As the Yogi government in UP institutes Anti-Romeo squads to control and police young couples in public, The Quint is reposting this FB Live interview from its archives.
The BJP wants Anti-Romeo Squads at police stations near every college in UP. The Samjawadi Party says it's Dial 1090 helpline for women is already a major success. As gender takes centrestage in the elections, amid promises of free pressure cookers for women, Barkha Dutt speaks to young women voters at Lucknow University.
“Part two of Love Jihad,” said one young woman on the proposal to have the Anti-Romeo Squads. “It's a great move,” said another, “But let's please call them ‘anti-harassment squads."
“Why do they remember women's safety only around elections?" another student asked. Her view resonated with her peers.
It is more important to give training to already existing personnel, if a new squad is formed, then they will have to be given fresh training. Do we have such available resources? Existing resources need to be empowered more, women personnel numbers doubled, then that will be better.Lucknow University Student
A Small Step from Anti-Romeo to Love Jihad
While opinion was split on whether these ‘anti-Romeo’ squads will take a love-jihad turn, none of the female students were impressed with the political parties’ last-minute attempt at wooing female voters.
“I think this is an election stunt, you are stopping love outside a university, you are making it a political agenda”, a student said. “You are abusing one particular community, and then attracting other community. This is the second part of love jihad. This is a responsibility of the police, not anti-Romeo brigades”, another said, who was of the opinion that Love Jihad and Anti-Romeo squads were two sides of the same coin. She believed that this squad would end up targeting Muslim boys as roadside Romeos.
A Welcome Initiative
Some disagreed with the comparison to love jihad and viewed the squad as a positive initiative.
You can ask why they are doing it especially before elections, but I don’t see it as a religious issue or related to love jihad. At least an initiative has been taken, that these people’s duty is to take care of these crimes.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav released a helpline number (1090) for women in distress, which is centred around the gender sensitising ‘Chuppi Todo’ campaign. Dr Roli Mishra, Professor of Economics, who had taken the help of the helpline number said:
A woman operator picked up when I called 1090. I informed her about the inappropriate calls I was receiving. She asked my age and said, “Your voice doesn’t match your age, tell me the real age.” Then finally she registered the complaint and effective action was taken and I never received those calls again.
Ideological Changes Before Precautionary Measures
Some students raised concerns about the ideological framework that needed to change, more than just these precautionary measures.
If we want change then think about public policy, political opinion. Change the boys’ mentality, change the framework. Why are the parties thinking we are weak? They raise the issue in politics in our name and then forget about us.
What was curious was the definition of ‘Romeo’ in the campaign, which is far from the lovelorn Shakespearean character from Rome and Juliet. Attempting to describe the Romeos in question, the students said, “Romeos are like mawali... won’t listen to ‘no’ and will keep harassing women. You aren’t cool or a dude if you’re harassing me.”
Despite their bad experiences with ‘eve-teasing’, the girls were of the opinion that Lucknow still has its share of sharif ladke.