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India: Uttar Pradesh moral teaching vice squads picking on couples in public places / Romeos, Majnus and Mahants

25 March

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[Select commentary & reports on this dangerous new trend of Anti Romeo squads - punishing couples and lovers in parks and public spaces of in the already very conservative Uttar Pradesh is posted below. (updated on 5 April 2017)]

40 Anti-Romeo Cops Stormed A House In Moradabad To ’Catch’ A Tutor And His Student Who Were There To Collect Notes by Rituparna Chatterjee (Huffington Post India, 05 April 2017) http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/04/05/40-anti-romeo-cops-stormed-a-house-in-moradabad-to-catch-a-tut_a_22026352/

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Financial Times - 28 March 2017

An alternative remedy for India’s romance troubles

Harassing young lovers betrays the country’s greatest traditions

by Nilanjana Roy

[Photo] Unmarried couples meeting in the parks have become a target of police © Reuters

Summer hovers, and my friend and I are among the only walkers in the local park this evening, bar a sprinkling of young lovers making the most of Delhi’s late spring.

“They should be careful,” my friend says, nodding at a couple who are staring into each other’s eyes without blinking, one of those tricks only sumo wrestlers and people in love can pull off. “Yogi Adityanath’s anti-Romeo squads will hop across the border and beat them up.”

Yogi Adityanath is the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a hardline Hindu priest with a record of shrugging off cases that accused him of spreading hate among Hindus and Muslims. The targets of his latest crackdown are “roadside Romeos”, a common phrase in India for men who commit acts of street harassment. Yet in Uttar Pradesh police also began to go after unmarried couples, and young boys and girls. Video footage was disturbing: teenagers crying, couples cowering as they were slapped and punched.

The chief minister finally responded by reining in the police, insisting that couples out by mutual consent were not to be harassed. But my friend remains cynical. This is old-school moral policing. A warning aimed at lovers.

These kinds of restrictions are what the Indian writer Arundhati Roy had in mind when, in The God of Small Things, she described the love laws that rule people’s lives — laws that dictate “who should be loved, and how”, across barriers of faith and community.

Love may be the least and the most important of many battlefields in today’s India, Back in 2009, extremist Hindu groups kicked off Valentine’s Day protests by threatening and assaulting couples. “Our culture is the greatest and we can’t allow youngsters to ape the west and indulge in indecent acts like dating,” said one protester. Few were surprised when, in 2015, the nationalist BJP government in Chattisgarh ordered schools to observe February 14 as ‘Matru-Pitru Diwas’ — in honour of mothers and fathers.

Modi signals a nationalist phase in his choice for leader of the most populous state

Yet while some invoke ancient traditions to justify moral policing, the greatest Indian tradition was romance, and love, especially Shringara Rasa — the flavour of romantic and erotic love, the juice and marrow of it. It cannot be stamped out — it’s visible in the loving curve of every Chola bronze, every sumptuous temple frieze, even the anatomically challenging ones at Khajuraho.

If I was a politician — a girl can dream — I would institute a romance curriculum for the traditionally minded. The Kama Sutra is overrated, often mired in caste rules, but inescapable: from it, we would draw selectively. Ignore its cunning advice to boys to seize property by courting the daughters of relatives who’re rolling in the stuff, and instead, teach the art of wooing for beginners.

The man should do whatever the girl takes most delight in; he should procure for her gifts, amaze her with jugglery (a medieval skill that I feel would rekindle the most jaded of romances), and he should make love to her without distressing her in any way.

Sticking to only the Hindu part of that great Indian tradition, Prakrit and Sanskrit poetry are an education in themselves. The Satavahana king Hāla, who reigned in the 1st century AD, wrote: “Shame on those who cannot appreciate/ This ambrosial Prakrit poetry/ But who pore instead/ Over treatises in love.”

Hāla is credited with writing the Sattasai, thought to be India’s earliest collection of lyric poetry. His verse is populated by women who are meek in the morning, so demanding, cheeks flushed by excitement, the night before: “Sandal paste does not work as well/ As the wild delight of a tight embrace/ Which, even on the hottest summer’s day/ Succeeds in allaying a couple’s fever.”

‘This is old-school moral policing. A warning aimed at lovers’

For women, Tamil Sangam poetry and the Telugu epic, Rādhikā-sāntvanam (The Appeasement of Radhika), written around 1750AD by the devadasi poet Muddupalani, are lessons in how to go after what you want — rouse your lazy lover, don’t wait for him to make the first move. (The British banned Rādhikā-sāntvanam in 1911 for endangering moral health.) A full curriculum would include much more — music, painting, lessons on the art of adornment, the long history of the frank and open practice of same-sex love in India down the centuries.

In the great epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana, the king Bharata returns to Ayodhya to find it filled with ominous portents. Among them — the city’s open spaces are empty of lovers. “These parks deserted by the lovers are dejected, O charioteer!” the king says. “The city seems transformed into a jungle.”

For toxic identity politics there is nothing more subversive than lovers, meeting across the divide of caste, class or religion, to mingle like red earth and pouring rain. I see no way out: either we kick-start the great Hindu Shringara Rasa curriculum, or we give in to the lathi-wielding Hindu Taliban. Parks should be filled with lovers, not policemen.

Nilanjana Roy is the author ‘The Wildings’ and ‘The Hundred Names of Darkness’ and lives in Delhi. @nilanjanaroy

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The Indian Express - March 24, 2017

Editorial

Obscene

Police squads checking on couples violate citizens’ rights and dignity. Is this the New India PM spoke of after UP triumph?

The squads picking on such couples will cast a pall of darkness in public places. (File)

The setting up of “anti-Romeo squads” was an election promise of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. They were meant to ostensibly curtail eve-teasing and provide greater security to women. However, reports reveal the chilling reality behind the grandstanding: A young woman and man, out in a rickshaw, going to meet friends to watch a movie together, were stopped in Lucknow and questioned by the police. The young woman, interrogated by policewomen, was released after being given “moral teaching”. The young man was taken to a police station, questioned further, released after hours.

Thus, at the end of the UP police’s foray that claims to make the state safer for women — a woman traumatically detained, her friend harassed, even policemen reportedly admitting that the “anti-Romeo squad” had no legal jurisdiction to stop the two. If the police can’t tell the difference between molesters and amicable couples, the squads portend humiliation, extortion and violence on innocent young people in public places. Such bullying couldn’t be more out of step today when, across India, walls between the genders are breaking. More and more young women are in schools, colleges, workplaces and recreation spots, frequently with male colleagues, boyfriends, friends who are boys. The squads picking on such couples will cast a pall of darkness in public places. They will make it unsafe for women to step out with men of their choice, inhibit families, foist retrograde notions about the sexes meeting, and brutally pull back India’s youth into a shackling medieval repression.

Is this what Prime Minister Narendra Modi was referring to, after the UP win, when he spoke of a “new India”, where “the dreams of the under-35s” would materialise? In UP, after his party took over, the nightmares of the under-35s would appear to be coming true, threatening to empty malls, coaching centres, etc, of young people frightened to venture out. UP experienced tumult earlier over “love jihad”, its new chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, having used the term to describe mixed-religion marriages as a conversion ploy. Then, aggression targeted minorities; now, it has expanded to a hatred of all young people who aspire to an afternoon, an evening, a moment of togetherness and freedom. PM Modi has spoken about “maximum governance, minimum government”.

Is this mai-baap sarkar, which accords itself a khap panchayat-like claim to “moral teaching”, and aims to control young citizens, minimum government? The weight of this farce could make the PM’s slogans flip, creating what Shakespeare described in Romeo and Juliet as “a fool’s paradise”, where young people’s lives “shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”

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Hindustan Times - March 23, 2017

Editorial

Adityanath’s ‘anti-Romeo’ squads will not make UP any safer for women

There is a piece of good news. Uttar Pradesh, a state that usually is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to health, education, infrastructure, has finally broken out of the BIMARU mould. This means the state administrators may just have some time to spare. Not anymore for the political leaders have hit upon a novel idea of using their time much more fruitfully: Chase ‘Romeos’. So the new BJP state administration under Yogi Adityanath has started ‘anti-Romeo’ squads to check “eve-teasing”, which is a gentler term for sexual harassment. A day after his taking over, ‘anti-Romeo’ squads of policemen fanned out across the state. The campaign, which was a BJP pre-poll promise, was, as expected, marked by harassment of innocent youths.

While we are all for women’s safety (regular readers of this paper would know), we are against such dubious squads, even if they comprise police officers. Here’s why: In India, there are very few public spaces for women/couples. With such an offensive, they will now have to let go of these spaces too; second, there are enough pro-women laws, which, if implemented properly, can bring down crimes against women. Their proper implementation coupled with sensitive policing would be enough to assure women and force men to think twice before harassing them; third, such squads legitimise moral policing, and already a few cases of such extra-vigilance have been reported. Who gives anyone the right to stop a man from talking to a woman, or go for a movie? Why should a young man answer a police officer on his personal life as long as he is not breaking the law? Fourth, Yogi Adityanath may think otherwise but stopping men and women from interacting freely will not bring down crime rates.

In fact, allowing better interaction is a healthier approach to develop gender sensitivity. Even the central government’s gender sensitivity programmes are increasingly accepting that men must be involved for them to succeed. Fifth, we fear that this programme will finally lead towards revitalising the dangerous love-jihad programme, which had the Yogi’s support. The BJP’s national co-convenor Sunil Bharala, in the run up to the election campaign, was quoted as saying: “In love jihad, innocent girls are targeted and lured. To ensure their safety, anti-Romeo squads will be formed”. Last but not the least, the BJP tried this programme in Gujarat but it did not have any major success. So why do a re-run in UP?

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Mumbai Mirror - March 24, 2017

Romeos, Majnus and Mahants

by Paromita Vohra, Mumbai Mirror

The enthusiastic supporters of the new Uttar Pradesh government are so excited by this new development scheme they’ve received called anti-Romeo squads that it feels heartbreaking to tell them they’re getting yesterday’s left-overs that have been warmed up.

In December 2005, the nation was just learning that it wanted to know how to symbolically lynch people via television. Among the early lessons in this syllabus was Operation Majnoo in which police took along TV crews, entered a public park in Meerut and proceeded to beat up young couples sitting in the park. They also beat up a married couple who had come just to sit in the winter sun. They beat up a brother and sister from a village outside Meerut, who were passing the time till their lawyer’s appointment in the nearby district court. One couple was so terrified by the story being flashed all over the news that they ran away fearing punishment from their parents. They were finally brought back with tearful entreaties from their parents and married off. I wonder how that forced marriage at age 19 played out.

As these images played out over and over, the message they sent was not that sexual harassment would be punished, but that consensual romance would be turned into a spectacle of violence.

The reason I remember this — it is so easy to forget one of the many violent things we see on television — is that I went back a year later to make a film about it, and that is when I first heard the term Love Jihad, which was unofficially touted as one justification for the police action.

Anyway, so Majnu Madness has been re-branded Romeo Round-Ups. We have Mahiwal Hatao left. After that, since love is not being allowed only, there will be no iconic brand name available, but maybe then we can get a multinational consulting firm to advice on the matter. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Some people are feeling a bit confused. How come those who have renounced fleshly desires are taking such a strong interest in them? Uncharitable people feel that talking about moral policing is just a violent way of talking about love and sex. But there is a slightly more technical confusion. As per the men who renounce worldly life, women, with their sinuous curves and wily charms, are temptresses who weaken the resolve of saintly men. They are thus the root of evil.

However, as per the current narrative, women seem to have no role to play in the tempting business. It is they who are being tempted and led astray by Romeos and Majnus (and soon Mahiwals). So what are women – the tempted or the temptresses?

Any reasonable person, who lives comfortably with the world of desire, will say, well, they could be either. Which would bring us to the central issue of consent. Some women may be in consensual amorous situations. Since this is about protecting women, the simplest thing would be to ask the women what they need; to act on their complaints in a timely and efficient manner.

What’s that, we hear? Oh, it’s the sound of thousands of women laughing – those women who have complained about sexual harassment at the workplace, eve-teasing on the road, sexual assault and rape at home, cyberstalking and sexual cyberthreats from trolls, and heard from the police and the world that same question they hear from seekers of unimaginative phone sex – what were you wearing? Well, as long as women are under no misapprehension, that things like Romeo squads are for their protection, or a recognition of their consent, at least they’re saved from one kind of heartbreak.

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Moral police

Watch: Is it marauding men or romantic love that UP’s ’Anti-Romeo’ squads are really targeting? https://video.scroll.in/832681/watch-is-it-marauding-men-or-romantic-love-that-ups-anti-romeo-squads-are-really-targeting

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The Times of India

Anti-Romeo squad starts, morphs into moral police

Kabir Agarwal | TNN | Updated: Mar 22, 2017, 06.14 AM IST

Highlights

  • Each police station in Meerut district will have one anti-Romeo squad comprising of three-four members from the station
  • The modus operandi of the squads will be the same as that of the infamous ’Operation Majnu’

MEERUT: Just two days after Yogi Adityanath took oath as CM of UP, one of the BJP’s oft-repeated promises during its election campaign - formation of anti-Romeo squads "to protect the honour of women" - took off with a great deal of purposefulness in the state. In Meerut on Tuesday, "anti-Romeo dals" were out on the streets in full force, making it among the first UP districts to form the teams that will be posted at educational institutions and public spaces "to prevent eve-teasing and ensure safety of girls".

Soon, though, both boys and parents who found themselves at the receiving end of police reprimand and lecture were crying foul. They said the way the teams function blurs the line between crime control and moral policing.

Each police station in Meerut district, for instance, will have one anti-Romeo squad comprising of three-four members from the station. Police stations with higher population density may have more than one anti-Romeo squad with more than four members. In Lucknow, orders came from the IG’s office to constitute the squads in each of the 11 districts of the zone.

On the first day of deployment of the squads, boys hovering around schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, pan shops and even pastry shops were picked up for "questioning" and let go after police called their parents to inform them about the "activities" of the boys.

A boy who was picked up said it amounted to harassment. "I was standing outside DN College to meet a friend, and the police gave me a warning. They wanted to call my parents, but I did not give them the right number. They did not even know if I was there to meet a girl or a boy. For them, any young boy in public on a bike is a ’majnu’," he said.

A father who was called by the police to complain about his son’s "wayward" ways, did not approve of this kind of police intervention. "It is not the police’s job to decide where boys can stand and where they cannot. My son is 19, and is an adult. It makes no sense to call up his father to say that his son is loitering around," he said.

According to police sources, the modus operandi of the squads will be the same as that of the infamous ’Operation Majnu’ in 2005, in which boys at crossings and markets were pulled up, and couples in gardens were thrashed by police. It was seen as an attempt at moral policing and widely criticised, and even led to the suspension of two police officers.

The work of the anti-Romeo squad of the Delhi Gate police station in Meerut bore a stark resemblance to the moral policing of ’Operation Majnu’.

"Very often boys who have nothing to do with schools or colleges stand outside in the afternoon when classes finish. We found several such boys and told them they would not be spared from now on," said M K Upadhyay, station officer, Delhi Gate police station.

SP (city) Alok Priyadarshi denied charges of harassment. "The only job (of the squads) is to ensure safety of women and to ensure that eve-teasing does not takes place. For this we will also take preventive steps like not permitting miscreants to loiter in public areas where women are known to frequent. I will not say it is moral policing," he said.

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The Romeos of Hazratgunj: An elegy

In Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh wayward Romeos would all be in the lock-up

Sunil Sethi March 24, 2017 http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/the-romeos-of-hazratgunj-an-elegy-117032401470_1.html

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SEE ALSO:

Morality TV aur Loving Jehad: Ek Manohar Kahani https://youtu.be/9cG1OO_DlT8

P.S.

The above editorial commentary and reports are reproduced here in public interest are meant for educational and non commercial use

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