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Families protest arrests as questions mount on child marriage crackdown in Assam

Suicide triggered by the crackdown highlights widespread fears in the state

Sabrangindia 06 Feb 2023

Assam

With over 4,004 cases of child marriage registered in Assam, the Assam Police continued with its crackdown in the state for the third day  and arrested about 2,441 till Monday morning.

A few days ago Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sarma had announced that the Assam government will launch a statewide drive against child marriage and will book men marrying girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, and those marrying girls aged 14-18 under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. 

District wise cases filed

 

 

Families in many areas of Assam protested the sudden enforcement of measures by the authorities. Many young women with their infants and even pregnant women stood outside police stations for hours, shedding tears as they cried out for the release of their husbands. In some parts of Assam, women gathered in front of the police and media, shouting and pleading, "If our husbands are being taken, then take us too, who will take care of us?"

Muslim women waiting, protesting with kids in tow across police stations across Assam demanding release of their husbands, sons or brothers.

 

 

According to information from DVM and community volunteers of the CJP team, family members of those arrested and a large number of villagers protested outside the Tamarhath Police Station in Dhubri District, demanding the release of their loved ones. However, the police used a lathi charge to break up the crowd.

It is worth mentioning that various organizations and conscious individuals, including All Assam Minority Students (AAMSU), have been organizing awareness programs against child marriage for several years in Assam.

However, this harsh decision by the government has sparked a strong reaction among the general public and opposition political parties.

Congress leader and MP of Barpeta, Abdul Khaleque, spoke out on Thursday about the situation. He stated, "We are always against child marriage and it should be prevented. We support the government's stance on this issue. However, the arrest of a couple married for seven years is not acceptable. These couples already have children, and if their parents are taken into custody, who will take care of them? Will the government provide for them or send them to an orphanage?" He also pointed to the Indian Constitution, stating that the current arrests violated the 20th Section of the Constitution. He added, "There is no denying that there was a mistake, but the sudden arrest of couples married for seven years is not the right way to handle it. The people have not given the government the authority to destroy families."

Sherman Ali Ahmed, MLA of Baghbor LAC, also spoke to the media regarding the child marriage drive in Assam. He stated, "I welcome the step taken by the government, it is a good one." However, he raised a question, "Himanta Biswa Sarma, I want to request you, this is not a new law, the law has been in place for years. Why did the District Commissioner, Superintendent of Police or other administrators allow child marriages to take place right under their noses? They should also be arrested along with the husbands who are being arrested now. How did they let it happen and now they are making arrests?" He added, "The law has not been passed recently, but the administration only started to act after the CM's speech. The administration should follow the law, not just act when the CM speaks about it."

In response to the question of how the families would be taken care of, Sherman Ali said, "It's not possible to take care of a family by just giving them the Arunadoi Scheme." The Arunadoi Scheme was launched by the Assam Chief Minister as a direct transfer of funds to beneficiaries. He also urged that they should not be charged under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. He said, "They should not be charged under POCSO, just keep them in jail for two months and then release them. Our main objective is to curb child marriage, and the message has already been sent to society."

In a tragic incident at Jhaudanga Puber village in Mankachar-South Salmara district, a widow named Khushbu Begum took her own life out of fear of being arrested. Her husband had passed away during the COVID pandemic and she was left with two children. She had gotten married around 11 years ago. Out of fear, she returned to her parents' home and expressed her worries. According to reports, she told her father that she couldn't stay in jail and the following night, one of her children found her lifeless body hanging. This is just one example of the shock and fear among marginalized people throughout Assam.

Local news reports the young woman’s death

Ripun Borah, the president of the Assam state Trinamool Congress, reacted on Twitter saying, "In Mankachar, fearing that her parents will go to jail, a girl has committed suicide. It's an effect of a whimsical crackdown on the offenders. Pathetic!"

 

 

Coming close on the heels of a controversy over the film ‘Pathan’, Assam’s Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, an expert at grabbing headlines, seems now to be giving a definition of 'illegal husband'. However, the tragedy of the suicide in Mankachar and the widespread fear among the state’s marginalised population highlights the cost of such cold calculations. 

Related:

Hate Watch: Himanta Biswas Sarma on ‘Love Jihad’ during the Gujarat poll campaign

Assam: New criteria for government jobs singling out minorities?

Is the Assam CM’s push for a “two-child policy” a tactic to exclude minorities?

 

Families protest arrests as questions mount on child marriage crackdown in Assam

Suicide triggered by the crackdown highlights widespread fears in the state

Assam

With over 4,004 cases of child marriage registered in Assam, the Assam Police continued with its crackdown in the state for the third day  and arrested about 2,441 till Monday morning.

A few days ago Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sarma had announced that the Assam government will launch a statewide drive against child marriage and will book men marrying girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, and those marrying girls aged 14-18 under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. 

District wise cases filed

 

 

Families in many areas of Assam protested the sudden enforcement of measures by the authorities. Many young women with their infants and even pregnant women stood outside police stations for hours, shedding tears as they cried out for the release of their husbands. In some parts of Assam, women gathered in front of the police and media, shouting and pleading, "If our husbands are being taken, then take us too, who will take care of us?"

Muslim women waiting, protesting with kids in tow across police stations across Assam demanding release of their husbands, sons or brothers.

 

 

According to information from DVM and community volunteers of the CJP team, family members of those arrested and a large number of villagers protested outside the Tamarhath Police Station in Dhubri District, demanding the release of their loved ones. However, the police used a lathi charge to break up the crowd.

It is worth mentioning that various organizations and conscious individuals, including All Assam Minority Students (AAMSU), have been organizing awareness programs against child marriage for several years in Assam.

However, this harsh decision by the government has sparked a strong reaction among the general public and opposition political parties.

Congress leader and MP of Barpeta, Abdul Khaleque, spoke out on Thursday about the situation. He stated, "We are always against child marriage and it should be prevented. We support the government's stance on this issue. However, the arrest of a couple married for seven years is not acceptable. These couples already have children, and if their parents are taken into custody, who will take care of them? Will the government provide for them or send them to an orphanage?" He also pointed to the Indian Constitution, stating that the current arrests violated the 20th Section of the Constitution. He added, "There is no denying that there was a mistake, but the sudden arrest of couples married for seven years is not the right way to handle it. The people have not given the government the authority to destroy families."

Sherman Ali Ahmed, MLA of Baghbor LAC, also spoke to the media regarding the child marriage drive in Assam. He stated, "I welcome the step taken by the government, it is a good one." However, he raised a question, "Himanta Biswa Sarma, I want to request you, this is not a new law, the law has been in place for years. Why did the District Commissioner, Superintendent of Police or other administrators allow child marriages to take place right under their noses? They should also be arrested along with the husbands who are being arrested now. How did they let it happen and now they are making arrests?" He added, "The law has not been passed recently, but the administration only started to act after the CM's speech. The administration should follow the law, not just act when the CM speaks about it."

In response to the question of how the families would be taken care of, Sherman Ali said, "It's not possible to take care of a family by just giving them the Arunadoi Scheme." The Arunadoi Scheme was launched by the Assam Chief Minister as a direct transfer of funds to beneficiaries. He also urged that they should not be charged under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. He said, "They should not be charged under POCSO, just keep them in jail for two months and then release them. Our main objective is to curb child marriage, and the message has already been sent to society."

In a tragic incident at Jhaudanga Puber village in Mankachar-South Salmara district, a widow named Khushbu Begum took her own life out of fear of being arrested. Her husband had passed away during the COVID pandemic and she was left with two children. She had gotten married around 11 years ago. Out of fear, she returned to her parents' home and expressed her worries. According to reports, she told her father that she couldn't stay in jail and the following night, one of her children found her lifeless body hanging. This is just one example of the shock and fear among marginalized people throughout Assam.

Local news reports the young woman’s death

Ripun Borah, the president of the Assam state Trinamool Congress, reacted on Twitter saying, "In Mankachar, fearing that her parents will go to jail, a girl has committed suicide. It's an effect of a whimsical crackdown on the offenders. Pathetic!"

 

 

Coming close on the heels of a controversy over the film ‘Pathan’, Assam’s Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, an expert at grabbing headlines, seems now to be giving a definition of 'illegal husband'. However, the tragedy of the suicide in Mankachar and the widespread fear among the state’s marginalised population highlights the cost of such cold calculations. 

Related:

Hate Watch: Himanta Biswas Sarma on ‘Love Jihad’ during the Gujarat poll campaign

Assam: New criteria for government jobs singling out minorities?

Is the Assam CM’s push for a “two-child policy” a tactic to exclude minorities?

 

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