The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its election manifesto before the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, promised to create “Anti-Romeo Squads” which would be deployed near colleges to ensure the safety of girls and to keep a check on eve-teasing. Just two days after taking office as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath ordered the immediate formation of an Anti-Romeo Dal in 11 districts of the Lucknow zone. This was announced for women’s safety.
In a recent sting operation by India Today, it seems the situation has worsened. The Anti-Romeo squads have denigrated into harassment and blackmail.
As reported by the media house, “The Anti-Romeo squads are a way to trap innocent citizens into cases fabricated by the police themselves.”
As part of the sting, a team of undercover reporters of India Today questioned officers of the Anti-Romeo squads only to discover that they have no trouble implicating innocents in false cases for money.
How to frame an innocent in a false case?
To various police officers, the undercover reporters asked the question, “What can be done with Rs 50,000?”
In Meerut’s Transport Nagar, sub-inspector Onkar Nath Pandey, the local head of the Anti-Romeo squad replied, “He can be sent to jail for that kind of money. However, since the case will be false, we’ll need to maneuver proofs.”
Babbudin, an inspector of the Special Operations Group (SOG) said, “The jail time will depend on how much money you pay. To put him in custody for 6 months, you will need to pay Rs 3 lakh. In 26 hours, he can be put in jail.”
The police chief of Loni, Ghaziabad said, “If you come to our police station, we’ll take care of the man. Give us in writing properly, and “we’ll ensure his treatment”. There is a tea stall outside, go have some tea and clearly state your requirements – don’t worry this conversation will not be disclosed.”
Vikas Baghel, one of the heads of Anti-Romeo Squad, said, “I don’t work with lathis, I play mental games.”
“What do you mean by mental games?” asked the undercover reporter.
“Torture,” the inspector replied.
His counterpart at Agra’s Nai Ki Mandi, Ved Prakash, proposed to entangle the innocent man in another case.
“We won’t pick him up now. Right now, we’ll only issue a warrant on his name and address. When the magistrate gives the warrant, we’ll keep it with us. You just tell us when you want him to be arrested, and we’ll get it done. Even getting a bail will be difficult for him,” Prakash said.
UP police response on Operation Romeo
After the video aired, UP police chief Sulkhan Singh asked the Additional Director Generals (ADGs) in Meerut and Agra to submit a preliminary probe on India Today TV’s OperationRomeo by Tuesday. He also asked for the career records of all four cops exposed in the findings. A detailed probe will be carried out by the Uttar Pradesh Director General headquarters, reported India Today.
“Laws per se and their implementation must not be blamed,” said Amitabh Thakur, inspector general, UP police. “For women from the upper echelons of society, a Romeo wandering the streets is not a problem. But for women in smaller areas, these are real issues. Your expose raises those real issues.”
State power minister Shrikant Sharma termed the findings shocking. “It is very unfortunate that such things are happening in our administration,” he said. “We will take action against such people. Your sting operation will make our administration more proactive. But the good work of the anti-Romeo squads cannot be ignored.”
The Logical Indian take
India Today has brought to light massive corruption in Uttar Pradesh Police.
Groups that were established to tackle harassment are resorting to harassment themselves, and they show no sign of guilt for the same. Their justice falls outside the purview of law as they boldly ask for bribes and roam with complete freedom and disdain towards rights, rules and regulations.
It is the police which should ensure that no crimes are committed by citizens, however, due to their sluggish attitude, jails have become a den of corruption.
Tampering with evidence, distorting facts, losing files, deliberately ignoring credible lines of enquiry and extracting confessions under torture are serious crimes. Despite this, the policemen in the video seem fearless.
Such apathy towards the law weakens the entire justice system.
The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts taken by India Today reporters to uncover corruption in the Anti-Romeo Dal. While condemning the statements made by the policemen, we urge Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and UP police chief Sulkhan Singh to probe into the matter and take strict action against the officers who frame innocents for bribes.