Yogi Adityanath’s First Major Step: Anti-Romeo Squads Set Up in UP
The boys and parents who have been on the squad’s receiving end, have likened its activities to harassment.
Just two-days after taking oath as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has already constituted the Anti-Romeo Squads meant for women’s safety.
Meerut saw “anti-Romeo squads” on the streets on Tuesday, as Times of India reported, marking the first election promise being delivered in the state. These teams will be posted at public spaces and educational institutes to prevent eve-teasing and ensuring girls’ safety.
The Quint spoke to college students who said that their safety should be a concern to political parties in general, not just during the election. However, they were in favour of calling them “Anti-Harassment Squads” instead of Anti-Romeo Squads.
Boys and the parents, who have been at the receiving end of the reprimand, have called it a blurring of lines between controlling crimes and moral policing.
The squads will comprise three or four policemen from the police station of the area, and each police station will have one squad, as is the current setup in Meerut. If a police station is bigger, then the squad can have more than four members.
Orders came from the IG’s office in Lucknow to constitute the squad in each of the 11 districts of the zone.
On the first day, boys who were found hovering around schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, pan shops, and even bakeries, were picked up to get “questioned”, and were released only after their parents were called to be informed of their “activities”.
According to CNN-News18, the police have received instructions to go and conduct field visits to check where all the squads will have to be stationed. It will also be assessed as to how many women police personnel will be required for the job.
While women's safety has always been a societal concern, the promise of the Anti-Romeo Squads came from the BJP after the brutal Bulandshahr gang rape in August 2016.
There is also a need to fast track the past harassment and sexual violence cases to bring justice to the survivors.
A promise being made by the CM is that the police force will be sensitised to deal with cases related to gender, violence and harassment. The women’s police stations of the state will also be roped in for dealing with the cases pertaining to the Anti-Romeo Squads.
“Not Morally Policing Youth”
Javeed Ahmad, the DGP UP spoke exclusively to The Quint about the Anti-Romeo Squads.
The objective of the Anti-Romeo Squads is to ensure that girls are not harassed in public places. Instances of women being harassed at bus stands, outside coaching centres and other such places are very common. The squads have been formed to put a check on such activities.
When asked about allegations of the squads indulging in moral policing, he vehemently opposed the claims.
Let it be clear, the Uttar Pradesh Police is NOT moral policing. If a boy and a girl, who are friends, are going out, there is no objection whatsoever. If there are boys who are somewhere for bona fide reasons, they will not be called in for questioning or anything of the sort. Take, for example, if someone is standing outside a coffee shop and reading a book or doing something else, obviously he will not be called in for questioning. But if he is standing there and ogling and harassing girls, then the squad will act.
“Near Harassment Experience”
One of the boys who was hauled up, likened his experience to harassment.
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 father of a boy who was picked up, did not approve of the staunch police intervention.
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.
Return of Operation Majnu
Police sources have likened the modus operandi of there squads to the infamous 2005 “Operation Romeo”, wherein police thrashed the couples they found in parks and gardens, and boys found at crossings and markets were beaten up. It had led to the suspension of two police officers.
Meerut’s Delhi Gate police station’s Anti-Romeo Squads worked much like the 2005 task force.
Quite often, boys who have nothing to do with schools or colleges, stand outside in the afternoon when classes finish. We found several such boys and told them they would not be spared from now on.MK Upadhyay, Station Officer, Delhi Gate Police Station
Alok Priyadarshini, the SP (city) denied any incident likening harassment.
The only job (of the squads) is to ensure safety of women and to ensure that eve-teasing does not takes place. For this, we will also take preventive steps like not permitting miscreants to loiter in public areas where women are known to frequent. I will not say it is moral policing.
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