North East: Massive crackdown against child marriages in Assam; 1,800 held

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Guwahati, Feb 03, 2023, IANS

In a massive crackdown against child marriages in Assam, the police on Friday arrested at least 1,800 people across the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said.

Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of a programme here that the crackdown started on early Friday morning throughout the state, adding it would continue for 3-4 days.

The police have registered 4,004 incidents of child marriage in the last 10 days since the state Cabinet resolved on January 23 to take action. Many offenders have been arrested in this connection.

Police sources said the actual number of arrests can be ascertained only after going through the data from each district.

However, a senior police officer mentioned the number of arrests would be quite huge as more than 4,000 complaints have been registered.

Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, Inspector General of Police (IGP) (L&O) earlier said that the total number of arrests was 1,793 till Friday morning.

Dhubri, where 370 charges have been filed, has seen the highest number of arrests -- 136, followed by Barpeta (110), and Nagaon (100).

Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police, Dibrugarh district, Shwetank Mishra said: "Once the Assam Cabinet took a decision on this issue, the police officers began collecting intelligence inputs. Based on that, we have registered 83 cases here. Of them, in five cases, we can apply the POCSO Act."

The police officer further said that the exercise is being conducted as Assam has a higher infant mortality rate.

"When girls get married before 18 years, they get pregnant early and this accounts for the higher death rate of infants and mothers," he added.

CM Sarma had presided over a video conference meeting on Thursday night with senior police officers to discuss the police action that began on Friday.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will be used to file charges against those who have married girls under the age of 14, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be used to file charges against those who have married girls between the ages of 14 and 18, the state cabinet decided on January 23. They will be taken into custody, and the marriages will be ruled unlawful.

Sarma had earlier stated that the priests, kazis, and family members participating in the administration of such marriages would also be booked.