Almost equal number of Hindus and Muslims arrested in child marriage crackdown, says Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma
Amid the uproar over the contentious crackdown against child marriages in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Saram, Wednesday, claimed that his regime ensured that almost an equal number of Hindus and Muslims were arrested in last month’s clampdown to fears that the action was not deemed communal in nature.
Speaking during his reply to a discussion on Vote of Thanks on the Governor’s speech in Assam Assembly’s Budget session, Sarma fired shots at the Opposition saying “I got some of our people pickup up too because you all feel bad”, while also revealing that the ratio of arrests of Muslims to Hindus since the February 3 crackdown is 55:45.
The chief minister said that such crackdowns will be repeated every six months to ensure that child marriage is eradicated in the state by 2026.
Taking more shots at the opposition, Sarma said that “some people are weeping for criminals” for not feeling the pain and anguish of 11-year-old girls who are forced into marriages and impregnated.
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CM Sarma claimed that according to the data provided by NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey), child marriages are mostly prevalent in Muslim-majority districts Dhubri and South Salmara and not in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia (Hindu-majority areas).
Sarma claimed that since opposition puts communal shades on his every decision, he asked the Dibrugarh Superintendent of Police “to pick up a few from there as well.”
He said the NFHS 5 data is corroborated by the NFHS 4 data which was collected during the Congress rule in the state, and like its successor, shows that the highest of underage marriages and childbirths are prevalent in lower Assam districts which has a higher Muslim population.
The Himanta Biswa Sarma led BJP regime’s decision to prosecute child marriages under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), has sparked a row in the northeastern state.
Opposition parties, led by the Congress have accused Sarma’s government of “terrorizing minorities” by slapping POCSO on those accused of marrying underage girls. Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia had said slapping of POCSO and rape cases on child marriage accused have created disturbances in the society with many old people getting arrested.
In a query by Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi, the Sarma informed the assembly that 4,111 incidents of child marriage took place in the state from April 2021 to February 2023.
He said that a total of 4,670 cases have been registered against 7,142 accused, adding that 3,483 persons have been arrested, of which 1,182 are in jail, 2,253 have got bail and notices have been issued to 48 others.
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