HOURS AFTER the UP DGP issued a set of guidelines to his officers on the functioning of the force’s ‘Anti-Romeo’ squad — a BJP poll manifesto promise — Lucknow police rounded up a couple at a busy intersection, detained the man briefly at the local station and imparted “moral teaching” to the woman. A team led by the heads of the Hazaratganj and Mahila police stations allowed the woman to leave the spot from where the two were detained, while the man was detained at the Hazratganj station. Uddeshy Pandey, a 20-year-old from Sitapur, told The Indian Express that he was on his way to see a movie at a mall with his friend on a rickshaw when they were stopped by police at the busy Moti Mahal Lawns intersection.
“The policemen did not harass me, but it’s ridiculous to stop someone on a busy road and question them without any valid reason,” said Pandey, adding that he was an aspiring actor based in Mumbai and had come home for Holi. “My birthday falls in June and since I would not be here, I decided to give a treat to my friends. My female friend and I took a rickshaw to reach a multiplex in Hazratganj where two other friends were waiting. When the rickshaw reached a crossing, policemen stopped us and started questioning me,” he said. “The male SHO asked about my whereabouts while a policewoman questioned my female friend. I told him that we were going to watch a movie but he refused to listen. After questioning me for half-an-hour, I was taken to the police station,” he said.
“At the station, other policemen questioned me about my family. After over an hour, they asked me to call someone who could take me. One of my friends arrived and I was allowed to go,” said Pandey. Officers at the Hazratganj and Mahila stations confirmed that the couple was questioned “on the ground of suspicion” and later allowed to go. But senior officers told The Indian Express that the police move was “wrong” and that action would be taken if a complaint is filed. “It is wrong because there are clear instructions to not do any moral policing. The idea of the squad is to keep a tab on eve-teasers,” said Manzil Saini, SSP, Lucknow. “If a complaint is filed, action will be initiated,” said DGP Javeed Ahmad.
The DGP had earlier issued a directive for police to ensure that parks, major crossings, markets, malls and other public places are made safe for women and girls. The order stated that couples at public places should not be harassed and that the “Anti-Romeo” squad would take action only against those who harass women. The DGP also instructed officers to ensure that people are not to be humiliated in public by blackening their faces or other such punishments. Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said, “The Chief Minister has instructed the DGP and Home Secretary that people should not be harassed by the Anti-Romeo squad and that action should only be taken against eve-teasers.”