- BJP had promised to form squads to target men who harass women
- A crucial part of the training is about how to spot a 'romeo'
- 3 cops were suspended for shaving a man's head for sitting with a woman
Mr Sikera has been tasked with training cops to be part of the state's anti-romeo squads, set up soon after the BJP government of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took over. The party, which won a landslide mandate in the assembly elections in March, had listed among its key promises setting up the squads to target men who harass women.
The police officer's task is not easy. A crucial part of his training session is about how to spot a "romeo" and on how cops assigned to the squads must behave. The squads have the chief minister's go-ahead, but have been advised not to trouble couples. This after video emerged of a woman police officer making couples do sits ups in Jhansi outside a popular hangout for youngsters and three policemen were suspended for shaving a young man's head for sitting with a woman in a public place.
At the workshop, "one policeman announced in a very proud manner that his presence in a public park scares away most people there, particularly couples," said a police officer requesting that he not be named.
Mr Sikera wants to correct this perception.
Videos of news reports showing couples being troubled by anti-romeo squads are played out and he says, "Suppose a boy and girl are sitting together and chatting. Is that harassment? No. But suppose the girl draws a line and says I don't want to chat more and the boy persists, that is harassment," he says.
"So if a boy and girl are sitting together that does not require intervention. But if you see a girl looking uncomfortable... and we as policemen are trained to spot this... then, we will intervene," he adds.
"A camera will be with our teams at all times. We all have mobiles. Your first instinct should be to start recording before your first intervention. That will bring down allegations of harassment," says Babita Singh, another senior police officer holding sessions.
A 54-year-old Shiv Narayan Singh, senior sub inspector posted in Ambedkar Nagar district, is seated at the front of the class. Mr Singh has been a policeman for three decades and grudgingly admits that changing mindsets is a tough task.
"That is why these training sessions are very important," he says, adding, "Suppose my daughter is having coffee somewhere and an anti-romeo squad reaches there and starts asking questions. Would I like it as a father? No."
The UP police say such training sessions are held twice every week for batches of 50 officers, both men and women. Senior officers will be trained too in a few months.