The anti-Romeo squad, constituted by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath to check incidents of harassment and passing of comments on them (women and girls), has already received mixed reactions with accusations of moral policing and harassment in the name of safety being alleged.
The police campaign aimed at ensuring the safety of women, especially young girls, has reportedly been marked by some stray cases of harassment of innocent youths amid concerns that it could spawn moral policing.
Yogi Adityanath had earlier issued orders to constitute anti-Romeo squad, which was one of the key promises in BJP's election manifesto, in 11 districts of the Lucknow zone to prevent molestation and harassment cases.
According to The Times of India, local police squad in Meerut in a startling admission, claimed to be capable of identifying the Romeos by just looking into someone's eyes. "Ab kisi ke chehre pe to nahi likha hota ki kaun Romeo hai. Par humari itne saal ki duty hai ki hum ladkon ki ankhon se, unke chehre se aur unke khade hone ke andaz se pehchaan lete hain ki kaun sharif ghar ka hai aur kaun Romeo hai (While people's faces don't have 'Romeo' written on them, we have been in the police force for so many years that we can identify them just by the look in their eyes, their face, and the way they stand)," a male constable told The Times of India.
The local police in Meerut have reprimanded boys for standing outside girls' colleges to meet their friends, a school boy at a parking lot, and there was even an instance of a woman being questioned for standing outside a bookstall to buy school books for her young son, who was with her, according to The Times of India who accompanied an anti-Romeo squad in a police jeep on a one-day expedition.
The constables of the anti-Romeo squad made a slew of arguable comments, a bunch of them being, "Boys and girls can never be friends", "Our culture cannot accept famous lovers like Romeo and Juliet", "We are only ensuring the safety of the city. It is not our intention to harass innocents and couples," The Times of India reported. Not to mention, they even discussed the origins of the character Romeo, with the debate ranging from Britain to Greece.
From Gorakhpur to Meerut, anti- Romeo squads of policemen have fanned across Uttar Pradesh on the orders of new chief minister Yogi Adityanath, fulfilling a pre-poll pledge of the BJP to check eve-teasing.
Special squads comprising cops from local police stations are keeping a vigil at markets, malls, schools, colleges, coaching centres, parks and other crowded places to see if women were being harassed."The idea is that there should not be any harassment to women," Senior SP Barabanki, Vaibhav Krishna had said, making it clear that it should not be construed as moral policing amid suggestions that the way the squads functioned blurs the line between crime control and moral policing.
"Safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti-Romeo squads. No moral policing," UP DGP Javeed Ahmed tweeted.
Safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti Romeo squads. No moral policing.
— Javeed (@javeeddgpup) March 22, 2017
The squads have undertaken intensive checking drives in Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Meerut, Mirzapur and Rae Bareli, UP police tweeted.
"Superintendents of Police of all 11 districts under Lucknow zone have been instructed to constitute squads to be deployed at vulnerable points," IG Lucknow Zone, A Satish Ganesh had said. The squads will also check consumption of liquor at public places as it often leads to instances of harassment, he had said.
Superintendent of Police (Lucknow East) Shivram Yadav had said that in Lucknow 23 anti-Romeo squads have been formed. Each squad consists of a sub-inspector and four constables (which include two women constables as well). The members of the squad would be deployed both in plain clothes and uniform.
Giving details of the type of action which could be initiated against roadside Romeos, Yadav, had said, "If a woman is not registering any police complaint, then the harasser may be let off after counselling. If the eve-teaser is below 18 years of age, then Juvenile Act would be applicable."
But, if the harasser is above 18, then the person would be tried as per provisions of IPC and POCSO (in case the victim is a minor).
Anand had said the squads will conduct 'Operation Romeo' outside colleges and their functioning will be monitored by the city superintendent of police.
While campaigning in the state, BJP President Amit Shah had said that the BJP, if voted to power, would form anti-Romeo squads to check harassment.
In Meerut, some boys reportedly involved in alleged harassment near schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, pan shops and even pastry shops were picked up for questioning and they were allowed to go after police called their parents to inform them about their children's activities.
SP City (Meerut) Alok Priyadarshi denied charges of harassment. "The only job (of the squads) is to ensure the safety of women and to ensure that harassment does not takes place."
Police explained that the modus operandi of the squads will be similar to the infamous 'Operation Majnu' in 2005, in which boys at crossings and markets were pulled up and some couples were roughed up.
The BJP Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra(manifesto), which the party released ahead of the UP assembly elections, categorically mentioned that to stop instances of harassment, anti-Romeo squads would be formed. Apart from this, three women police stations would be established in every district of Uttar Pradesh. Three new women police battalions would also be formed — Avantibai Battalion, Jhalkaribai Battalion and Udaa Devi Battalion, the BJP document had said.
The idea of "anti-Romeo" squads was first implemented in Gujarat in the late 1990s when BJP was in power but the campaign later fizzled out in a short span of time.
"Initially such squads were formed in the late 1990s but by 2002-03 the campaign fizzled out as such complaints of harassment were less in Gujarat and there were staff problems also," officials in Ahmedabad had said.
Police had said that though there are no specific anti-Romeo squads in Gujarat with the dedicated staff at present, police patrol outside schools and colleges and public places continue. Surat Police had recently even issued a notification barring men from aimlessly sitting within 50 metres of schools and colleges.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Mar 24, 2017 16:27 PM