Three Uttar Pradesh policemen were suspended after they detained a young couple at a Ghaziabad park as part of an ongoing anti-Romeo drive, described as a crackdown on people harassing women in public places, officials said on Saturday.
The couple were taken to a police station though no women police personnel was present, mandatory for detaining women.
The incident came amid widespread criticism of a section of police who are accused of resorting to moral policing in the name of reigning in criminals.
The criticism forced chief minister Yogi Adityanath – who had rolled out the drive immediately after assuming office – to order new guidelines for the ‘anti-Romeo’ squads. He has also asked police not to harrass consenting young men and women found together.
Police said the couple, presumed to college students, were spotted by the team in the PCR van at Ambedkar Park in Navyug Market on Friday afternoon.
The cops approached the couple and asked them to verify their credentials and later took them in a PCR-van to Kotwali police station.
“The PCR van had no women personnel deployed. A video shot by some passerby also went viral and senior superintendent of police ordered suspension after the incident came to his knowledge,” said Ranvir Singh, spokesperson for SSP Deepak Kumar.
Those suspended were identified as head constable Mehtab and constables Dilip Kumar and Pankaj Kumar. The PCR van was deployed under Kotwali police station area.
Creation of the anti-Romeo squads was one of the major poll planks of the BJP which won a brute majority in the state in the recently-held assemby polls.
But police has come under fire for allegedly harassing consenting couples and hauling up youngters and men even out on a stroll. Photographs and video clips of police forcing youngsters to do sit-ups as punishment have also fanned anger.
Uttar Pradesh has a poor record in women’s safety and every year hundreds of girls drop out of school or college to avoid sexual harassment in public places.
UP police data show that more than 7100 cases of molestation were registered during the first 11 months of 2015. In the corresponding period in 2014 and 2013, a total of 7734 and 6685 cases were registered.