The Assam Police continued with its crackdown on child marriage for the third day in a row, with the number of arrests touching 2,278 on Sunday. Police said that the arrests were made based on 4,074 FIRs which are filed across the state.
The highest number of arrests were made in Biswanath (139), Barpeta (130), followed by Dhubri with 136 arrests, the statement read. In Baksa, 123 arrests have been made, in Bongaigaon and Hojai, 117 arrests were made.
Chief Minister Himanta Sarma had announced on January 23 that the BJP government in the state will launch a statewide drive against child marriage and will book men marrying girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, and those marrying girls aged 14-18 under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA).
He asserted on Saturday that the drive against child marriage will continue till the next assembly elections in 2026, reported PTI.
However, the move has drawn flak from the Opposition parties in the state who have questioned the drive. Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi called the move a “PR exercise” for the CM.
“In Assam the people have completely rejected the initiative of the Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to crack down on child marriage. It seems the police are instructed to investigate cases that are decades old without proper enquiry or adherence to procedure. It’s a farce,” Gogoi said.
Assam Trinamool Congress unit President Ripun Bora said that the state government is “gross misusing the Child Marriage Act”.
“There should not be a pick and choose policy to target a particular community,” Bora tweeted. “In Mankachar, fearing that her parents will go to jail, a girl has committed suicide. It’s an effect of whimsical crackdown on the offenders. Pathetic.”
However, police have denied that the death was due to the crackdown.
Superintendent of police (SP), South Salmara district, Horen Tokbi, said, “She could have done it due to other issues related to her family. We cannot relate it to the Assam police’s drive against child marriage. We’ll investigate the matter further.”
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that to stop child marriages, education is the key.
“Experts have said that if you want to stop child marriages, you have to open a lot of schools, (but) you have not done that. You have closed down the madrassas too which were imparting some form of education,” he alleged. He also sought to know who will be responsible for the women left in the lurch following the arrest of the men of the house.
State Congress president Bhupen Bora said a humane approach was needed in dealing with the issue.
“We are opposed to child marriage. But what will be the benefit of disrupting settled families, with grown up children? It is nothing but a publicity stunt,” he said.
The AIUDF claimed that the stated government was cracking down on child marriage under provisions of the PCMA “without framing the requisite rules”. “Since it is a Central act, the states have to frame rules. From 2007 to 2014, the state was under Congress rule, and then under BJP. Why didn’t the government of the day frame the rules?” he had said.