Days after five women -- anti-trafficking activists performing a street-play in Khunti district in Jharkhand -- were abducted and raped at gunpoint, police have made two arrests. The additional director general of police RK Mullick told Hindustan Times that the accused have confessed to abducting the women, raping and filming the act, and forcing them to drink urine after they were kidnapped on 19 June. Four are still on the run.
"Ajub Sandi and Ashish Longo, believed to be members of a rebel outfit People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and supporters of Pathalgarhi movement, were also identified by the survivors during TI (test identification) parade," Mullick said.
Alfanso Aien, a Christian priest and headmaster of the RC Mission school where the survivors were performing was also arrested for trying to hush up the crime. According to Hindustan Times, Aien did not report the crime and was suspected to have been familiar with the accused. When the men attacked the school, Aien apparently intervened and convinced them to spare two nuns associated with school. After that, he did not report the abduction to the police. The complaint was filed by the NGO the women are a part of.
According to The Indian Express, Jharkhand has recently witnessed the support for Patthalgadi taking the form of a protest. The report says that Patthalgadi is a tradition where local tribals set up stone plaques with names of their ancestors claiming some sort of a right over the land around. Recently, the supporters have actively been asking locals to not let police and other government officials enter the area and have been trying to establish the gram sabhas as absolute authorities.
Most news outlets have identified the women who were abducted and assaulted were part of the Asha Kiran NGO backed by a local Christian missionary. However, when HuffPost India contacted Asha Kiran in Jharkhand, an employee who didn't identify herself said that the women were part of a street theatre group. "They had been requesting a sister who works here for days to allow them to stage a play. Then one day the sister agreed and let them come along," she said. They were performing a play on human trafficking at Kochang village in Khunti district when the six accused attacked them and abducted them, along with four male colleagues. They were taken to the forests around the village where the men were beaten up and the women raped, filmed and made to drink urine.
The Hindustan Times report quotes the police saying that the plan to rape and torture the women was hatched by one John Jonash Tidu, leader of the Patthalgadi movement. They said that the incident was not motivated by 'lust', but Tidu instructed his associates to rape the women to teach the NGO a lesson for defying the diktats of the gram sabha.