Catholic priest among 10 questioned in gangrape of Jharkhand women activists
A Christian priest was among 10 people detained and questioned in Jharkhand’s Khunti on Friday in connection with the abduction and gangrape of five anti-trafficking activists three days earlier.
Chief minister Raghubar Das held a meeting with the state’s director general of police (DGP) and other top officials to discuss the case, which has shocked the nation and drawn strong condemnation from several political and social leaders.
Four girls and a married woman, engaged with an NGO supported by Christian missionary, were abducted by bike-borne armed men while they were performing a street play at RC Mission School in Khunti’s Kochang block, about 90 km from Ranchi, on June 19 afternoon. They were forced to sit inside their car, taken to a nearby forest area and gangraped.
Two FIRs were registered in the case — one with women police station and another with Arki police station.
The FIR accuses Fr Alfanso Aien of the RC Mission School for not reporting/informing the police about women’s abduction and subsequent rape, said Khunti SP Ashwini Sinha.
Police said Fr Aien’s role was suspicious in the incident, because when the criminals raided the school premises, he had intervened and got the two nuns associated with the school released but did not make efforts to rescue the others.
“Fr Aien and others were detained for questioning in the morning and were later released on personal bond. We have also questioned school’s teachers Motaye Mundu and Robert Issa Purty and the NGO’s coordinators, sister Ranjeeta Kindo and sister Anita Nag. All have been asked to appear before the police on Saturday for further questioning,” the SP said.
Sketches of some of the accused have also been released and an award of Rs.50,000 has been announced for information on the accused.
Sources said the accused had shot a video of the crime on the cellphones of the victims and removed the chips before returning the gadgets to them.
“We discovered the video during examination of the victims’ cellphones,” Sinha said.
He said the five survivors underwent medical examination conducted by a medical board and their statements were recorded under Section 164 of CrPC before a magistrate.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) formed a three-member fact-finding committee that would visit the state on Saturday and submit its report and recommendation at the earliest. The Commission also sought an action taken report from the state DGP.
Police are also trying to find out links of the accused with the Pathalgarhi movement, which has of late, disturbed peace in Jharkhand’s hinterland.
Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by many tribal villages to declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority and rejects the authority of central or state government. Huge stone plaques and signboards, called Pathalgadi in the local dialect, have been put up outside tribal settlements and hamlets across Jharkhand’s Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and West Singhbhum districts, warning outsiders from entering, wandering, living or settling down in these villages.
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