Anti-Romeo or extortion squads? India Today exposes the thuggery

The India Today investigation found out how the anti-Romeo squads in Uttar Pradesh not only harass people but also implicate innocents in false cases.

At the most, they were mocked as moral police for swooping on parks, forcing youth to do sit-ups or slapping dating couples in full public view. But an India Today investigation has discovered a disturbing phenomenon in the very crop of Uttar Pradesh police on which the Yogi Adityanath administration has raised anti-Romeo squads purportedly for women’s safety in the state.

The probe found members of the new contingents out not only to harass but implicate innocents in false cases, ready as they were to resort to blatant thuggery for bribes.

Their new role as anti-Romeo police, found out the India Today investigation, was a mere cover for abuse of authority.

In Meerut’s Transport Nagar, sub-inspector Onkar Nath Pandey offered tips to the network’s undercover team on how to have an innocent man rounded up for no crime.

Pandey, the local head of an anti-Romeo squad, also promised to plant weapons on him, a fictitious business rival that India Today’s investigative team used as part of its probe.

“What I am saying is he should have a companion first (on the street). Even if that’s a man. Take him into confidence. Let there be a scuffle after drinks. Let that man provoke him (your rival). He’d lose his senses. Then call the police who will pick him up. He’ll be prosecuted,” Pandey suggested.

“Will he be sent to jail?,” asked the reporter.

“Definitely, he’ll go to jail. We’ll frame him in a weapons’ case and he’ll be imprisoned,” claimed the anti-Romeo chief of Meerut’s Transport Nagar.

He demanded Rs 50,000 for the dirty job. “It (the bribe) should at least be 50,” Pandey said.
“Rs 50,000? What will be done in Rs 50,000?” inquired the undercover journalist. “He’ll be sent to jail,” Pandey replied.


Sub-inspector Vineet Verma, the head of an anti-Romeo squad at a Bulandshahr police station, asked India Today’s investigative team to send the target’s photo to him on WhatsApp.

He needed no written complaint in order for him to act. In the conversation recorded on secret cameras, he was ready to harass, beat up or even torture an innocent.

“Nothing in writing (is needed). We’ll have him slapped, etc. We’ll have it done,” Verma said.

His counterpart at Agra’s Nai Ki Mandi, Ved Prakash, proposed to entangle the fictitious character in an unresolved case of rioting.

“Police were attacked near Haweli Garib Khan. A lot of stone-pelting also happened. A case is registered against 150 people in the rioting,” he recalled. “We will have warrants issued for him from a magistrate court. The day he arrives here, let us know. We’ll take the warrants and put him in. He will be named in the FIR against 150 unknown people,” Prakash said.


The racket was found to be running deep in the national capital region as well.
Babuddin, part of a special operations group at Ghaziabad’s Loni police station, promised on-demand action, saying any case could be slapped on an innocent person in exchange for hefty bribes.

“There will be a cost involved but there is work to be done by police. We will have to put in many hours in preparing a good case against him. Then, we will be able to pick him up from where ever we want. He may be hiding in any corner of the world. We can slap any case against him,” he said.

The plot centred around an imaginary man in a consensual relationship with a woman. “All depends on how much you are paying us. For six months in prison, you’ll have to give Rs 3 lakh. He will be behind the bars in 36 hours,” Babuddin said.

Soon, his team joined in to firm up the nasty plan. They all agreed to pick up the fictitious character from his dating spot, have his call details dug out and take into custody over cooked-up charges.


Amitabh Thakur, Inspector General of Uttar Pradesh Police, said India Today’s expose raises real issues.
“Laws per se and their implementation must not be blamed. 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,” the cop said.

Uttar Pradesh power minister Shrikant Sharma said the investigative report has shocked him. He promised to take action against those responsible.

“Your sting operation will make our administration more proactive. But the good work of the anti-Romeo squads cannot be ignored. The rowdies who used to harass school and college-going girls are now afraid of the police. Our plan is working across the state,” Sharma said.

He said they have inherited lawlessness from the past Samajwadi Party government. “We will take action against the people you identified on camera,” the minister said.

One of the first policy decisions of the Yogi Adityanath government, after coming into power in March this year, was to start anti-Romeo squads to check eve-teasing and ensure safety of college-going girls.

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