‘Anti-romeo’ squads in UP crop up to check eve-teasing, crimes against women

LUCKNOW, March22: Standing around colleges, shops or other public places in Uttar Pradesh may now land young men in trouble. On new Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s orders, the police have started work on “anti-Romeo Squads” – teams of policemen who may show up at schools, colleges and malls for surprise checks.

Three men were arrested yesterday in Lucknow and boys standing outside girls’ schools and colleges were hauled up in Meerut and questioned.

“The idea is to reclaim public spaces and make them safe for women,” said state police chief Javeed Ahmed, who was told by Yogi Adityanath on Monday to come up with a plan to improve law and order in the state, in tandem with the BJP’s poll promises for a safer UP.

Instructions have gone to police stations that public spaces like malls, colleges and coaching centres “need to be made safe”, especially for young girls. It is not clear, however, whether the instructions are clear on where to draw the line and on concerns about harassment in the name of policing.
“In a bid to check incidents of harassment and passing of comments on them (women and girls), ‘anti-Romeo dal’ will be constituted at the police station levels and action under Goonda Act will be taken against wrongdoers,” said senior police officer A Satish Ganesh.

Anti-Romeo squads, a key promise in the BJP’s “sankalp patra” or manifesto for the Uttar Pradesh election, have been controversial with some linking them to the raucous campaign against “love jihad”, the term used by Yogi Adityanath and other BJP leaders to describe Muslim men marrying Hindu women.

“To ensure the safety of college girls, innovative anti- Romeo squads will be set up near colleges to check eve-teasing. Three women battalions will be raised for the security of women,” the BJP manifesto had said. BJP chief Amit Shah said the squads would prevent “harassment of young women students”. But one of the party’s own leaders, Sunil Bharala, interpreted it differently, telling NDTV last month that action would be taken in cases of “love jihad that targets innocent girls”.

The order issued to police stations also says attempts should be made to check cow slaughter and cattle smuggling – another rallying point for Adityanath and his supporters – and those involved should be punished.