A "feudal" mindset was trying to instigate the poor people against the BJP government that was working to eradicate child marriage in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Monday.
Speaking in the assembly, Sarma said his government was working to eradicate child marriage by 2026, and special drives will be undertaken every two-three months.
"The opposition says they are against child marriage. However, this support (for the drive against child marriage) is always followed by a 'but'," he claimed, replying to a question by Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha.
Sarma said Rs 200 crore was allocated in the next year's budget for fighting child marriage, and a part of it will be used for paying advocates so that conviction is ensured. Besides, a dedicated helpline, awareness drives and rehabilitation of victims, among other steps, will also be undertaken, he added.
"If I see a 22-year-old girl getting admission for post-graduation in Guwahati, when I visit places such as Chenga or Baghbor (areas having a large Muslim population), I see a girl of the same age with two children in her arms and two in front of her," the chief minister said.
"The MLAs, doctors and engineers don't have so many children. But, when the government tries to do something for the poor, to save these young girls, they instigate the people that the BJP is trying to interfere in their lives," he added.
There is this "feudal" mindset that seeks one way of life for themselves, and another for the poor people, Sarma said. The chief minister said the drive against child marriage was being done as per law and hence, the court was not giving bail to the accused.
On Purkayastha's query about how will the police prove cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) as the victims may not be willing to testify against their husbands or parents, Sarma said it will not be a problem to establish the crime if there is a child out of the marriage.
"If there is no child, there might be a problem," he said. However, he expressed confidence that 90 per cent of the cases will result in convictions.