I wonder what Shakespeare would make of Yogi Adityanath and the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh? His Romeo and Juliet is the unforgettable story of illicit love. Though it ends in tragedy, their death also represents the triumph of their spirit and the shaming of their families. They may have been thwarted in life but through their suicides their love emerges victorious.
Alas, the Yogi would probably call it love jihad. He would side with the Montagues and Capulets not the teenage lovers. Their romance would not soften his stony heart. Instead, his police would spy on them, intercept their secret notes, eavesdrop on their trysts and prevent their kisses. Cupid is not a deity the Yogi worships. Star-crossed lovers do not evoke his sympathy. In fact, they incur his wrath.
So if the ladies of Lucknow have taken to Shakespeare’s famous lament “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” it’s likely to be in vain. The Yogi’s police won’t allow the state’s young men to respond. They do not approve of boys and girls sitting together on benches, meeting surreptitiously in cafes, sneaking off to the movies. Holding hands when the lights go down or snogging in the dark is simply out of the question. The ascetic does not understand the thrill of romance. He cannot imagine the charm of courtship. For him affection, it seems, is literally calf-love.
This, sadly, is the situation that prevails in Uttar Pradesh and it’s a direct, if not inevitable, outcome of the Yogi’s anti-Romeo squads. Heavens what a name! No one would defend what we delicately call eve-teasing but the enthusiasm and persistence with which it’s being battled by the UP police can only lead to injustice, pain and suffering. And broken hearts too!
In the government’s defence UP health minister Siddharth Nath Singh has called it police vigilantism. But this oxymoron is more misleading than disarming. It’s a blatant contradiction. In fact, it’s an attempt at clever obfuscation.
The Oxford dictionary describes a vigilante as “a member of a self-appointed group undertaking law enforcement but without legal authority”. The police, therefore, can never be vigilantes. Furthermore, in this instance, they are operating under the Yogi’s instructions. He’s the one who’s set them loose. They haven’t ventured out on their own. Indeed, it’s even possible their hearts are with the Romeos they have to chase or the Juliets they seek to deny.
To appreciate why he’s wrong I suggest the Yogi listen carefully to the lyrics of Dean Martin’s famous number “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane”. It starts suggestively: “The naughty lady of shady lane has hit the town like a bomb, the back fence gossip ain’t been this good since Mabel ran off with Tom.” It would appear she’s a lady of easy virtue, an impression enhanced by what follows. “You should see how she carries on with her admirers galore, she must be giving them quite a thrill the way they flock to her door. She throws those come hither glances at every Tom, Dick and Joe. When offered some liquid refreshment, the lady never never says no.” If by now the Yogi’s convinced the lady’s not a “gent” he should wait because things are not what they seem. Don’t give up in disgust.
“The naughty lady of shady lane, she is delectable, quite respectable and she’s only nine days old …”
The views expressed are personal