In a horrifying incident, six men gangraped five women at gunpoint on June 19 at a village in Khunti district, Jharkhand. The women are NGO workers and had gone to the village to spread awareness about migration and human trafficking. The matter came to the fore when one of the five women called up a social worker who then filed a complaint at the police station.

The police haven’t arrested anybody yet, but claim to have identified suspects and started a search operation for them. While the incident happened on Tuesday, the police filed an FIR on Thursday. Ranchi DIG Amol V Homkar has formed three teams to probe the incident that happened at Kochang village.

The survivors said the men beat up their male colleagues and forced them to drink their own urine before locking them up in a car. The culprits then took the survivors to the forest, gangraped them and filmed the entire episode on their phones. The survivors said they held them captive for four hours

The police pointed out that the initial investigation directs their suspicion towards the people in the Pathalgarhi movement in tribal villages of the state. People, who are part of this movement, put up huge plaques announcing their gram sabhas as the only sovereign authority and ban ‘outsiders’ in their area.

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“The survivors, in their statement, alleged that the accused threatened them not to enter the area without their permission to propagate the government’s agenda,” Homkar told TOI on Thursday.

Had gone to perform street play

He added that all the NGO workers had gone to perform a street play on the perils of human trafficking in the village. On the way, a few men stopped them. They took them away at gunpoint in the same vehicle that they came to the village in.

“The survivors said that the men beat up their male colleagues and force them to drink their own urine before locking them up in the car. The culprits then took the survivors in the forest, gang-raped them and filmed the entire episode on their phones. The survivors said that they held them captive for four hours,” he said.

After the police was intimated about the incident, officers held an emergency meeting in Khunti on Wednesday. “We have identified the survivors and the men accompanying them. All of them are adults. An FIR has been lodged and a medical board has been set up. The board is conducting medical examination of the survivors,” Homkar said on Thursday.

Activists React

Rashmi Tiwari, who has has worked extensively in the villages of Jharkhand and Bihar, said: “It has always been unsafe to work in tribal areas. For social workers, firstly because local people don’t want them to work as they feel that it disrupts their social structure. For them, it is an accepted social norm that girls are sold to earn money for the parents. Secondly, the agents don’t want social workers to work there because they earn money through these girls. These agents are the local people only and specially the Naxalites.”

“With the Naxals, they also don’t want NGO workers to work because if development happens, then it will disrupt their structure as well,” – Rashmi Tiwari

Tiwari is the founder of Aahan Foundation that focuses on development activities to help progress the lives of tribal girls.

Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research, said: “My career started with working in tribal areas of Bastar. Not only is it difficult, it is also unsafe because the administration exploits the tribals to such an extent that any external agency entering into those areas is seen with suspicion. Tribals have a sense of mistrust with people who have come from outside and have not delivered enough. This is why tribals are hostile towards any outsiders.”

“Women are always the vulnerable targets. However, this is totally wrong, the girls went to bring a change in the lives of the people living in tribal areas and the people who targeted them are absolute predators and criminals.”

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