The presence of vigilante groups to enforce a sense of morality among the masses is not unknown in a country like India. Be it the drive in Allahabad called Majnu ka pinjra in the mid 1980s where police used to put the eve-teasers in a cage or Delhi Police’s most innovative initiatives at checking crime against women, Operation Majnu which was on in 2003 and then in 2013- it should come as no surprise when recently elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, formed an Anti-Romeo squad. Garnered to keep teasing and molestation in check, this poll promise of the BJP government pocketed severe criticism and fell into a string of controversies when AAP leader Prashant Bhushan tweeted about the chief minister’s squads.
“Romeo loved just one lady, while Krishna was a legendary Eve teaser. Would Adityanath have the guts to call his vigilantes Anti Krishna squads?,” Bhushan wrote on Twitter. This retort came after a series of videos surfaced in the media showing innocent men being harassed and beaten up by the police. The UP police claimed that they could identify a Romeo by looking into someone’s eyes.
Despite the severe backlash, they have maintained the stand that this does not count as moral policing, and is done to ensure the safety of women in a country where eve-teasing is just a more agreeable term for sexual harassment. Speculations have been doing the rounds considering the tweet as a publicity stunt due to the upcoming Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections on April 23.
According to the National Crime Records, UP has the highest crime rates reported in India. A report in 2016 states that 1012 cases of rape and 4500 cases of harassment were filed in UP from March 15 to August 18. So does the chief minister’s squad seem like such a bad idea, after all?
To protect the virtue of women, punishments such as blackening of the face, shaving of the head and ‘murga pose’ were implemented on the perpetrators. This resonates back to school days where the naughty kid was publicly shamed and asked to stand on the bench holding his ears as punishment. What has been the repercussion of public shaming? Has it ever lured one away from the path of wrongdoing?
At the end of the day we need to think about where we draw the line between privacy and security. What about the couples who were involved in consensual situations? Aren’t such vigilante groups enforcing moral policing on romance? There is a fine line between the two, and therein lies the problem.