As more and more young men find themselves behind bars with the Assam government continuing its crackdown on child marriage, their wives are running from pillar to post to find documents to prove they were not underage at the time of wedlock.
Birth date errors in Aadhaar cards
Many affected families also claimed that identity documents with erroneous birth dates of women were cited by police for registering cases. A total of 2,241 arrests have been made so far in the state, based on 4,074 FIRs, as part of the crackdown launched four days ago.
An elderly resident of Bhuragaon in Morigaon district claimed that most of the child marriage cases were registered on the basis of data collected from local health workers, who keep track of pregnant women, lactating mothers and families with small children to ensure coverage of government schemes.
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These health workers use Aadhaar card information, as this is the latest document in possession of the villagers. However, errors related to birth dates have been spotted in the Aadhaar cards, but no one took serious note, he said.
Another villager, Jamaluddin, whose son Rajibul Hussain is in police custody, alleged that he was arrested based on the date of birth of his daughter-in-law as mentioned in the Aadhaar card. She had provided her Aadhaar details to our local ASHA worker during pregnancy. “We never knew that the mistake in the year of birth by the authorities will cost us so dearly,” he said.
His daughter-in-law has to now visit her paternal house in Morigaon town to fetch the old identity documents with the correct date of birth. The names of those affected have been changed to protect their identities.
Affected women moved to shelter home
The father of Rashidul Hussain, another youth of the same village behind bars in the case, also maintained that error in a government identity card led to his son’s arrest. The date of birth as per identity documents submitted to local health workers like ASHA or Anganwadi volunteers also led to Ronita Biswas and Simpi Roy Mondal landing up at a government shelter home in Morigaon, after their husbands’ arrest.
Also read: Assam Police arrest 1,800 people in massive crackdown on child marriages
Most of the women brought to the government shelters have been identified as per records furnished by the local health workers, and those pregnant or with young children have been given priority to ensure they are taken care of, a staff member of such a shelter home said.
These facilities have limited resources. “We are trying to make sure that women left alone and in need of help are given a place to stay till they can make proper alternative arrangements,” the member said.
Responding to allegations of arrests made on the basis of wrong information in identity cards, a police officer said such claims will have to be proved before court. “They have been using the Aadhaar cards and other documents to avail all government benefits. Why didn’t they point out such errors before?” he wondered.
“We will continue the drive as per law, and the accused and their families can take recourse of legal means for relief,” the officer added.
(With Agency inputs)