dashed along with HASB to the car and said that they were going to the police station. I told him that I do not believe that he is going to the police station and what if he gets away. I went close to his car and started taking pics of HASB. By this time a crowd of 10-15 had collected from the party and had surrounded HASB’s car and refused to let him drive away. We took more pictures. We finally let him drive away when we were assured by the uniformed police that the guy with him in the car was a policeman.
We went to the Oshiwara police station and saw HASB’s car waiting outside. A huge crowd from the party of 30 people collected outside Oshiwara Police station. Vivek, Praful, Sibi and me were allowed inside to talk to the police station. It was a long wait , HASB sat with the police inspector Shirsat of Oshiwara Police Station and gave his complaint in written. While HASB was with the police , the policeman in plainsclothes got into an argument with us. He said that he will make an official complaint that he was attacked by the partygoers. We calmed him down and explained that we were all homosexual men and we see nothing wrong with that. We have a Pride March on the 28th which has valid police permissions and we are only fundraising for it. Post that he calmed down and said that he was on duty and we are free to present our point of view to the police inspector.Post That the police discussed the issue with the Venue manager and asked him to kill the issue. The manager was extremely worried about his venue being in trouble and did not wish to make a big issue about this. He kept on asking us to back out. We refused saying that it was not about the venue but an issue about our identities being attacked and due care would be taken that the venue does not face any problems. We insisted that we speak to the inspector Shirsath. Sibi, Vivek and I presented ourselves to Shirsat’s table and we discussed the issue. Shirsat mentioned that he had no problems against the party and there is no illegality with being gay. He quoted HASB and mentioned that he has asked HASB to produce documentary evidence that says that gay parties are illegal. Shirsath mentioned that ideally when a party is being organized there needs to be an intimation to the local police station about the party , they did not have it and hence they were obliged to act on a complaint by HASB. On the whole Shisrath was very cordial and apologized if on behalf of his police team there was any inconvenience caused to anyone.
Shirsath mentioned that there would be a meeting in Oshiwara Police station on Saturday along with HASB and someone either Vivek or me maybe called to present our point of view. HASB has filed an NC of damage to his car.
We left asking Shirsath how we can file a complaint against HASB , he mentioned that he would give us his details and we could do the needful.
Outide the crowds were yet on the street till 2.30 am . We went out and apprised them of our conversations with the Police. Mid Day and Time Now. Reporters were outside for the story and the crowd of 30 faced cameras to say that we are fundraising here and we are not scared anymore, we will fight this harassment and ensure that QAM 2012 is a success!
Back in Vivek’s house and I could not sleep until I wrote this out!