Over 2,000 people have been arrested in a massive crackdown on child marriages in Assam, the police said. The crackdown, as announced by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma yesterday, began early in the morning, and will continue for the next few days.
"Our crackdown against child marriage has started in Assam. So far we have arrested 2,044 persons. After instructions from Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, we have started a crackdown against this menace," said senior Assam Police officer GP Singh.
"All the district police chiefs were told to get in touch with respective village defence parties and prominent members of various communities. We have come across reports of child marriage in various parts of the state," he added.
According to the police, the district police chiefs were ordered to investigate reports of child marriages recorded in the state in the last three years. Following a thorough investigation, based on the data collected, over 4,000 cases were registered in the last two days.
"In the last two days, 4,074 child marriage cases were registered across Assam. We have registered cases from different districts and have arrested 2044 people," Mr Singh said.
The highest number of arrests were made in Biswanath, Dhubri, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, and Hojai districts.
The massive crackdown began after Chief Minister Sarma announced that the Assam cabinet has decided to double down on men who marry girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences or POCSO Act.
"State wide arrests are presently underway against those violating provisions of Prohibhiton of Child Marriage Act. 1800 + have been arrested so far. I have asked @assampolice to act with a spirit of zero tolerance against the unpardonable and heinous crime on women," Mr Sarma had tweeted earlier in the day.
Mr Sarma said the "war" against child marriage will be "secular" and no single community will be targeted.