Romeo Montague (Italian: Romeo Montecchi) is one of the title characters in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Romeo, the son of Montague and his wife, secretly loves and marries Juliet, a member of the rival House of Capulet. Forced into exile by his slaying of Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, in a duel, Romeo commits suicide upon hearing falsely of Juliet’s death.
In 2017 India, Romeo Montecchi, the 17-year-old protagonist of William Shakespeare’s famous play ‘The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’ has morphed into a whole new avatar. He is no longer someone who loves deeply and is willing to die even at the thought of his loved one being hurt. India’s Romeo is someone who stalks women, harasses them, brainwashes them into loving him, takes them out to parks, cafes and even movies in complete violation of our cultural practices and proud traditions. He is a blot on the face of our 5000-year-old civilization and is someone who has to be stopped before things get out of hand. A job that the state machinery is more than willing to undertake.
The constitution of the anti-Romeo squad by India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, to keep young boys and girls within the bounds of a traditional society is a move that has to be welcomed by every proud Indian who cannot help drawing upon our ancient and glorious culture. The anti-Romeo squad is a step towards preserving that glory in which we, and our ancestors, have basked for the last several thousand years.
Just imagine a scenario where there are no anti-Romeo squads and boys and girls are free to intermingle with each other, probably fall in love and, God forbid, marry each other. If there are no anti-Romeo squads, how will we perpetuate the purity of races, when boys and girls will want to walk up to the altar without any consideration for religion, race or caste?
How will the parents of girls ruin themselves to pay some random stranger for the favour of sleeping with their daughter in the name of marriage and then provide them with grandchildren who will be the ‘solace of their old-age’? Anti- Romeo squads are a boon to the Indian society, and are an important step towards preserving our cultural practices. If you have to perpetuate the purity of each of the 6000-odds castes we have, you should have anti-Romeo squads.
If you want to ensure that your girls don’t marry out of their own choice, anti-Romeo squads are what you need. If you want to make sure that the boy’s parents get a good dowry for their son then an anti-Romeo squad are a necessity. If you want to protect the sanctity of your prospective bahu and make sure that you are getting a virgin daughter-in-law, anti-Romeo squads are just what the doctor prescribed. Imagine a scenario, where there are no anti-Romeo squads. Young men and women will get to spend time with each other. They will probably find out not only each other’s likes and dislikes, but also what they themselves would like in a partner. Imagine a situation where our young people begin to reject the random stranger that their parents present before them as life partners and start demanding more ‘compatible’ wives or husbands.
And horrors of horrors imagine our youngsters discovering the joys of sex for pleasure and not just as a sacred duty for procreation.
The idea of anti-Romeo squads is neither new nor unique. Their philosophy has been perpetuated in various ways, whether it is by our indignation against women in short skirts, our displeasure with couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, our resentment of women celebrating New Year’s Eve or our ire against young people in pubs.
When we have created a society where even relationships as sacred as marriage are based on religion, caste and gotras, our outrage against the anti-Romeo squads reeks of hypocrisy. Don’t we all want to keep our daughters in check before that ‘perfect stranger’ comes along, agrees to the right amount of money and gold, and we can announce to the world that our daughter is now ready to be wedded to and bedded by a man she has probably never seen before. Anti-Romeo squads are completely compatible with a patriarchal society, which for long has found its pride in keeping its women under control under the guise of ‘protection’. In a society, which specifies what a girl, should eat (or drink), how a girl should dress or what kind of jobs she should hold, it is but the next step to tell her whom she should hang around with, fall in love or even get married.
So instead of all this outrage against the anti-Romeo squads it is time that we accept them as the next logical step in our society, which celebrates both hatred of the other and patriarchy with impunity.
Either that, or we go back and question our celebrated traditions and culture, which we are so proud of.
*The post was earlier published in India Resists
Asma has done her Masters in Journalism and worked with several newspapers in Bangalore and Chennai. She is an activist, a full-time mother, and a sometime media consultant with several organizations.