New Cops’ Panel on Anti-Romeo Squads Says Don’t Pick Up Random Men

There’s an “informal committee” comprising serving and retired police officers to see how to combat eve-teasing.

Under pressure from and ridiculed by most sections of society on its “anti-Romeo squads”, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has formed an “informal committee” comprising senior serving and retired police officers who will guide the administration on how best to crackdown on eve-teasing across the state.

The members on the committee, which held its first meeting in Lucknow on 24 March, have also made written submissions to the state government, outlining in detail their individual views and recommendations on making the drive against eve-teasing “meaningful and workable”.

Speaking to The Quint, a member of the committee said that the panel has been formed to help the state police formulate a more cohesive policy on the “very real problem” of eve-teasing.

Among some of the recommendations that individual panel members have made is that “harassment” of the public be ended, by ushering in “deterrence” instead of random “picking up” of young men found “hanging around” girls’ schools and colleges, in some district towns notorious for eve-teasing.

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Deterrence Through Overt Measures – Patrolling and Loudspeakers

A committee member to The Quint Instead of terrorising the public, including mostly innocent young men, the Adityanath government has been advised to resort to overt forms of action such as patrolling and greater vigil near girls’ schools and colleges.

He added that “swooping down on people” will render the move ineffective, besides inviting strong criticism.

The UP police, sources on the committee said, recently acquired new patrolling vehicles which could be used to greater effect around girls’ schools and colleges, besides cinema theatres and malls.

One panel member is said to have suggested the use of loudspeakers mounted on police vehicles to alert young men from forming groups around girls’ education institutions, malls, market places or other social settings, where young men and women usually gather and socialise.

While none of the committee members focused on renaming the “anti-Romeo” drive to something more meaningful and less pejorative, one former IPS officer on the panel is said to have suggested that “care should be taken to avoid repressive measures that were adopted during the 1975 emergency, when officers were given unbridled power to round up young men sporting long hair and fashionable and trendy clothing.”

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Another recommendation to the Adityanath government includes binding the “anti-Romeo squads” by rules and regulations, in ways that would curb the tendency among policemen to misuse the power of detention, in the name of curtailing crime. In this context, a committee member said:

Since there’s nothing in the Indian Penal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code which could be used to criminally proceed against so-called eve-teasers, it has been recommended that the police adopt a judicious approach to tackle the problem in UP.

More importantly, however, the committee members were unanimous in recommending that deterrence be observed so that the drive against eve-teasing doesn’t assume a form in which the police begin to enjoy and employ unbridled powers.