One of the major poll promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh was the introduction of anti-Romeo squads to curb instances of harassment of girls and eve-teasing. Ever since Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as the 21st Chief Minister of the state following the saffron party’s resounding victory in the politically crucial state, these special UP Police teams and vigilantes have created a stir across the country with the release of video footages showcasing innocent men and couples being subjected to harsh treatment instead of actually cracking down on those who stalk and molest women. This has generated a widespread interest in the international media as well. The state forces have also been quoted as claiming they can identify “Romeos” by “the look in their eyes”.
Here’s a look at how international media reacted to the formation of anti-romeo squads in the largest state of India.
According to the British daily, the controversial “anti-Romeo” squads set up to police and control young couples in public are spreading across the country after they were given the nod by the UP’s firebrand Hindu leader, who is accused of instigating religious tensions and also jailed in 2007 on charges of inciting riots. The newspaper further said the squads have been “accused of “Taliban-like” moral policing by patrolling public spaces to prevent men from loitering near women.” Local parks across the state, where many young couples generally used to find privacy, are said to have gone empty. According to the daily, the move has elicited mixed responses with women’s college principals and female students welcoming efforts to protect them from unruly men. However, they have been dismissed as a “political gimmick” by opposition parties.
The Washington Post
According to the American daily, Adityanath has already made his presence felt with twin decisions of shuttering illegal slaughterhouses and launching “anti-Romeo squads”. “Adityanath, a saffron-robed priest who is also a five-term member of Parliament, had promised the squads as a public safety measure during a heated state election campaign, but some compared them to moral policing,” it added.
The Daily Express
According to the British daily, the initiative of “anti-Romeo” squads has sparked outrage among parents who feel their sons have been targeted. The newspaper was reacting to a shocking footage in which undercover female officers are seen attacking men suspected to have been harassing women in UP.
This is how the Guardian wrote about the anti-Romeo squads: “Another addition to the city streets last week were squads of police officers hunting so-called “Romeos”. Along with a ban on buffalo slaughter, cracking down on amorous young men was a key campaign promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party. Officially, the police are targeting “eve-teasing”, the endemic sexual harassment that blights some Indian streets. But critics instead see a crackdown on mixed-religion couples, in line with Adityanath’s fevered, baseless warnings that Muslim men are trying to seduce Hindu women as part of “love jihad”.