Khunti police on Friday released a photograph of one of the suspects in the gangrape of five women in Kochang village, about 80 km from state capital Ranchi.
A reward of Rs 50,000 has also been announced for any person giving information leading to the arrest of the suspects. The police said that nearly half-a-dozen persons were involved in the crime, which the police say was filmed by the accused.
Khunti Superintendent of Police Ashwani Kumar Sinha said: “Three police teams have been constituted to identify and trace the culprits. We are yet to recover the video but a photograph that has come to light has been released. We have also announced a cash reward of Rs 50,000. Investigations are on.”
A couple of people detained initially for questioning have been released.
Sources said it is being inquired whether the local administration was informed about the awareness campaign on human trafficking being conducted at the school in Kochang from where the culprits reportedly abducted the women participating in a street play.
The women were taken to the woods in nearby Loboda on Tuesday, and raped there, the police have said.
Sister Julia, head of the shelter home in Ranchi, said: “Asha Kiran shelter home for children, which runs the centre for (trafficked) children rescued, began operations in Khunti in 2009. Sister Ranjita, who handled affairs there, was well known to the (local) administration. She must have contacted them. But I don’t know what has happened — I have not been able to get in touch with her since the incident.”
Sister Ranjita could not be contacted.
Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an activist against human trafficking active in Khunti for many years, said: “The incident underlines vulnerability of such activists. Even government employees who go into interiors to raise awareness about various issues face threats. It must be found out whether the local administration was kept in the loop, considering that various kinds of movements, which are decidedly anti-government, are being carried out.”
Asking why the incident came to light after a day, Rishi Kant said, “Those at the school should have alerted the administration earlier.”
According to investigations so far, the women were taking part in a street play at a missionary school in Kochang when six people arrived on motorcycles and asked them about details of the play. “They told the women that such initiatives were part of government efforts and, therefore, such activities wouldn’t be allowed in the area where pathalgadi (autonomous rule through gram sabhas) has been carried out,” an official said.
The accused then took the women at gunpoint to the forest and raped; a video was reportedly shot. The victims were later left back, threatened to keep quiet or else the videos would be made public.
Kochang is a pathalgadi-affected village and the entire area around it too has been in the grip of pathalgadi supporters —- the suspects in this case are pathalgadi supporters.
Patthalgadi, a traditional tribal practice, has been given a twist in the last one year through which the villagers claim that the tribal are the supreme power and the writ of Indian government would not run in these areas.