Since the launch of the Anti-Romeo Squads by the newly-anointed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minsiter Yogi Adityanath, there have been mixed reactions over their purpose and performance by the police and people alike.
Times of India reported that the squads claim, “We can tell who is a Romeo by the look in their eyes”. They claim to be saving the youth of the towns from “moral collapse”.
As their jeeps rove around colleges and markets looking for miscreants, how does the police identify them? This is what one of the male constables confessed:
Ab kisi ke chehre pe to nahi likha hota ki kaun Romeo hai. Par humari itne saal ki duty hai ki hum ladkon ki ankhon se, unke chehre se aur unke khade hone ke andaz se pehchaan lete hain ki kaun sharif ghar ka hai aur kaun Romeo hai (While people’s faces don’t have ‘Romeo’ written on them, we have been in the police force for so many years that we can identify them just by the look in their eyes, their face, and the way they stand).
Safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti Romeo squads. No moral policing.— Javeed (@javeeddgpup) March 22, 2017
32 Youths Hauled Up So Far
At least 32 youths have been taken into custody by the Anti-Romeo Squads as Hindustan Times reported.
They were found around women’s colleges and in public spaces. They were “let off with a warning” if they were found to not have a a criminal record, but only after their parents were called.
Girls and Boys Can Never be Friends
Taking inspiration from Karan Johar films, a constable went as far as saying that a girl and a boy can never be friends. Boys have gotten reprimanded for standing outside girls’ colleges to meet their friends. This is what the police have to say to them for their “inappropriate behaviour”:
A boy and a girl can never be friends. If you are such good friends, you should go to the girl’s house, take her parents’ permission and then talk to her. Don’t spoil the atmosphere out in the streets.
The teams have met with praise from principals of girls’ colleges, who have called the squads a wonderful initiative. But the boys who have been hauled up and their parents have likened the experience to harassment.
Members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini also spoke to CNN-News18 where they said they will also act as Anti-Romeo Squads to make sure girls are not harassed on the streets.
They said that while they do not have a problem with girls meeting boyfriends, they will not let them walk around in public to spread “samaaj mein gandigi” and said “pardey ka kaam, pardey ke peechey rehna chahiye”.
But, we’re not sure what “gandigi” people will spread on the streets while just walking around.
No Need for “Fear Psychosis”
The opposition is alarmed at the “moral policing” being doled out by Anti-Romeo Squads on the youth and the “ridicule of democracy and freedom of youngsters”, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has come to their defence in the Parliament.
He has said that there isn’t any need for “fear psychosis” saying no one will be discriminated on the basis of caste, creed or religion in the BJP’s UP.
There is no need for fear psychosis. It’s a BJP government in Uttar Pradesh and it’s just two-days-old. I want to make it clear that our party does not do any discrimination in the name of religion, caste or creed. You have seen the chief minister said in his first press conference itself that his government would run on the principle of sabka saath, sabka vikas. He is working on this principle.
The Opposition has, however, said that the majority received by the BJP cannot be used as a stick to beat up the Constitutional freedoms of the youth with. Indian Express quotes Congress MP Ranjeet Rajan said in the Lok Sabha:
I am not saying I am not against vulgarity, nor objecting to any action against obscene acts. But under which rule can you make children do sit-ups or pull their ears? Even if a brother and sister walk together, some see wrong in it. Is it a crime to be in love in our country? Can children not sit in parks together? How can police go and harass them?