Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered the state police to form anti-Romeo squads to crackdown on eve-teasers and ensure safety of college-going girls and women. Inspector General of Lucknow A Satish Ganesh has been given the responsibility to monitor these anti-Romeo squads. However, there have been reports of people accusing police of harassing and moral policing them.
The squads have already begun the crackdown with five arrests in Pilibhit and three in Lucknow. Alleged eve-teasers were detained by police in Meerut as well. Policemen also hauled up and questioned teenagers standing outside girls' schools and colleges.
Boys who were found roaming near schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, pan shops and even pastry shops were questioned. However, they were let go after police called up their parents and informed them about the "activities" of the boys.
Anti-Romeo squads are being formed in every district of Uttar Pradesh with the state police having issued orders to form such squads in 11 districts of the Lucknow zone. Teams of policemen have been patrolling colleges, schools, malls, parks and other public places and also conducting surprise checks which have led to the detention of several offenders.
"In a bid to check incidents of eve-teasing and passing of comments on women and girls, anti-Romeo dals will be constituted at the police station levels and action under the Goonda Act will be taken against wrongdoers," IG (Lucknow Zone) Ganesh was quoted as saying by India Today.
Is it only about 'Romeos' or 'Love Jihad' as well?
Ahead of the election campaign, BJP's national co-convenor Sunil Bharala was quoted by ABP as saying that the anti-Romeo squads would also take action against 'love jihad.' "In love jihad, innocent girls are targeted and lured. To ensure their safety, anti-Romeo squads will be formed," Bharala had said.
BJP president Amit Shah had also said in Meerut that the BJP would deploy anti-Romeo squads to keep a check on eve-teasing. Shah, at the election rally, had said: "In Uttar Pradesh, every college would be provided with anti-Romeo squad. Our girls would be safeguarded. These anti-Romeo squads would allow girls to study without fear in college campuses."
Yogi Adityanath had also said that love jihad was one of the important issues that the BJP would deal with if voted to power. However, the chief minister has maintained that the anti-Romeo squads would work to ensure the safety of women.
Is UP Police turning into moral police?
Media reports suggest that several people against whom the anti-Romeo squads have taken action have complained of harassment and moral policing. According to a video taken at a monument in Jhansi, a young man was forced to do sit-ups by police while another was warned for sitting next to girls, NDTV reported.
According to the Times of India, a boy who was standing outside a college in Meerut to meet a friend was warned by police, who did not even know why he was waiting outside the college.
"I was standing outside DN College to meet a friend, and the police gave me a warning. They wanted to call my parents, but I did not give them the right number. They did not even know if I was there to meet a girl or a boy. For them, any young boy in public on a bike is a 'majnu'," the boy said.
UP BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh also told the media on Wednesday: "Instructions have been given to not harass any innocent person or anyone who is just sitting with friends. Anti Romeo squad's aim is to make women feel safe and to prevent any wrong incidents against women from happening."
Police also called up the parents of a teenager to complain about his son's "wayward" ways. The annoyed father told TOI: "It is not the police's job to decide where boys can stand and where they cannot. My son is 19, and is an adult. It makes no sense to call up his father to say that his son is loitering around."
However, UP Director General of Police Javeed Ahmed has said that the "safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti-Romeo squads" and that there would be no "moral policing."