Anti-romeo squads

Published Mar 26, 2017, 12:40 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2017, 12:48 am IST
We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic.
The squads are picking up young men “loitering” in and around public areas like schools, colleges, and cigarette shops, questioning them and calling their parents.
 The squads are picking up young men “loitering” in and around public areas like schools, colleges, and cigarette shops, questioning them and calling their parents.

Following the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the new Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state has deployed anti-Romeo squads in public areas (a move they had promised during the elections). These anti-Romeo squads will be stationed at educational institutions and public places “to prevent eve-teasing and ensure safety of girls.” These troupes will also allegedly help counter ‘Love Jihad.’ The squads engaged in moral policing on the streets of Meerut, where they are deployed as of now. Soon, 11 more districts will have them too, if reports are to be bellieved. The squads are picking up young men “loitering” in and around public areas like schools, colleges, and cigarette shops, questioning them and calling their parents. We talk to celebrities and professors about their take on this move, can any alterations be made considering how they are looking for girls’ safety and if it should be repealed.

‘How will the squad ever know that the girl is being harassed?’
Kamla Bhasin, Feminist Activist, Poet, Author and Social Scientist
I have a problem with the phrase ‘anti-Romeo squad’. Calling these harassers, who are against consensual love Romeo, is pathetic. What I fail to understand is why we are using, even in 2017, the phrase ‘eve-teasing’? It is harassment, and not ‘eve-teasing’! Secondly, how is the squad to judge that a girl is being harassed? We know what young lovers go through in public places. Knowing how a lot people believe that women shouldn’t stay out after a certain time, can we really expect them stand up for women’s rights? They are against love, not sexual harassment — and that is pretty clear. India is a secular country, and anyone from any caste, any religion and class, can fall in love with anyone. How can you call a Hindu-Muslim love as Love Jihad? Because of these absurd connections, and the background of people in these squads, I am worried. If it is to tackle harrassment, give it a proper name like anti-harassment squad. Also, make sure they are sensitive and trained by feminists.


‘A body that monitors and combats miscreants is the need of the hour’
Sachin A. Tantry, Head of Dept, Arts, Jain University
There is a lot of ambiguity in this regard. As much as there has been a furore about the newly appointed CM’s squad taking laws in its own hands, I’d agree to disagree with the strong condemnation against the idea. If you run a close eye through the crime cases and its aftermath in UP, a body that monitors and combats the deeds of miscreants is the need of the hour. While there has been talks of this being an approach to combat ‘Love Jihad,’ I’d suggest people to not let that eclipse the persistent issues women face in UP. Let’s not forget how the previous CM, Mulayalam Singh’s sweeping statement on rape at a political rally raised eyebrows, which also reflected the general vibe of how crimes against women are dealt with. That said, I believe, the concept needs to be backed by thoughtful and progressive minds — there’s no denying that there needs to be a safety squad. But, how exactly will it be executed is what decides whether the concept will be a stupendous success or an absolute failure.


‘Focus on building healthy relationships’
Deepa P. Gopinath, training officer with the Directorate of Technical Education, Kerala
This move should actually be carried out the other way round. The focus should be on building healthy relationships in society instead of segregating boys and girls. Our campuses must act as platforms where they can mingle. I have been seeing this ever since my college days. Promoting co-ed in educational institutions is a healthy practice. Encourage friendships. Our society thinks the right way to ensure women’s safety is by protecting them. It’s not! Women must be empowered to fend off insecurities against them. Safety does not mean looking at every person in suspicion. Ours is not a world where every man is a pervert. Provide an opportunity for a girl to have faith in a classmate or friend and that he is a safe companion. Let a girl travel with a boy or a man she can trust. In public places, it is ideal to be among a group or in a crowded area than sit in an isolated space.


‘I think this is a good move to ensure safety of women’
Iswarya V., Research scholar and activist
Rather than these squads voluntarily going and ganging up on people, there should be a system where women can complain against harassment cases. Apart from this, there should be gender sensitivity training among the police, which will help them identify harassment better. They should be given specific training on this — nobody is born with that kind of sensibility. Unlike other states, women in UP are subjected to street harassment at a very disproportionate level. I think this is a good move to ensure safety of women.


‘If implemented well, it will help curb the exponentially increasing crime rate’
Anwesh sahoo, former Mr Gay World India
Having lived in Uttar Pradesh, I’m aware how serious the issues of eve-teasing and harrassment are (and you really have to live in the state to understand how bad it can really get.) Eve-teasing often leads to molestation, which could eventually lead to communal riots. I remember how my mother used to wait at the door till my sister came back from college. Initially, I didn’t understand why my sister was asked to return home before dark. It was only when I bore the brunt of being stalked and eve-teased that I realised how big of an issue it really is. Imagine me, a cisgender male having issues related to safety, I can only imagine how difficult it is for girls. Honestly speaking, if it is implemented well, then it will help curb the exponentially increasing crime rate against women and men alike, and that’s an important issue to tackle in the state.