Guwahati: The Assam Police arrested over 2044 people on February 3 in a massive crackdown on child marriage, Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the media. The number will undoubtedly increase as police operation continues across the State. The crackdown against the offenders of child marriage began early in the morning across the State and will continue over the next three to four days, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in Guwahati.
The highest number of 136 arrests so far has been made in Muslim majority Dhubri District, where 370 cases of child marriage have been registered. This is followed by 131 in Biswanath Chariali, 110 in Barpeta and 100 in Nagaon, 92 in Hojai, 89 in Kokrajhar, 83 in Bongaigaon, 79 in Karimganj, 76 in Goalpara, 71 in Cachar and 60 in Morigaon District.
Assam police had registered 4,004 cases of child marriage based on complaints and data provided by competent authorities. All these cases were reported in less than a fortnight since the State cabinet decided on January 23 to take stern action against child marriage, with the arrest of offenders and a simultaneous launch of an extensive awareness campaign against the dangerous impact of child marriage on a girl’s life and society as a whole.
Chief Minister Dr Sarma said that the crackdown would continue and a clear picture would emerge by evening on the number of arrests made.
It should be mentioned that on January 23, the Assam Government, in a cabinet decision, instructed the police to act as per law against illegal child marriages across the State. As per the cabinet decision, men having married girls below 14 years of age will be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and those having married girls between 14-18 years of age will be booked under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 group.
If the boy is also below 14 years of age, he will be sent to a reform house, as minors cannot be tried in court. The priests, Kazis and family members involved in such marriages will also be booked, Chief Minister Sarma said in a press briefing on January 23 after the cabinet decision. On February 2, Chief Minister Dr Sarma informed via social media that 4004 cases of child marriage were registered across the state along with the district-wise breakups. He tweeted, “Assam Government is firm in its resolve to end the menace of child marriage in the state. So far, Assam police have registered 4,004 cases (of child marriage) across the state, and more police action is likely in the days ahead. Action on the cases will begin starting February 3. I request all to cooperate,”
Of the 4,004 cases of child marriage registered recently, the highest was reported in Muslim-majority districts Dhubri (370) and, Hojai (255), Morigaon (224). Many cases were registered in the Udalguri (235) and Kokrajhar (204) districts with a substantial Muslim population.
On February 2, late night Chief Minister Dr Sarma and the newly appointed DGP G P Sing, and top police officials chaired a virtual meeting with the superintendents of police on the State-wide police action against child marriage. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed to the people to extend support and cooperation to “rid the state of the evil practice”, which is one of the prime reasons for the high percentage of MMR in the state. Assam has recorded the highest Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) rate in the Country.
Assam also has a high rate of infant mortality, and an average of 31 per cent of marriages registered in the state are at the prohibited age, according to reports of the National Family Health Survey.
These offenders will be arrested as per the provisions of the law, and these marriages will be declared illegal.