A total of 12 people were detained by the police in an investigation into the gangrape of five women in Khunti, Jharkhand. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, two nuns and two teachers of the RC Mission School in Kochang block in Jharkhand’s Khunti district were also detained and questioned by the police.
Five women, including four young girls, were reportedly abducted and taken away to be gang-raped by a group of men on Tuesday. The women were part of an NGO. They were reportedly performing a street play to create awareness against human trafficking. A group of men abducted the performers in a car and gang-raped them in a nearby forest. The perpetrators even reportedly made videos of the crime.
Jharkhand police have launched a man-hunt operation after they were informed by social workers a day later. According to reports, though the incident happened in the school premises in the presence of the priests and nuns, none of them had complained to the police. 2 FIRS, registered in Arki police station and women’s police station respectively, names Father Alphons Aiens for not reporting the incident despite witnessing it. The police reportedly find his role suspicious as he had intervened after the criminals came to interrupt the street play. The priest allegedly got 2 nuns released but made no attempts to help the women.
Teachers of the school, Motaye Mundu and Robert Issa Purty, along with nuns Ranjeeta Kindo and Anita Nag were detained and questioned by the police. None of them had reported the incident. They were later released under personal bonds and will be called for questioning later. All five women victims are reportedly from Adivasi community.
The National Commission for Women has sent a 3 member team, led by undersecretary Preeti Kumar to probe the matter. DIG Ranchi Anmol V Homkar has reportedly informed that 3 separate teams have been formed to probe the matter.
Preliminary investigations have reportedly pointed that the criminals were associated with the Patthalgarhi movement. The movement propagates the ideas of tribal gram sabhas being the only sovereign authority in tribal areas and warns ‘outsiders’ against entering tribal areas. The victims have reportedly stated that they were threatened by the perpetrators not to enter the area without their permission to ‘spread government agenda’. The male colleagues accompanying the women were reportedly beaten up and made to drink their own urine. The Patthalgarhi movement has been a cause of worry for state governments of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The movement even demands Adivasi children not being sent to government schools. Khunti district has also been under the effect of the movement.
The state BJP has demanded the formation of fast-track court in the case and punish the criminals within six months. According to some reports, PLFI (People’s Liberation Front of India) leader Kushal Munda and his associates are allegedly involved in the matter. PLFI is a terrorist organisation operating in the state. PLFI is reportedly a breakaway faction of the CPI(M) and has been involved in murders and several attacks in Khunti district in the past.