HAILAKANDI, Feb 6 (PTI): A 17-year-old girl allegedly died by suicide in Assam’s Cachar district after her family prevented her from going ahead with wedding plans with her lover, police said on Monday.
The incident occurred amid the state government’s crackdown on child marriage, which also led to the cancellation of several weddings of underage girls in Assam’s Barak Valley comprising Hailakandi, Cachar and Karimganj districts.
At least 2,442 people have been arrested in the state till Monday in the continuing operation against child marriage, launched on February 3.
In Dhalai area of Cachar district, a 17-year-old girl hanged herself on Saturday after her family refused her permission to marry her lover now, a police officer said.
“She had prepared to elope with her lover, but the family came to know about it and prevented her. There have been about 19 arrests in child marriage cases in neighbouring villages,” a relative of the girl said.
The number of arrests till Sunday evening was 243 in Barak Valley – 80 in Cachar, 82 in Hailakandi 82 and 81 in Karimganj.
A number of people have cancelled scheduled weddings since the drive started, according to wedding hall owners.
One such wedding was called off in Srimantakanishail village in Karimganj as the bride will be completing 18 years in two months.
“When the bride’s family brought this point up, both the families decided to postpone the wedding till the girl attains the legal age for marriage,” the owner of a wedding hall said.
The MLA of Sonia constituency in Cachar district, Karim Uddin Barbhuiya, urged chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to exempt those married for many years from police action.
In a statement, he said families are being disrupted and the future of the children of such families is at stake.
Barbhuiya urged the chief minister to stop ‘harassing the poor and weaker sections of the society’ in this drive against child marriage.
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 age group of 14-18 years, the cabinet 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 the primary cause, according to reports by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).