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Moral policing to extortion: Yogi Adityanath must disband anti-Romeo squads

Uttar Pradesh’s anti-Romeo squads have proved to be counterproductive, with some officers even misusing it for extortion. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath must disband these squads

editorials Updated: Jun 06, 2017 21:47 IST
Hindustan Times
Anti-Romeo squad,Yogi Adityanath,Uttar Pradesh
The anti-Romeo squad question a youth following regulations imposed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Lucknow, India, April 6, 2017(REUTERS)

Statistics shows that crimes against women are on the rise. Given this, any move by a government to increase women’s safety should be welcomed. But Uttar Pradesh’s anti-Romeo squads, set up by chief minister Yogi Adityanath with the aim of protecting women from public harassment, has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

Police personnel were appointed to these squads which started operations in March, but soon the initiative was hijacked by fringe groups that misused this for moral policing and in some cases targeting minorities.

If this was not enough, an investigative report by a TV news channel recently exposed these squads indulging in extortion and falsely implicating innocent people.

It’s alarming to see that police officers, meant to protect and serve society, run extortion rackets and misuse their power to falsely implicate innocent people.

Corruption in any form needs to be condemned and its causes need to be rooted out — this is all the more important if this corruption is among those meant to prevent it.

While the intention behind Mr Adityanath’s initiative is praiseworthy, the anti-Romeo squads have proved to be counterproductive. Far from protecting women, this initiative has opened a Pandora’s box: The media report proves that officers meant to safeguard the law are abusing it. It has also encouraged fringe, vigilante groups to take the law into their hands and attack young couples, even reviving the love-jihad bogey to target a particular community.

It is not too late for the chief minister to disband the squad, because, so far, it has done more damage than good. We do not need squads that double as mercenaries for public safety, and we do not need moral policing to dictate the way our youth conduct themselves.

Good, sensible policing at the grassroots level can ensure that law and order is maintained. Programmes like the anti-Romeo squads do not help in reducing crime and, in turn, end up giving India a bad name. A State-sanctioned squad whose duty is to round up couples and harass youngsters should have no place in an India which wants to be perceived as progressive and inclusive.

The Yogi government must not only take action against errant cops but also consider dissolving these anti-Romeo squads.

First Published: Jun 06, 2017 18:13 IST