|A police officer slaps a youth during Operation Majnu in Meerut on Monday. (Above) The same officer grabs a woman. (PTI)
Lucknow, Dec. 21: Monday’s police attack on couples at a Meerut park wasn’t a drive against eve-teasing gone berserk.
A senior official of the Uttar Pradesh government said the thrashing of young men and women, including married couples, before TV cameras at Gandhi Bagh was meant to be just that: a crackdown on couples who the moral police felt were being amorous.
“The police had decided to act after receiving complaints from some traders that young couples kissed each other at the park,” the official said. “The complainants said it was embarrassing for older citizens too see the boys and girls in that state of ‘moral turpitude’.”
A group of police officers then decided on a raid under Operation Majnu ' supposedly a state-wide drive against sexual harassment ' to teach the couples, mostly college-goers, a lesson “on behalf of their parents”.
“The stated reason ' catching eve-teasers ' was just an excuse,” the official said.
On the basis of a preliminary inquiry, the state government today suspended four police personnel, including the Meerut additional superintendent (city) and two policewomen, and ordered a probe by a retired judge.
To make their victims’ humiliation complete, the police had tipped off local and national television channels beforehand. As the women cried for mercy, they were abused, slapped repeatedly and forced to turn their face towards the TV cameras.
Two of the 30-odd couples failed to reach home after the traumatic experience and are still untraced two days after the incident.
One couple has been identified by the police as “Anshu and Bittu”. Bittu’s mother Lata Devi today came to a police station and broke down. The police have refused to identify the second missing couple.
“They might be staying in some friends’ place. We will persuade them to return home,” a senior officer said in Meerut.
At least six other couples have fallen ill.
Operation Majnu ' aimed at curbing sexual harassment, cyber cafe sleaze and mobile phone camera smut ' has repeatedly been misused, a senior home department official said.
The drive was apparently okayed by the state police chief in February last year, though the home department says it was in the dark at that time.
The officials got to know of it later when, during raid on a cyber cafe in Aligarh, the police humiliated young men and women clients before the camera.
In Allahabad, the police put alleged eve-teasers inside a cage-like prison van and drove them all around the city.
“There’s a streak of perversion among some officers that prompts the police to do this sort of thing,” a secretary-level officer in the home department said.
“We have suspended the Meerut (city) additional police superintendent, Umesh Kumar Srivastava, and circle officer of the area, Mukul Diwedi,” the principal secretary, state home department, said.
Alok Sinha added: “Two others placed under suspension are inspector Madhu Malti and sub-inspector Mamta Gautam. Criminal cases will be drawn up against the officers.”
The National Human Rights Commission and the National Women’s Commission have sought reports.