The much publicised “anti-Romeo” squads of UP Police sanctioned by chief minister Adityanath Yogi came as a sign of decisive action so early in his term to check what is perversely called “eve-teasing” instead of by its proper name — sexual harassment of girls and women in public places by men of all ages to much merriment, and easily forgiven through the logic that boys will be boys or men will be men, and that women should just become invisible so that they do not attract attention. The typical forms the nationwide harassment takes are ogling and passing lewd comments which can slip into worse — age being no bar. It was thus assumed that the state police being out in force in marketplaces and outside colleges and schools will check the menace by being a deterrent. But soon it became clear that the initial positive assessment of the move was premature.
Reports began to come in from every major city and town of UP of squads of police catching hold of men in public places and harassing them for ID cards. Many turned out to be husbands, brothers or fathers waiting for their female relatives to emerge from shops and other establishments. Clearly, charade of this kind is not sustainable the year round. Too many police personnel will be caught up doing too little for next to no result. Aside from this practical side of police administration, the fundamental point is that the right of women to go out with any man they choose to is being sought to be blocked. Checking wrong-doers or petty criminals cannot be an excuse for limiting the privileges of women. That will be going back to a medieval mindset. Besides, in a public place it is no business of the government to begin a search of individual menfolk without warrant. This too is transgression of liberty.
The so-called anti-Romeo policing was tried out under the BJP in Gujarat and yielded no results. The party’s rationale for repeating the failed experiment in UP defies logic. But it is hard to push away from mind the call of Hindutva brigades in UP to form such police platoons to catch hold of Muslim young men on the allegation of “love-jihad”, the enticement of young Hindu women into marriage for the purpose of conversion. The present UP CM was in the forefront of this campaign. In time, there could be every possibility of the “anti-Romeo” campaign to be the thin end of the wedge to target young Muslim men, just as has been the case of targeting the abattoir business in UP, which contributes about two-thirds of the total exports of buffalo meat from the country worth about five million dollars. The business is mostly run by Muslims.