Yogi Adityanath’s UP: Romeos in danger, cow vigilantes demand pound of flesh

New Delhi: If you are a non-vegetarian, be prepared to become a herbivore. If you are walking on the street with a person of the opposite sex, get ready to be treated like a criminal. Welcome to Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, where vigilantes of different kinds are now ruling the roost.

Take the anti-Romeo squad for instance. In Lucknow’s Hazratganj area, the squad targetted a young couple going on a rickshaw. While the man was detained for some time at the Hazratganj police station the woman was allowed to leave after a sermon on morality.

On Tuesday, the squad members targeted young couples who were out for some quiet moments together in the Lohia Park.

As the cops began behaving like moral police, they reminded one of lumpen elements of the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who usually run amok on Valentine’s Day, blackening faces of couples and assaulting them.

Sensing that the actions of the overzealous cops would hurt the image of the new government, Siddharth Nath Singh, the Health minister who is responsible for briefing the media, said that the anti-Romeo squads were meant to check eve-teasing at public places and not harassment of innocent people. “Young couples sitting in parks should not be harassed,” he said.

Security personnel in plain clothes have been ordered to ensure that every woman and girl student reaches home safely.

Lucknow SSP Manzil Saini is also on record that couples won’t be harassed. But moral policing cannot be wished away as the policemen were being deployed without being sensitised about the issue.

The Samajwadi Party government’s failure to provide a safe atmosphere was made an election issue by the Bharatiya Janata Party which, during the campaign, cited Gujarat as an example where women moved around even in the night without the fear of being teased or molested. That this has always been the case in Gujarat and not a result of BJP policies, was obviously not mentioned.

For the record, the SSP has constituted 23 anti-Romeo squads to check eve-teasing. Led by a sub-inspector, each squad will comprise five policemen including women constables. They will be on duty outside schools from 10 am to 2 pm six days a week. On Sundays the squads would be required to patrol public places.

But despite the government’s explanation, it does seem that the squads have provided space for harassment by the police. It may also encourage vigilante elements to complain to the police against couples, especially inter-religion or inter-caste couples, who are together consensually.

Equally excessive was the government’s decision to seal illegal mechanised abattoirs meant for buffaloes. As teams of officials went around looking for such slaughter houses, even goat meat vendors went scurrying for cover. So ham-handed was the drive that even the big cats in the Lucknow zoo had to be fed chicken.

The iconic Tunday kababi of Chowk had to shut shop in the first half of Thursday because of non-availability of buffalo meat. He has temporarily switched over to chicken and mutton kebabs.

The drive against meat acquired a communal hue when three butcher shops were set ablaze in Hathras.

In all, 20 illegal shops and slaughter houses were shut on Wednesday under the supervision of Lucknow Nagar Nigam’s chief veterinary doctor Arvind Kumar Rao.

The state has only 285 licensed abattoirs and licenses of many of them have not been renewed for the last two years.

Meat business in UP was worth Rs 17,000 crore last year. Western UP alone accounted for Rs 14,000 crore worth of meat export.

Closure of mechanised abattoirs was another of BJP and Amit Shah’s poll promises, one which played on the Hindu sentiment. The party had very subtly moved from cow slaughter to closure of illegal abattoirs affecting buffalo and goat slaughter in the state. This will adversely affect lakhs of people dependent on meat trade in UP, many of whom are Muslims.

The ascent of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister has generally emboldened right wing vigilantes. In another reported incident, this time in Meerut, a group is seen thrashing Muslim women in Yogi’s name. Apparently, one of them shouted “Aa gaya tumhara baap yogi. (Your father Yogi has come)”.

Yogi himself has several cases against him and faces charges such as rioting, attempt to murder and endangering the lives of others.