Lucknow will once again be taken over by rainbow flags at the fifth edition of Awadh Queer Pride on February 28, 2021. But the global Coronavirus pandemic has necessitated some changes. Instead of a Pride march at Hazratganj, this year the Pride meet will converge at Lohia Park, social distancing will be followed and while every year masks are optional to protect privacy of individuals, this year they are recommended as part of COVIDsafe rules.
The first Awadh Queer Pride was held on April 9, 2017 with a 1.5 kilometre Pride walk between Sikandrabagh/ Dainik Jagran Chauraha to GPO office in Hazratganj.
"Usually, we march from Dainik Jagran Chauraha to GPO, in Hazratganj. This time however, we are doing it a little different due to the Covid protocols. Instead of walking, we are having a meet at the open-air amphitheatre at Lohia Park where performances will be held. We had a poster making event ahead of the Pride on February 21. We will also be conducting a sensitisation workshop for volunteers of the Robinhood Army that collects food from restaurant and distributes it to the needy," said Yadavendra Singh, gay rights activist and one the organisers of the Awadh Queer Pride march.
Singh stressed that COVID safety will be a high priority. "We are following Covid safe protocols. People are requested to bring masks and sanitisers and we will also be handing out masks. The after-party will observe Covid safe rules as well," he added.
The local community has a lot to celebrate. Recently a judge of the Allahabad high court Justice Sunita Agarwal ordered the reinstatement of a home guard, who had been sacked for being gay. The Homeguard had been fired in 2019 when photos of him and his partner were shared on social media.
The Awad Queer Pride Committee recently sent a letter of appreciation to the Allahabad HC judge who delivered the verdict. "Justice Sunita Agarwal specifically mentioned that it's against the Constitutional values to discriminate against someone due to their sexuality. We appreciate the judgement and her comment as it sets a precedent. Therefore, we decided to send her a letter of appreciation," said Ritwik Das, one of the organisers of the AQP, who authored the letter of appreciation.
The fifth year of the Pride celebrations has however, not made it any easier to obtain permissions and this year one added factor was the COVID-19 restrictions. "What I take away from this experience is that we need to run sensitization programmes at such places," said Lovepreet, a member of the organising committee.
While there is no specific theme this year at the Pride meet, Ritwik emphasized that the objective was to mark the presence of the community in Lucknow and fight for "every minority, every marginalised person"”
Megha, another member of the organising team added: "Pride is definitely about queer issues and solidarity. Yes we do talk about gender, sexuality but since everyone's background is so diverse we also create a space to raise any issue rather than choosing a single one."
Many of the events will be online, concluding with the in-person pride march and the pride party. Yadavendra hints at "some Bollywoodish" presence at the events.
The fifth Awadh Queer Pride 2021 will be held on February 28 at the Lohia Park amphitheatre. For further updates visit the Awadh Queer Pride Facebook page.