(Story UPDTED with Moradabad police response)
It could have been a scene from a major anti-terror operation to capture a dreaded terrorist. At least the locals in Moradabad's Thakurdwara area thought it was, when 40 policemen in eight SUVs, from Uttar Pradesh's so-called Anti-Romeo Squad, stormed a house on Sunday to capture a tutor and his woman student who were inside to collect some notes, according to a report in the Telegraph.
However an official of the Moradabad police dismissed the report saying that that many cops had not been pulled into action.
The police surrounded the house before dragging out the man who was allegedly paraded for a few minutes in the area and was seen by eye-witnesses begging the cops to let him go.
"We saw some policemen push a youth and a girl out of the house. While the youth was begging the police with folded hands to leave him, saying he had not committed any crime, a cop caught him by his collar and pushed him into a van," an eyewitness told the paper.
It seems someone had dialled 100 to report the two to police.
The Moradabad superintendent of police (rural) Akhilesh Narayan told the paper that the tutor and the student (whose names the paper withheld) were let off after interrogation. "The girl had gone there to collect notes," he said.
When HuffPost India contacted Ale Hasan, DSP, Moradabad (Co-Thakurdwara), he confirmed the incident but said the number of cops as reported by the paper was exaggerated. "We do not even have that many cops in the squad. One or two lady constables would have gone along with a few cops after a woman called on the dial 100 line to report that a woman had gone into the building. We brought them in, asked some questions and let them go," Hasan said.
The tutor alleged that he was treated like a "dreaded criminal". Only three days ago three policemen were suspended in Shahjahanpur after a video of them standing by while some people shaved the head of a youth as part of the Anti-Romeo drive went viral.
A group of leading women's rights activists yesterday called for the disbanding of these squads, saying that they have now become a greater source of harassment and fear for women and men.
When the right to personal liberty and privacy is compromised by these squads, the State must be held fully accountable for such violations, and must be made to restore the dignity of the citizens, who are targeted by these squads by adequately compensating them and acknowledging that their rights have been violated.
"These squads impose their own aggressive and arbitrary code through moral policing. It has already come to light that in many cases, these "anti-romeo squads" have become an even greater source of harassment and fear for women and men, which has even been acknowledged by the DG Police UP in his order of 22nd March and 25th March, 2017," the activists said in a statement.
"However, the DGPs order of the 22nd March also opens up the doorway for moral policing as it talks of leaving alone couples in public spaces if their conduct is well within the traditional code. The term traditional code is ambiguous and not defined which once again allows police and public interference into the people's privacy and the excesses thereof," the statement said.