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Congress Under Fire for Using 8-Year-Old Girl in Rally Against BJP

A suo moto case has been registered by Lakhimpur police in the incident. The child’s mother, who is a member of the Congress women's' wing in the area, has been detained and booked under various sections of the IPC and Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

Karishma Hasnat | News18

Updated:June 9, 2018, 11:45 AM IST
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Congress Under Fire for Using 8-Year-Old Girl in Rally Against BJP
A suo moto case has been registered by Lakhimpur police in the incident.
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Guwahati: Assam Congress came under criticism after it allegedly forced an eight-year-old girl to take part in a Congress protest rally against fuel price hike in Assam’s Lakhimpur district on Wednesday. The incident triggered angry reactions from different groups, including the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights as well as students’ organisations.

The little girl was made to sit on a betel nut leaf sheath and dragged along the roads under the blazing June sun. A host of Congress members along with her mother marched behind, chanting anti-BJP slogans.

Meant as a symbol of Congress’ resistance movement against price hike, many criticised the party for using the child as a pawn in a political protest.

However, the child’s mother, who is a member of the women’s wing of Congress in Lakhimpur, remained unapologetic. She maintained that it was a ‘symbolic gesture’ and asserted that the incident must have lasted for ‘only a minute’.

“It is not a crime to put my child on the ‘dhokua’ (betel nut leaf sheath) during the protest. It was a symbolic gesture blown out of proportion by media. It was to depict that tomorrow we might have to use the ‘dhokua’ as means of transport for school kids because of the constant hike in fuel prices. My daughter’s act was for a very short duration, probably, a minute or so,” said her mother.

A suo moto case, however, has been registered by Lakhimpur police in the incident. The child’s mother has been detained and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

“We have registered a suo moto case as no organisation came forward to lodge a complaint. Necessary action will be taken against those found guilty.

The girl’s mother has been detained, and the matter has been lodged under Sections 120B/294/153/501 of the IPC and Juvenile Justice Act. Investigation is on,” said Sudhakar Singh, Superintendent of Police, Lakhimpur.

The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) has also taken suo-moto cognizance of the incident under Section 13 of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.

It identified the incident as a punishable offence under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) units in Lakhimpur also condemned using the child as an ‘insensitive’ act, adding that it was meant purely for ‘political gain’.

“What the Congress has done is simply unacceptable. In the name of protest, they are using an innocent child to bring about an emotional impact in the price rise issue,” said Niren Barua, AJYCP Secretary.

The Congress has offered an apology. Referring to the child’s mother, it described the incident as an ‘emotional’ expression of a party worker and added that party members had ‘failed to notice’ the child due to the protest.

“It’s wrong, and we are ready to face punishment as per law. We were so busy with the protest that we failed to notice this little child. It was not a deliberate decision. Her mother got emotional,” said Dr Joy Prakash Das, Lakhimpur district Congress president.

The protest was part of the party’s Vishwasghat Divas (Betrayal Day) demonstrations. The day was observed across the country on the fourth anniversary of Modi government and its failure to fulfil promises.

(With inputs from Sanjib Lahan)

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| Edited by: Wajid Shamsul Hasan
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