Gang rape in Jharkhand: 5 social activists kidnapped, raped and filmed

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New Delhi : Five social activists between the ages of 20 and 35 who were performing a street play in Jharkhand were kidnapped and then gang-raped in the forest area on Tuesday, the police said, adding that the rapists also allegedly filmed the assault on their cell-phones.

"We are not ruling out the possibility of the involvement of trafficking gangs and are investigating all aspects," police Ashwini Kumar Sinha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Rape has been confirmed by medical tests, the results of which were shared in court today.

Investigation is going on but nobody has been arrested yet. For now, the police are offering Rs. 50,000 as an award for any information that could help identify the attackers.

The women in their complaint said that they were performing a play to raise awareness about human trafficking in the largely tribal Khunti district of Jharkhand when they were abducted. A second police complaint or FIR filed by Sanjay Kumar, the leader of the troupe performing the play, blames a local priest along with unidentified others of allowing the abduction of the women. 

The victims work for Asha Kiran, an NGO which is supported by a local Christian missionary group, said police officer Rajesh Prasad to news agency AFP. Police sources said that troupes like the one that was targeted are being used by some local officials in an attempt to turn locals against Pathalgadi, an anti-establishment self-rule movement popular in several tribal villages. The sources said they are investigating into whether the attack has created tension in the area.

Similar case was noted on Tuesday, where unknown men picked up nine activists during the street play being performed in the Kochang village and drove them into a dense forest, where the men were beaten up and the women were raped, police officer Ashwini Kumar Sinha said to news agency Reuters. 

Asha Kiran runs a shelter home for the rehabilitation of rescued girls in Khunti district of Jharkhand, which has been identified as a trafficking hotspot. There are around 200 rescued girls in Asha Kiran's shelter. 

"We are still processing what has happened," said Rajiv Ranjan Sinha of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network - a coalition of 14 grassroots organisations working in the state. "This is the first time field workers have been targetted and it is both surprising and shocking. It is now going to become more difficult to work on this issue."