Published:  11:06 AM, 12 April 2017 Last Update: 11:13 AM, 12 April 2017

India's anti-harassment squad : Helping or intruding

India's anti-harassment squad : Helping or intruding
In Uttar Pradesh, a special police squad has been set up to fight eve teasing - a local term for sexual harassment. But the move has led to allegations of moral policing. The BBC's Vikas Pandey spent a day with the squad in Allahabad city.

In a public park, a young couple try to hide as they spot the squad. "Please come out. We are here for your safety," Niraj Kumar Jadaun, assistant superintendent of police and head of the squad, tells them.

The boy emerges and asks for forgiveness, only to be reassured by Mr Jadaun that he has done nothing wrong.
After a brief conversation, the couple manage a faint smile before disappearing into the park. 

"Some people are scared of cops. And that's the perception we have to fight against," he says. "But eve teasing is another reality that we need to fight against."

Niraj Kumar Jadaun wants to win the trust of young people. Police in Uttar Pradesh established the squad due to rising reports of sexual harassment. There are no reliable statistics and police say that in most cases women don't report harassment. But most women have a story, or several, to tell about inappropriate or abusive groping, language or behaviour.

A total of 1,400 officers have been deployed to anti-harassment squads across the state. Each squad includes three uniformed officers and a female officer in plain clothes. They patrol in cars and on foot, targeting areas where they get most complaints about harassment.

So far there have been mixed results. Some squads have made headlines for "moral policing" and there have been reports of couples being harassed and even beaten up.

But Rahul Srivastava, chief spokesperson of the police, said that only "a handful" of officers were making mistakes.
"We are repeatedly training our staff about the dos and don'ts," he said. "We have suspended nine officials so far for violations. Our instruction is clear that consenting adults should not be disturbed."

Mr Jadaun says upbringing can be to blame. "In some cultures it's still a taboo for a boy and a girl to sit together in public places. So some cops who think on similar lines end up indulging in moral policing," he says. "But their number is very small."

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