The Assam Police have arrested over 1,800 people so far on Friday in a massive crackdown on child marriage, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
The crackdown began early in the morning across the state and it will continue over the next three to four days, Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of a programme here.
The police had registered 4,004 cases of child marriage in less than a fortnight since the state cabinet decided on January 23 to take action, with the arrest of offenders and a simultaneous launch of an extensive awareness campaign.
The chief minister said the crackdown was continuing and a clear picture will emerge by evening on the number of arrests and the districts from where those were made.
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The highest number of 136 arrests so far has been made in Dhubri where 370 cases have been registered, followed by 110 in Barpeta and 100 in Nagaon.
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.
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.
The priests, kazis and family members involved in the conduct of such marriages will also be booked, Sarma had said earlier.
”Assam Govt is firm in its resolve to end the menace of child marriage in the state. So far @assampolice has registered 4,004 cases (of child marriage) across the state and more police action is likely in days ahead. Action on the cases will begin starting February 3. I request all to cooperate,” the CM tweeted on Thursday.
Sarma chaired a virtual meeting with the superintendents of police in the presence of Director General of Police G P Singh on the state-wide police action.
He appealed to the people to extend support and cooperation to “rid the state of the evil practice”.
Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being the primary cause as an average of 31 per cent of marriages registered in the state are in the prohibited age, according to reports of the National Family Health Survey.
Of the 4,004 cases of child marriage registered recently, the highest was reported in Dhubri (370), followed by Hojai (255), Udalguri (235), Morigaon (224) and Kokrajhar (204).
Hailakandi district reported only one case, while 24 were reported in Dima Hasao and 35 in Cachar.