New Delhi: As part of its state-wide crackdown on child marriages, the Assam Police has arrested over 2,200 people in the last two days.
Against the backdrop of what Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had called a “zero tolerance” approach, Indian Express has reported that police have largely ignored several women who, across the state, arrived at police stations and sought the release of their husbands, saying that they had entered such marriages of their own volition.
The situation in Dhubri district where police baton charged such women who had gathered outside the Tamarha police station, has been tense since Saturday, February 4, India Today has additionally reported.
In many reports, women who were quoted narrated situations where couples who had eloped as minors had now become adults and eventually, parents. These arrests, they said, were leaving households without primary earners in many cases.
On February 3, CM Sarma had announced the massive crackdown plan and said that Assam Police have registered 4,004 cases of child marriage in less than a fortnight, the news agency PTI reported.
Those having married girls below 14 years of age will be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the 14-18 years age group, the government said. They will be arrested and the marriages will be declared illegal.
If the boy is also below 14 years of age, he will be sent to a reform house as minors cannot be tried in the court.
On February 4, Sarma tweeted that the drive will continue.
The crackdown against child marriage continues for the second straight day with more than 2,200 people arrested so far. Our fight against this social crime will continue https://t.co/uBMFMwpvlr
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) February 4, 2023
Some opposition parties have questioned the timing and method of such a crackdown. Assam Trinamool Congress’s Ripun Bora was quoted by Express has having asked to why the CM did not act on the existing law against child marriage in all these years.
Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi called the exercise a farce.
AIUDF spokesperson Karim Uddin Barbhuyan issued a similar statement and said the police was “harassing illiterate people from economically weak background in the name of action against child marriage.”