New Delhi– A group of women activists on Tuesday demanded immediate disbanding of the “anti-Romeo squads” in Uttar Pradesh and withdrawal of FIRs and complaints against Advocate Prashant Bhushan, filed over his tweet involving Lord Krishna.
In a joint statement, they said that these squads were a threat to women’s freedom, and added that the serious issue of violence against women and routine sexual harassment of women in Uttar Pradesh “cannot be addressed by setting up anti-Romeo squads”.
“We demand that the anti-Romeo squads be immediately wound up by the U.P. state, and women’s groups that have been engaged with issues of ending sexual harassment and violence against women for long periods of time be consulted to develop mechanisms to end such violence,” said the statement issued here.
The group of over 20 women activists who sought disbanding of the anti-Romeo squads included Aruna Roy of the National Federation of Indian Women; Syeda Hameed of the Muslim Women’s Forum; Indira Jaising, a lawyer and human rights activist; Dipa Sinha of the Right to Food Campaign; Vrinda Grover, Advocate, human rights activist; and Arundhati Dhuru of the National Alliance of People’s Movement.
Anti-Romeo squads were introduced by the recently-installed Yogi Adityanath government in the state to curb instances of eve-teasing, which was one of the poll promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It has already come to light that in many cases, these anti-Romeo squads have become an even greater source of harassment and fear for women and men, which has even been acknowledged by the DG Police, U.P…,” reads the statement.
These activists said the so-called anti-Romeo squads were being encouraged by a state, which “reneges on its own obligations to maintain law and order”.
They alleged the FIR against Prashant Bhushan was “a clear case of abuse of power” and demanded it to be squashed.
“Curbs on freedom of speech is not just intolerance, but in violation of the fundamental rights,” the statement said.
Bhushan had tweeted: “Romeo loved just one lady, while Krishna was a legendary eve-teaser. Would Adityanath have the guts to call his vigilantes anti-Krishna squads?”
However, he later apologised for his remarks on Lord Krishna.