Guwahati: As the crackdown on child marriage continued in Assam, the police are now setting up additional prison facilities to house the accused, with two such arrangements in Goalpara and Cachar districts already in the offing.
While accused from different districts have already been moved to the facility in Goalpara, another such temporary jail is coming up in Cachar as well.
“We have got the approval for setting up a temporary jail. It will be established in a non-functional existing government premises near Silchar,” Cachar Superintendent of Police Nomal Mahatta told PTI.
He said building and other infrastructure are already available and security arrangements are now being put in place.
Mahatta added that the temporary jail will be used once the existing facilities run out of space.
In Goalpara district, a transit camp for doubtful and declared foreigners in Matia area is being used to accommodate accused in child marriage cases from neighbouring districts, a police official said.
“Some of the accused held in Nalbari, Barpeta and Kamrup districts are being brought to this temporary jail,” he said.
The first dedicated centre to put suspected and declared foreigners in Assam, the Matia transit camp has a capacity to house 3,000 inmates, with 68 people moved into it in the first batch in January.
The opposition has criticised the manner in which the drive against child marriage was being carried out, equating the police action with “terrorising people”.
Family members of those arrested have also been protesting against the operation.
The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has demanded that the Assam government provide a monthly assistance of Rs 2,000 to every woman whose husband has been arrested till he gets bail.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had said that the Assam government should have concentrated on increasing literacy levels if it was actually seized of the problem of child marriage.
At least 2,528 people have been arrested and 4,074 cases registered in the state so far as part of the crackdown that began on Friday.
With the large number of household heads, in many cases the sole bread earners, being arrested, protests were staged in different parts of the state with wives, children and family members coming out on the streets.
“Our menfolk have been taken away by the police, leaving us without anyone to look after or to provide food for us,” said Reshma Khatun, one of those protesting at Dhubri on Monday.
Justifying the action, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said teenage pregnancy accounted for nearly 17 per cent of over 6.2 lakh pregnant women last year in the state.
The state cabinet recently approved a proposal to book men who have married girls below 14 years under the POCSO Act.
Cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the age group of 14-18, the cabinet had decided.
The offenders will be arrested and the marriages declared illegal.
Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being identified as the primary cause, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).