Assam Police will arrest 2,000 to 3,000 more men in the next ten days as part of its campaign against child marriage, said Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
In February this year, the BJP government in the northeastern state had launched an unprecedented, punitive crackdown against child marriage in which around 3,141 people had been arrested within a span of a month.
A significant portion of those held come from marginalized communities, including Muslims and tribal populations. 62.24% of those arrested were Muslims, while the rest were people from other communities including Dalit and Adivasi communities.
The arrests were made in four Muslim dominated districts Nagaon (224), Hojai (219), Dhubri (217) and Barpeta (174) and Baksa (179).
The arrests earlier this year sparked protests by women who opposed filing criminal cases against their family members. Many activists argued that the police crackdown failed to address underlying structural issues such as poverty and illiteracy contributing to child marriages.
“Six months ago, I had gotten 5,000 people arrested for child marriage. I was waiting for G-20 [summit to conclude], and now, within 10 days, another 3,000 men will be arrested for child marriage,” said Sarma at National Executive of the BJP Mahila Morcha in Guwahati on Sunday.
He said: “This needs to be stopped. There is a law made that this should not happen, but if this keeps happening time and again, then the daughters of a particular section will never be able to go ahead. They will always be the targets of oppression.”
Sarma added: ““Today, some people say that I am anti-Muslim. But I think that by ending talaaq, polygamy and child marriage, the amount of work we’re doing for Muslims, no government of the Congress has ever done. We don’t see them as a vote back. We want that there be liberty and freedom for women from oppression.”