New UP govt cracks down on men & women seen together in public
But it is not quite certain whether that message has trickled down to the cops. In photo: Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah attend Adityanath's swearing-in ceremony. Photograph: (AFP)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took over the reins of India's most populous and politically critical state recently, Uttar Pradesh, but one of their first decisions to crack down on young men seen with women in public has produced realms of news reports in the country.
The right-leaning BJP had in its election manifesto vowed to set up a squad to deter men from harassing women amid reports of a spike in molestation cases in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
But the new government's decision to empower the unit, known as "anti-Romeo squads", to put men behind bars has raised the perennial dilemma of moral policing and governance.
Yogi Adityanath, the new head of the state, has been a strong advocate of crackdowns of such nature -- evidenced by the fact that local police arrested about 50 men from his constituency of Gorakhpur, roughly 215 kilometres from India's capital New Delhi, on Wednesday (March 22).
The drive to protect "women's self-respect" -- as put by the BJP in its manifesto -- has fanned out across the state, with reports of police questioning, and in some cases incarcerating, men seen with women in public.
The squads have been formed on the directive of new UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath (Reuters)
Police escort a boy away from a college in Lucknow. (DNA)
Police patrol outside a college in Lucknow. (ANI)
On Tuesday, two men were arrested in the state's capital city of Lucknow, while reports of questioning people emerged from other small towns such as Meerut and Jhansi.
In some cases, a few boys who had to come to pick up their sisters from colleges were also arrested, DNA reported.
Deccan Chronicle reported that a boy was made to do sit-ups by the police as punishment for sitting with girls in Meerut.
But the BJP says the anti-Romeo squad is keeping a close vigilance on men in public spaces to prevent cases of molestation in the state.
Adityanath has reportedly asked the police to take strict action against those found guilty.
Sources in the police department say the modus operandi of the drive would be on the lines of the infamous Operation Majnu. In 2005, Operation Majnu had empowered police to question any boy seen with a woman on the streets or in parks. The campaign had soured when reports of police thrashing young men came to the fore.
The BJP and its allies recorded a landslide victory in the recently-concluded elections in Uttar Pradesh, winning roughly 80 per cent of the seats in the legislative house.