Meerut: As couples prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day, a promise lurking in the BJP manifesto threatens to pour cold water on their enthusiasm: "Anti-Romeo squads" which will come into operation if the party is voted to power. But there appears to be some confusion about how it will be implemented.
While party chief Amit Shah has promised to set up these squads to prevent "harassment of young women students," some sections of the party read it rather differently. They insist that the action will be selective, targeting only those who harass "Hindu girls".
One of the people to take this view was BJP's national co-convenor Sunil Bharala, who had a police case filed against him two days ago for allegedly making a provocative speech at an election rally.
Speaking to NDTV on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Meerut, Mr Bharala said the squads will take action in cases of love jihad - a term coined for a romance between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman and a rallying point for some BJP leaders in the region, including its controversial legislator from Sardhana, Muzaffarnagar riots accused Sangeet Som.
"Love jihad targets innocent girls and lure them. The Muzaffarnagar riots took place because of this love jihad," said Mr Bharala.
Vigilante groups have been active in Meerut over the past few years and students say they don't find the promise of anti-Romeo squads reassuring.
Shubhi Srivastava, a final year student, said anti-Romeo squads may create more problems instead of solving them. "Young people should be given space and some freedom. While everyone has to maintain decency in public space there should be no place for violence," she said.
"Any squad should be under the supervision of the judiciary and not any political party," said Nirmal, a final-year engineering student.
A BJP spokesperson clarified that the squads would operate within the law and be set up at police stations. "Over the past 10 years, there have been regular harassment of students by anti-social elements and as a result the peace is disturbed," he said.