"Stop Child Marriage, Polygamy. Encourage Women Education": Himanta Sarma

"I always tell them, there is no problem in 'Miyas' being indigenous. But they cannot have two-three wives. That is not an Assamese culture," Himanta Biswa Sarma said

'Stop Child Marriage, Polygamy. Encourage Women Education': Himanta Sarma

Himanta Biswa Sarma government launched an intensive crackdown against child marriage


Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has asserted that Bengali-speaking Muslims must forsake practices like child marriage and polygamy to be considered 'khilonjiya' indigenous people of the state.

Sarma had also previously held the Bengali-speaking Muslim community of the state, most of whom have roots in Bangladesh, responsible for these social evils.

"Whether 'Miyas' (Bengali-speaking Muslims) are indigenous or not is a different matter. What we are saying is that if they try to be 'indigenous', we have no problem. But for that, they have to forsake child marriage and polygamy, and encourage women education," Sarma said on Saturday.

'Miya' is originally a pejorative term used for Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam and the non-Bengali speaking people generally identify them as Bangladeshi immigrants. In recent years, activists from the community have started adopting this term as a gesture of defiance.

He said the Assamese people have a culture in which girls are compared to 'shakti' (goddess), and marrying two-three times is not an Assamese culture.

"I always tell them, there is no problem in 'Miyas' being indigenous. But they cannot have two-three wives. That is not an Assamese culture. How can one encroach Satra (Vaishnavite monastery) land and want to be indigenous?" he maintained.

If the Bengali speaking Muslims can follow the Assamese customs, they too will be considered 'indigenous', the CM added.

The state government had launched an intensive crackdown against child marriage in two phases last year and it was found that many elderly men married multiple times and their wives were mostly young girls, belonging to the poor section of the society, Sarma had said earlier.

In the first phase in February last year, 3,483 persons were arrested and 4,515 cases registered while 915 persons were arrested and 710 cases registered in the second phase in October.

Sarma had asserted that the practise of underage marriage will be eradicated from the state by 2026 when the next Assembly elections are due.

In a bid to end child marriage, the state Cabinet had last month also approved a decision to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935.

The Act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21 years respectively, as required by law.

The opposition had termed the decision as a move to polarise voters ahead of Lok Sabha elections and asserted that it will sound the death knell for the BJP government at the Centre.

The chief minister had earlier said that the state government was planning to bring a bill to end polygamy in the state in the last budget session of the legislative assembly, but did not do so.

An expert committee had submitted a report on the assembly's competence to end polygamy following which 150 suggestions were received regarding the proposed bill to end the social menace in the state.

Sarma had also voiced support for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state.

The opposition parties had slammed the decision of the government to enact a law on polygamy as diversionary and communal, especially at a time when suggestions on the UCC are being received by the Law Commission.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)