Barely days after Yogi Adityanath took charge as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state government has unleashed anti-Romeo squads near colleges, malls, parks and other public places to check sexual harassment and "ensure safety" of young girls and women.
How soon before this obnoxious behaviour hits Noida malls? pic.twitter.com/aXiU7vjZiw— SANJAY HEGDE (@sanjayuvacha) March 23, 2017
Now, no one is denying that sexual harassment is a huge issue in India, but given the "historical" track record of our law enforcing agencies, most people (rightly) assumed the move will result in unnecessary moral policing by these squads.
To calm our nerves, Uttar Pradesh DGP Javeed Ahmed immediately took to Twitter:
Safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti Romeo squads. No moral policing.— Javeed (@javeeddgpup) March 22, 2017
Contrary to the top cop's claims, the ensuing scenes in Uttar Pradesh have been telling a different story altogether.
While couples are being stopped and harassed, women are getting "moral lessons", and cops are proclaiming that "boys and girls can never be friends".
We have cops claiming they "can spot Romeos by the look in their eyes" (really?), and boys who are being penalised for just standing outside a college.
Good. Link this to aadhaar now. Check iris scan. pic.twitter.com/76EhhlID8Z— Sanket Upadhyay (@SANKETUPA) March 24, 2017
So when your men target youngsters even when they have done nothing wrong, what do you call it?
If this is not moral policing, then I don't know what is.
To add to the chaos, right-wing outfits too have let loose their moral police brigade on the streets.
"We have a problem with girls roaming with their boyfriends. Our volunteers will also work as anti-Romeo squads in Meerut to keep a check," one such Hindu Yuva Vahini group member told the CNN-News18.
Cops aren't even sparing parents. If they find boys sticking around colleges, cigarette and pan stalls or even bakeries, they pick them up, give their parents a call, and leave them with a "report card" of their son's "meanderings".
It's pretty sad that a step that could have changed the face of women's safety in UP, is ending up making the state look like it dialled back a few eras and landed here.
New Rules of Indian Taliban State pic.twitter.com/zD4vmbECm4— James Wilson (@jamewils) March 24, 2017
I absolutely realise the importance of this anti-Romeo crusade. Any woman in Uttar Pradesh, and even Delhi, will.
It's no secret that some men do tend to think of us as defenceless objects of lust. But the problem with moral policing, Mr Ahmed, is that it brings my trust in your cops to the lowest threshold.
I want to ask you if a bunch of men harass me on the street while I'm walking around in a pair of shorts, will you rain hell on them or me?
Or if some guy passes a lewd comment while I'm smoking away next to the panwadi, will your men call their parents or my family?
Because there's a high chance I won't meet your/their "morality" criteria, but it sure as hell won't be me who needs to be policed.
UP's Anti-Romeo squads "catch" young couples, send girls home after "moral teaching." Lord Krishna would've had a tough time in Vrindavan— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) March 23, 2017
So, Mr Ahmed, I have a small request. Let this not turn into another "Operation Majnu".
Uttar Pradesh does need help with tackling men on the roads and bikes (sometimes even brandishing guns), passing lewd comments on women or whistling at them, calling them names, pulling at their clothes, snatching their belongings and generally behaving like the scum of the earth.
And these are the only men you need to be targeting. Your cops, otherwise, will be nothing but eve-teasers patrolling in guise of Romeo-hunters.