Five Women Gang-Raped in Jharkhand, Pathalgadi Supporters Accused
June 22, 2018
Five young women were gang-raped in Khunti, Jharkhand after they had performed a street play against human trafficking.
“The incident happened on June 19 when all the women, including a married one, had gone to R.C. Mission School in Kochang village in Khunti district, some 90 km from Ranchi. Police officials said some motor-cycle borne armed men abducted the women — who were performing at the R.C. Mission School — took them to secluded place and gang raped them. The culprits also recorded the incident on their mobile phones and threatened the women it would be made ‘viral’, if they would approach police,” reported the Hindu.
“The perpetrators released the women after three hours… a case has been lodged and manhunt is being launched to arrest those involved in this heinous act,” said Ranchi range Deputy Inspector General of Police, A.V. Homkar. Three separate teams of police have been constituted to nab the criminals, some of whom have also been identified, said the police official. Meanwhile, they also said that those involved in the crime are also engaged with the Pathalgadi (stone engraving) movement in the area,” the report added.
In a report by The Indian Express, Khunti SP Ashwani Kumar Sinha said, “An FIR has been registered. We have spoken to the victims. They have told us that the accused asked questions like why they had not come when they (pathalgadi supporters) staged a programme. They also questioned their presence as it was related to the government’s initiatives. The men then allegedly assaulted them sexually. Efforts are on to identify the culprits. We have also formed a medical board for examination of the victims.”
Pathalgadi is a tribal movement picking up steam in tribal and Adivasi Jharkhand villages where large green stone plaques are erected with white words engraved on them. The white words are statements from the constitution of India and declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority and banning ‘outsiders’, including government officials, from their area.
It is said that the rapists, who allegedly belonged to the Pathalgadi movement, didn’t like the women entering their area for work unrelated to their gram sabha and suspected them of being government servants. The women belong to an anti-human trafficking NGO from Khunti district.
“Kochang is one of several villages in Khunti district where Pathalgadi movement has, of late, gained political and social steam. But, those involved with the movement have denied their involvement and said it was all police propaganda to defame them,” said a report by The Hindu.
In an earlier report by The Hindu, they spoke about the Pathalgadi movement in Kochang. “In police records, Kochang is part of the Left Wing Extremist (LWE) corridor. It was here that the biggest Pathalgadi ceremony was held on February 25 this year. Thousands of Adivasis from nearby villages, armed with bows and arrows remodelled as wooden rifles and AK-47s, took part. Despite receiving information about it, the local police and paramilitary personnel stayed away. On the face of it, the village looks like any other in the area, a mass of mud and thatched houses nestling between hills and green fields. At the entrance, a Pathalgadi with a fresh coat of green paint declares the village a ‘prohibited zone’ for outsiders. Among other things, the plaque states: “Adivasis have the right over the land they live in. Adivasis are the owners of natural resources. Voter IDs and Aadhaar cards are anti-Adivasi documents,” the report read.
First published in Sabrang India.
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