Guwahati, October 3: More than 1,000 people were arrested on Tuesday in the second phase of a state-wide crackdown against child marriage in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
During the first round of the drive earlier this year, thousands were held across the state.
“In a massive crackdown against child marriage, Assam Police has arrested over 800 accused persons in a special operation, which began in the early hours of dawn,” Sarma said on X.
Later, he said that the arrest figure has gone up to 1,039.
Sarma said the number of arrests in cases related to the social menace is likely to rise as the operation is still underway.
The Assam government launched a crackdown against child marriage from February, with over 3,500 people arrested against around 4,300 FIRs, after the chief minister had announced a zero-tolerance policy against the social evil.
On September 11, Sarma had told the Assam Assembly that a total of 3,907 people were arrested in cases related to child marriage in the last five years, of whom 3,319 are facing charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).
However, courts have so far convicted only 62 people in cases against child marriage, he had added.
Reacting to the latest crackdown, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia said: “We cannot stop child marriage by means of police force. It has to be an inclusive approach by talking to the stakeholders.” There should not be harassment of people linked to old cases, and if any new case of child marriage has surfaced after the first drive in February, it is the “failure” of the Assam Police, he said.
“Education of people is essential to curb this menace. Along with police, other agencies like those related to child development and women upliftment should be engaged,” Saikia said.
Presenting the budget for 2023-24 in March, Assam Finance Minister Ajanta Neog had announced that the government would launch a ‘State Mission’ for Rs 200 crore to completely eliminate child marriage by 2026.
Under the mission, all gram panchayat secretaries in Assam were to be designated as child marriage prevention officers, she had said.
Neog had also stated that the police would continue to conduct intensive drives against violators of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006 every six months. (PTI)