A three-member team of the National Commission for Women (NCW) reached Khunti in Jharkhand on Saturday and met the five women activists who were allegedly gang-raped in Kochang village on June 19.
Additional Director-General of Police R.K. Mallik told journalists in Ranchi that all the six accused have been identified. Of them, two have been arrested. The police have also booked Father Alfonso Alien, who runs the missionary school in Kochang, for not reporting the incident despite witnessing it.
Senior police officials are said to be camping in Khunti district of Jharkhand to arrest the remaining four of the six culprits allegedly involved in the gang rape of five women activists in a secluded place near Laboda after they were abducted from Kochang village by five bike-borne youth on June 19.
Additional Director-General of Police, Jharkhand, R.K. Mallik told presspersons in Ranchi, “They were of the view that anti-Pathalgadi sentiments were portrayed in a nukkad natak (street play) by an NGO, and they wanted to teach the NGO workers a lesson.”
The victims had gone to R.C. Mission School at Kochang village to participate in an awareness programme on human migration and trafficking in girls. Kochang, in the Arki police station limits of the district, 90 km from Ranchi, is one of hundreds of villages in Jharkhand in the grip of the Pathalgadi (engraved stone plaques) rebellion, an anti-establishment, self-rule movement by tribal people.
Over 200 villages in Khunti, Gumla, Simdega and West Singhbhum district have green-painted stone plaques, measuring 15X4 ft., demanding self-rule and warning outsiders not to enter without permission. But the Kochang gram sabha, which met on Saturday, denied the police’s claim that supporters of the Pathalgadi movement were behind the rape. The villagers also identified one of the culprits from a photograph released by the Khunti police on Friday as Bali Samad, alias Takla, a member of the Maoist splinter group PLFI (People’s Liberation Front of India). However, speaking to a local news channel in Ranchi, a PLFI zonal commander denied that any of his group members were involved.
Motaye Mundu and Robert Issa Purty, teachers of R.C. Mission School, along with Ranjeeta Kindo and Anita Nag, nuns, were detained and questioned by the police. However, they were released later on personal bonds. The police released the sketch of one of the six accused and announced a reward of ₹50,000 for information about them.
“A massive manhunt is on to nab the culprits … three teams of police are behind them,” said Superintendent of Police, Khunti, Ashwani Kumar Sinha.