Guwahati (PTI): Amid protests in Barak Valley, Morigaon and Dhubri, the crackdown on child marriage in Assam entered the fourth day on Monday, with the number of arrests rising to 2,441.
A police statement said the arrests have been made based on 4,074 FIRs filed across the state.
"Total arrest so far - 2441. Crackdown against child marriage continues in Assam," Sarma tweeted.
He had earlier asserted that the drive will continue till the 2026 assembly elections.
The crackdown has faced criticism from the opposition, and demonstrations at various places by the affected families.
Protests were staged in different parts of the state including in Barak Valley, Morigaon, Dhubri and Nagaon districts, by the affected families.
"Our menfolk have been taken away by the police, leaving us without anyone to look after us or to provide for us," said Redshma Khatun, one of those protesting at Dhubri.
Till Sunday evening, 139 people were apprehended in Biswanath district, followed by 130 in Barpeta and 126 in Dhubri, the statement said.
Dhubri registered the highest number of FIRs against child marriages at 374 cases, followed by Hojai (255) and Morigaon (224), it added.
Meanwhile, seven people got bail in child-marriage cases in Rangia in Kamrup district.
The court of sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Rangia, granted bail to the accused, a lawyer said.
"More are likely to get bail here by the end of the day," he said.
Sarma had earlier said those facing Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) charges are under bailable sections, but the ones held under POCSO will face non-bailable charges.
Questioning the motive behind the crackdown, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that the Assam government should have concentrated on increasing literacy levels if it was actually seized of the problem of child marriage.
"Experts have said that if you want to stop child marriages, you have to open a lot of schools, (but) you have not done that. You have closed down the madrassas too which were imparting some form of education," he alleged.
Owaisi sought to know who will be responsible for the women left in the lurch following the arrest of the men of the house.
Assam Congress president Bhupen Bora said a humane approach was needed in dealing with the issue.
"We are opposed to child marriage. But what will be the benefit of disrupting settled families, with grown up children? It is nothing but a publicity stunt," he said.
Assam Jatiya Parishad chief Lurinjyoti Gogoi alleged that the government went ahead with the crackdown without assessing its impact on the people.
"The government should have thought of the situation the wives, families will face when the arrests happen. It was a haphazardly executed step," he maintained.
The AIUDF had on Saturday claimed that the Assam government crackdown on child marriage was conducted "without framing the requisite rules".
The state cabinet had recently approved a proposal to book men who have married girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the 14-18 years' age group, the cabinet decided.
The offenders will be arrested and the marriages declared illegal. If the groom is below 14 years of age, he will be sent to a reform house.
Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being the primary cause, according to reports by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
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Davanagere: Two sanitation workers died after exposure to toxic air while they were cleaning a municipality drainagein Basavanakote village of Jagaluru taluk on Monday evening.
The deceased sanitation workers have been identified as Sathyappa (45) and Mailappa (42).
The duo is said to have been working without taking precautionary measures, as ordered by the panchayat development officer (PDO).
The workers were admitted to the government hospital in Arasikere on having fallen ill after breathing the toxic air of the drainage. Since their condition worsened, they were shifted to the Davanagere district government hospital, but the workers died, having failed to respond to the treatment.
The locals have blamed the government officer for the workers’ death, saying, “The sanitation workers went ahead with their work as ordered by the PDO, without any masks and gloves. The negligible attitude and lapse on the part of the PDO has caused the death of the workers.”
Bilichodu Police have filed a case in this regard and the investigation is underway.