Anti Romeo Squad: How Prashant Bhushan communalised the rightful anger against moral policing

When Tajinder Bagga starts making so much sense, it's time for liberals like Bhushan to really rethink if their strategy of hurting the Hindu-sentiment is helping them further their cause

Many Shakespeare lovers are incensed that the good name of Romeo from the Montague family has been hijacked by Yogi Adityanath’s cops. They are mighty pissed that the anti-Romeo squads meant to crackdown on eve-teasers and stalkers are giving a bad name to the tragic character in Shakespare’s Romeo and Juliet. One of these Shakespeare lovers is the eminent lawyer and anti-corruption activist Prashant Bhushan. In fact, he goes a step ahead and suggests that the name of Lord Krishna should be used to drive Uttar Pradesh police’s drive against eve teasers.

His logic? Krishna was a “legendary eve-teaser” and so his name better suits the purpose of Yogi Adityanath’s hunting down young men who, in turn, are out to hunt young women. He opined this on Twitter. Evidently, the comment didn’t go down well with the Hindu Right-wing. Surprisingly, even the pseudo liberals took offence to this. Tajinder Bagga, Delhi BJP spokesperson, filed a complaint against him and so did an UP Congress leader. After the hue and cry over his tweets, Bhushan tried to calm people down by a ludicrous argument that his mother was a Krishna believer and there is a painting of Lord Krishna in his house—and that his comments were being taken out of context.

The fact of the matter is that by dragging Krishna in the whole debate, Bhushan completely communalised the legitimate anger against moral policing being carried out in Uttar Pradesh. While on prima facie the UP cops job is to take to task young boys stalking and teasing women, many couples have been harassed with even husband and wife and brothers and sisters being accosted.

So there is genuine disgruntlement against turning UP into a police state and asking any young boy about his intention of roaming around on the street, an example of direct infringement of a citizen’s privacy. But Bhushan’s tweets has deviated the attention from these cases of police excesses. By bringing in Krishna and calling him an eve-teaser, he failed the liberal cause of creating a society devoid of moral policing and moral judgement, of creating a society that gives precedence to individual choices. He has given the right-wing more reasons to throttle the freedoms we enjoy on street and on social media spaces. Lord Krishna is not only idolised by the political right-wing but also by many common Hindus in India.

Also, roadside Romeo is a common word to describe eve-teasers. It’s hasn’t been coined by either Yogi Adityanath or Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So blaming the Yogi government for giving a bad name to Romeo is misplaced.

Agreed, Bhushan has the right to freedom of speech just like any other Indian but what use is our right to freedom as activists if we only employ it to agitate and irritate peopleand spread hatred? What use is our freedom of speech if it doesn’t help us in furthering the cause we stand for as activists, as writers, as an informed civil society? And finally, what if Yogi Adityanath renames his squads as anti-Krishna. Will that justify moral policing? What is it that he stands against? The apparent distortion of a Shakespearean character or moral policing. Because his tweets clearly give out that he is more concerned about the former than the latter.

When I rang up Tajinder Bagga to counter his action of filing an FIR against Bhushan, I was left quite defenceless. A man who is notorious for trolling people and using hyper-nationalism to justify violence actually made sense to me. He said:

“Mr Prashant Bhushan has all the right to criticise anti-Romeo squad. He can to the Police, to the court to any other platform as he pleases. But by dragging the name of Krishna, he is hurting the sentiments of one particular community. I am not in support of couples being harassed neither is Yogi Adityanath. Such activities will be strictly dealt with. As citizens it is your responsibility to report any such injustice, any such event. I found Bhushan’s tweet offensive and that’s why I filed a complaint against it. “

When Tajinder Bagga starts making so much sense, it’s time for liberals like Bhushan to really rethink their strategy of getting their point across. They have to decide: will they stoop down to the level of trolls with the purpose of undermining Hindu sentiments or remember what Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”