Over 2,000 arrested in Assam’s child marriage crackdown, sparks protests
More than 2,000 people across India’s northeastern state of Assam were arrested Friday for allegedly marrying girls below 18. The Assam police booked them under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
On Day 1 of the major state-wide crackdown, 2,044 people were arrested, including priests who conducted child marriages. So far, the maximum number of arrests have been carried out in Biswanath district (137), followed by Dhubri (126), Baksa (120), and Barpeta (114), said Assam DGP G P Singh, adding “we have a list of 8,000 names accused.”
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It comes after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on 23 January announced that the state government would launch a state-wide drive against child marriages. While men who married girls below 14 would be booked under the POCSO Act, those marrying girls between 14 and 18 years would be booked under provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, he further mentioned.
The police teams met with no resistance on the ground, although some people had moved out of their homes, DGP Singh, speaking to the media, mentioned on Friday. “The information being received is that since the arrests have started, people are now not being found in their homes,” he said, adding the police would take some time to make the arrests.
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Nonetheless, the crackdown has also triggered protests by women who have criticised the state government for arresting their sons and husbands. “Why take only the men? How will we and/or our children survive?,” PTI cited a 55-year-old woman as saying.
Women whose husbands have been arrested would be enrolled under the government’s Orunodoi scheme for financial assistance to vulnerable women, CM Sarma mentioned on Thursday, just a day before launching the drive.