From Secular India To Shitty India: India’s Hindu Moral Police

MEERUT: Just two days after Yogi Adityanath took oath as CM of UP, one of the BJP’s oft-repeated promises during its election campaign – formation of anti-Romeo squads “to protect the honour of women” – took off with a great deal of purposefulness in the state.

In Meerut on Tuesday, “anti-Romeo dals” were out on the streets in full force, making it among the first UP districts to form the teams that will be posted at educational institutions and public spaces “to prevent eve-teasing and ensure safety of girls”.

Soon, though, both boys and parents who found themselves at the receiving end of police reprimand and lecture were crying foul. They said the way the teams function blurs the line between crime control and moral policing.

Each police station in Meerut district, for instance, will have one anti-Romeo squad comprising of three-four members from the station. Police stations with higher population density may have more than one anti-Romeo squad with more than four members. In Lucknow, orders came from the IG’s office to constitute the squads in each of the 11 districts of the zone.

On the first day of deployment of the squads, boys hovering around schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, pan shops and even pastry shops were picked up for “questioning” and let go after police called their parents to inform them about the “activities” of the boys.

A boy who was picked up said it amounted to harassment. “I was standing outside DN College to meet a friend, and the police gave me a warning. They wanted to call my parents, but I did not give them the right number. 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 said.

A father who was called by the police to complain about his son’s “wayward” ways, did not approve of this kind of police intervention. “It is not the police’s job to decide where boys can stand and where they cannot. My son is 19, and is an adult. It makes no sense to call up his father to say that his son is loitering around,” he said.

 According to police sources, the modus operandi of the squads will be the same as that of the infamous ‘Operation Majnu’ in 2005, in which boys at crossings and markets were pulled up, and couples in gardens were thrashed by police. It was seen as an attempt at moral policing and widely criticised, and even led to the suspension of two police officers.

“Very often boys who have nothing to do with schools or colleges stand outside in the afternoon when classes finish. We found several such boys and told them they would not be spared from now on,” said M K Upadhyay, station officer, Delhi Gate police station.

 SP (city) Alok Priyadarshi denied charges of harassment. “The only job (of the squads) is to ensure safety of women and to ensure that eve-teasing does not takes place. For this we will also take preventive steps like not permitting miscreants to loiter in public areas where women are known to frequent. I will not say it is moral policing,” he said.
The work of the anti-Romeo squad of the Delhi Gate police station in Meerut bore a stark resemblance to the moral policing of ‘Operation Majnu’.

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