A clash of the old guard vs. the new guard at hoteliers’ convention.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: New details have emerged regarding the scuffle that took place at the AAHOA 25th Anniversary Gala in Philadelphia, on the night of Saturday, March 22, between the organization’s current chairman and a former one.
Initial reports, including by The American Bazaar, said that the fight between AAHOA chairman Pratik Patel, and former chairman Alkesh Patel, was over who would escort Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor at the event, where she was the featured performer.
A source, who attended the event and had access to privileged information, spoke to The American Bazaar under condition of anonymity to clear the air as to what really happened that night.
The source explained that the groundwork for the fight was laid relatively early in the night, when Kapoor was holding a red carpet photo session. Because the program ran on a tight schedule, there was only a finite amount of time that she could dedicate to posing for photos, and the line to get a snap with the Bollywood starlet was understandably long.
Alkesh allegedly attempted to use his cache as a former chairman and cut the line, which Pratik immediately said “no” to. Alkesh persisted though in his demand, forcing security to politely ask him to go back to his place in line. Pratik also allegedly told Alkesh not to make a scene, and that this wasn’t the proper time and place for acting out of line. Alkesh acquiesced, but was apparently incensed that he had been treated in such a way.
At some point between around 10:30PM and 11:00 PM, about 45 minutes to one hour after the photo session, Pratik came out of a service hallway into the main foyer of the hotel in which the whole event was happening, the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Specifically, the incident took place “on the Broad and Race side of the Terrance Ballroom,” according to the security person who actually witnessed the incident.
Pratik was with his young daughter, and came across a group of “young professionals,” who had congregated in the lobby. Pratik was talking to them when Alkesh – who, the source says, had been waiting in the lobby for Pratik to make his appearance – approached him and initiated the altercation. Allegedly, there is private video footage from a security camera installed at the place where the fight took place, which shows that Alkesh was waiting Pratik out, indicating that this was pre-meditated.
Alkesh allegedly went straight for Pratik – all while the latter’s daughter was right there, even holding her father’s hand – and grabbed his throat with both hands. Alkesh also whispered something in Pratik’s ear at this point, and continued to keep him in a stranglehold position. As a retaliatory measure, Pratik punched Alkesh on the left side of his face, forcing him to let go of the stranglehold so that Pratik could breathe. Local security saw what was happening, and broke it up before it could escalate any further.
Under Pennsylvania law, said the source, Pratik was well within his rights to punch Alkesh, as “two hands on the throat” is considered a lethal action, and can be retaliated against with an action of equal force in order to save the victim’s life. Police responded, and took Alkesh to the hospital. The incident report – which was shared with The American Bazaar and was filed by Oracle Protection services, the security company contracted for the event – says that Pratik was escorted to his hotel room (both men were staying at the nearby Marriot) “without incident.” Alkesh was treated by EMTs, who found he had a laceration on his left forehead, and some bruising on the left eye.
Escorting Kapoor was never really the issue at all, says the source, as the Bollywood actress had her own elaborate security detail that was never going to let anyone take her around. The real reason for the fight was two-fold: the incident in the photo line, where Alkesh apparently felt disrespected, and a case of “the old guard versus the new guard.”
The source speculated that the main reason for the fight was that, within AAHOA, there has been a large amount of internal fighting regarding the direction the organization should take as it goes forward. Alkesh Patel represents the older generation, the first-generation Indians who came here and started their own hotel and motel businesses, and who prefer to do things the more traditional way.
Pratik Patel, on the other hand, is a second-generation member, and one who is therefore more liberal and more eager to get out there, and make a bigger splash with AAHOA. The fight between these two men, said the source, was likely a manifestation of this internal battle happening within the organization.
Alkesh Patel spoke to The American Bazaar, saying that the incident really was over who would hold Kareena Kapoor’s hand, but added that “she was not even in the building” when the scuffle took place. Alkesh said that, as of right now, the incident is a police matter, and that he “unfortunately had to get involved” when things escalated that night.
“I just want to clarify and make sure you’re getting the correct [information],” said Alkesh.
Otherwise, however, he said that the entire convention was a rousing success, and specifically cited the number of second- and third-generation Indian Americans as the main reason for this, giving no indication of an internal rift within AAHOA.
The original police complaint calls the fight a “simple assault,” and was filed by Pratik Patel against Alkesh Patel.
On his Facebook page, Alkesh Patel thanked supporters for standing by him, and has so far made no admission of initiating the entire fight. When asked, the source said he had no information to state that alcohol played a part in any of this, saying that he believed both men were sober when the fight took place.
A call to AAHOA President Fred Schwartz was not answered. An employee of Pratik Patel said Patel was available for a comment only by April 7th.