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The enthusiastic supporters of the new Uttar Pradesh government are so excited by this new development scheme they’ve received called anti-Romeo squads that it feels heartbreaking to tell them they’re getting yesterday’s left-overs that have been warmed up.In December 2005, the nation was just learning that it wanted to know how to symbolically lynch people via television.Among the early lessons in this syllabus was Operation Majnoo in which police took along TV crews, entered a public park in Meerut and proceeded to beat up young couples sitting in the park. They also beat up a married couple who had come just to sit in the winter sun.They beat up a brother and sister from a village outside Meerut, who were passing the time till their lawyer’s appointment in the nearby district court. One couple was so terrified by the story being flashed all over the news that they ran away fearing punishment from their parents. They were finally brought back with tearful entreaties from their parents and married off. I wonder how that forced marriage at age 19 played out.

As these images played out over and over, the message they sent was not that sexual harassment would be punished, but that consensual romance would be turned into a spectacle of violence.

The reason I remember this -it is so easy to forget one of the many violent things we see on television -is that I went back a year later to make a film about it, and that is when I first heard the term Love Jihad, which was unofficially touted as one justification for the police action.

Anyway, so Majnu Madness has been re-branded Romeo RoundUps. We have Mahiwal Hatao left. After that, since love is not being allowed only, there will be no iconic brand name available, but maybe then we can get a multinational consulting firm to advice on the matter. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Some people are feeling a bit confused. How come those who have renounced fleshly desires are taking such a strong interest in them? Uncharitable people feel that talking about moral policing is just a violent way of talking about love and sex. But there is a slightly more technical confusion. As per the men who renounce worldly life, women, with their sinuous curves and wily charms, are temptresses who weaken the resolve of saintly men.They are thus the root of evil.

However, as per the current narrative, women seem to have no role to play in the tempting business. It is they who are being tempted and led astray by Romeos and Majnus (and soon Mahiwals). So what are women ­ the tempted or the temptresses?
Any reasonable person, who lives comfortably with the world of desire, will say, well, they could be either. Which would bring us to the central issue of consent. Some women may be in consensual amorous situations. Since this is about protecting women, the simplest thing would be to ask the women what they need; to act on their complaints in a timely and efficient manner.

What’s that, we hear?
Oh, it’s the sound of thousands of women laughing ­ those women who have complained about sexual harassment at the workplace, eve-teasing on the road, sexual assault and rape at home, cyberstalking and sexual cyberthreats from trolls, and heard from the police and the world that same question they hear from seekers of unimaginative phone sex ­ what were you wearing? Well, as long as women are under no misapprehension, that things like Romeo squads are for their protection, or a recognition of their consent, at least they’re saved from one kind of heartbreak.