An “anti-Romeo” police squad in Uttar Pradesh, India, arrested an uncle and his nephew, mistakenly believing the pair to be a gay couple.
The police picked the two up from a bus stop at Rampur, Galaxy Mag writes. The two of them had to pay 5000 rupees (about $77) in order to be released.
The incident was exposed by reporters for India Today TV. It has sparked discussion on the increasingly invasive activities of the “anti-Romeo” squads.
What are “anti-Romeo” squads?
According to the Indian Express, the anti-Romeo squads are special groups of police teams and vigilantes formed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since its recent electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh.
The squads were originally supposed to combat the scourge of “Eve-teasing” (street harassment and sexual assault), a major problem women face in the region. When the BJP first proposed the squads during their campaign, the idea was wildly popular.
But instead, critics say, the anti-Romeo squads have become roaming gangs of ultra-puritanical morality police, harassing couples for showing affection in public and picking on religious minorities (particularly young Muslim men).
In one recent incident, an anti-Romeo squad found a young couple sitting at a public place, seized the man, and forcibly shaved his head. After a video of it went viral, three police officers were suspended and the Uttar Pradesh government released a statement urging the squads not to use inhuman measures.
Regarding the arrest of the uncle and nephew, even though the anti-Romeo squad didn’t shave anybody’s head, they still extracted money from the pair without reason, which is still a burden.
Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Javeed Ahmad, quoted in The Hindu, insisted, “Safety of girls/ladies is the sole intent of the anti-Romeo squads. No moral policing.”
Superintendent of Police Dinesh Yadav said, “Action will be taken only if the squad identifies unwarranted gestures by a person or couple. We have been taking action in such cases in the past too.”
(Featured image via Twitter)