Yogi Adityanath’s Anti-Romeo squads needs more maturity

Yogi adityanath
After recalling 80 lakh ration cards bearing former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's image, now Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has ordered probe into their distribution.

After taking over as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath seems to be delivering on one of Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll promises – anti-Romeo squads.

The main aim of anti-Romeo squads is, preventing eve-teasing and harassment of women in public places and especially around schools and colleges.

These squads functioning under respective police stations have been rounding up boys loitering around schools, colleges, and even some public places.

These boys are then cross-questioned and later their parents informed about their activities and whereabouts. The move appears to have shaken things up with the anti-Romeo squads being welcomed by girls and their parents.

“The idea is to reclaim public spaces and make them safe for women,” said Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police  Javeed Ahmed.

Assuredly, it is high time law and order react to the lack of safety for women in public places and this should be a welcome move, no doubt.

There’s no denying the fact that eve-teasing and sexual harassment against the girls are a serious problem. Girls and women should have the freedom to step out of their houses without the fear of being harassed or molested. And an action discouraging against such harassment is crucial to creating an atmosphere of safety. In this respect, the anti-Romeo squads do appear to be creating fear in the minds of would-be offenders.

However, let’s also accept the fact that the anti-Romeo squads can’t be a permanent thing. The police in Uttar Pradesh simply can’t dedicate a substantial portion of their work day to randomly picking up and interrogating young boys. They have other crimes to prevent and investigate.

A DNA report suggested that among the youth arrested by the police near colleges and malls in Gorakhpur were even a few brothers who had come to pick up their sisters. A boy waiting outside DN college in Meerut told the Times of India that it amounted to harassment.

“They wanted to call my parents … 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’,” he told TOI. Surely, indiscriminate police harassment of young men is not the way to curb harassment of women.

Therefore, the anti-Romeo squads need to be followed up by reforms in police functioning. In the long run, the police have to take complaints of eve-teasing and molestation seriously, efficiently investigate such cases, and ensure sentences. In fact, a high rate of the sentence in sexual harassment cases is exactly what will ensure discouragement in the long term and create an atmosphere of safety.

The main political aim of setting up of these “Anti-Romeo squads” was closely associated with the aim of ‘restrain’ of “love-jihad” — a term for Muslim men marrying Hindu women — in the election campaign eloquence, thus weaving in a thread of threat from Muslims, into the reel of women’s safety.

Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the Hindutva plank of Bharatiya Janata Party openly stoked the idea of a threat posed by Love-Jihad to gullible (Hindu) girls. Only last month, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sunil Bharala said that anti-Romeo squads will take actions in cases of love jihad and make sure that girls are not being trapped. Many people have thus variously expressed the fear that this could turn the law and order against Muslim boys.

Plus, there’s also the issue of the anti-Romeo squads degenerating into moral policing brigades. For, there has to be a clear distinction between harassment and consensus.

A young boy and a girl in mutual consent hanging out in a public place doesn’t constitute a crime. But past experiences have demonstrated that the police are generally poor in practicing such judgment and a tendency to annoy youthful couples. If anti-Romeo squads becoming specialists of harassment for innocent young people, then it will prompt general disdain, defeating their very purpose.This is exactly why the argument of Romeo squads are required to be short-lived.

They are a viable first move. Be that as it may, the Uttar Pradesh government should, in the long run, get down to the harder assignment of systematizing police changes to guarantee well-being and security for all.