The Assam government has launched a statewide crackdown on child marriage, with at least 2,258 persons – including 52 priests or qazis – arrested as of Saturday, 4 February, news agency ANI quoted Assam Police spokesperson Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan as saying.
The big picture: Terming child marriage an "unpardonable and heinous crime," Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted on Friday, 3 February, that "statewide arrests are presently underway against those violating provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act."
On Saturday, Sarma also said that those who were involved in marrying girls above 14 years of age will be charged with bailable sections. While those involved in marrying girls under 14 years of age will be charged under non-bailable sections.
'A complete war': The drive was launched on Friday after the CM chaired a meeting with senior officials of the police department on Thursday, 2 February, to "unleash a complete war" on child marriage.
"From tomorrow (Friday, 3 February), thousands of people who are involved in child marriage will be arrested. People involved in past cases of child marriage will also be arrested. And people who were involved in marrying girls below 14, they will be charged under the POSCO act."Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam CM
The CM stated that over 4,000 cases had already been registered as part of the campaign against under-aged marriages in Assam.
The numbers: Speaking to the media on Friday, Assam's Director General of Police (DGP) GP Singh said that as many as 4,074 FIRs relating to child marriage had been registered and 2,044 people had been arrested (as of 3 pm on Friday) in all 36 police districts in the state.
"Most of the arrests have been made in Biswanath, Baksa, Barpeta, Dhubri, Hojai, and Kokrajhar districts."GP Singh, Assam DGP
Why is this important? According to The Telegraph, Dhubri, Hojai and, Barpeta have majority Muslim populations while Baksa is a tribal district with a significant minority population. Biswanath also has considerable Mulsim and Adivasi populations.
'Not directed at any community': However, the CM on Thursday insisted that the drive was not directed at any community and requested citizens to support the campaign to end the evil practice. Most of the cases were registered suo motu, on the basis of intel provided by locals, he added.