Anti-Romeo squad to curb sexual harassment or enforce ‘Indian Morals’?

On the orders of the newly appointed Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, anti- Romeo squads have been formed in the State in order to protect women from getting harassed by eve- teasers. Unfortunately, these squads have quickly turned into moral policing groups.

Young men have been picked up by police because of looking like ‘Romeo’. Approximately 300-400 couples used to visit a park in Ghaziabad every day. The park was raided by the Ghaziabad’s anti- Romeo squad on 21st March and nine young men were picked up because the squad decided that they fell into the category of Romeos. The squad ignored the constant pleas of the men and women that they were just sitting to study or talk together.

A large section of people has been outraged by such behavior by the squad. The public has pointed out that these squads should identify their correct target. Only the men who are actually harassing, stalking or passing comments to women are the culprits, not a girl and a boy who are being witnessed walking or sitting together.

Taking law in their hands, countless reports have popped up from cities in UP that these squads are catching hold of men to produce their ID cards. In multiple situations, these men were brothers, fathers and husbands. In Deoria, cops picked up a girl and a boy from ‘Hanuman Chauraha’ and took them to the police station. Even after being told repeatedly that they were brother and sister, the cops did not believe them and the parents were called to the station. The siblings were released after an apology from the police.

This regressive and embarrassing practice is wrong on every level as the police cannot interfere in the lives of the public. Nor can the government search men in public places without a warrant. The anti- Romeo squad should stick to their real job- save women from eve- teasers and not practice moral policing. Couples in parks and roads should not be given moral lectures and taken to the police station for just being spotted together. It is 2017 and we still have such mindsets of law enforcers that opposite genders should not be seen together. In spite of focusing on more important issues in the country, such people are taking the country back hundreds of years.

The same BJP that runs anti-Romeo policing had failed in Gujarat in the past. The assigned role of these squads is to prevent harassment from happening but they are actually limiting the rights of men and women to step out together in public. There is no law against that. Yogi has warned his police with fresh instructions of not harassing couples with the mutual consent or ‘innocent youngsters’. Progress and new developments are yet to be seen.

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