Lucknow: While some had a hearty laugh on social media, others were flabbergasted with the concept of a squad hunting “for men who harass women” in the country’s most populous state. Even the new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appeared less than impressed.
Mr Adityanath directed the top Home Department official to chalk out clear guidelines for Anti-Romeo Squads to ensure that boys and girls “moving around or sitting at any place” aren’t humiliated or harassed. The police promptly got down to issuing fresh instructions.
The “Anti-Romeo Squads”, a poll promise of the BJP presently high on a landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, have drawn criticism after visuals of policemen chasing young boys went viral on social media. Media had also reported how groups of policemen stopped or questioned young men sitting alone, or in groups.
After Mr Adityanath’s directions of no “unnecessary harassment”, Additional Director General of UP Police (Law and Order) Daljeet Chaudhary announced that strict action will be taken against personnel found guilty of troubling “innocent youngsters”.
UP police chief Javeed Ahmed also said that while acting against the “Romeos”, their hair is not cut, faces are not blackened and they are not asked to do squats holding their ears.
“Under any circumstances, action would not be initiated against couples and people who interact with each other, while remaining within the social fabric and tradition at parks, malls, cinema halls and coffee house,” an official statement said.
The idea is to question, check group of boys or boys near colleges and other places, and create fear among potential harassers in public places, said a police officer.
The model is similar to Delhi Police’s ‘Operation Majnu’, in which boys were pulled up, and couples cosying up in gardens were punished by the police. The initiative was seen as an attempt at moral policing and widely criticised. But the police maintained that their aim was to ensure safety of women.
While defending the Anti-Romeo Squads, Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik said that “stirring controversies from day one is not proper” and the newly elected government should be allowed to fulfil its poll promises, other parties slammed the move.
CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said moral policing had been taken up by forming these squads. Congress member in the Lok Sabha Ranjeet Ranjan also said, “I am not saying I am not against vulgarity, but what gives them the right to stop boys and girls from being together.”