Buckling under police pressure mounted by intensive searches, supporters of the Pathalgadi tribal rebellion in Jharkhand released four policemen abducted on June 26 in retaliation for a crackdown on their leaders for ordering the gang rape of five women activists earlier this month.A mob of nearly 300 Pathalgadi supporters on June 26 attacked BJP parliamentarian Karia Munda’s house in Chandidih village and abducted three police guards, Subodh Kujur, Vinod Kerketta and Siyyon Surin. That a fourth policeman, constable Nagendra Kumar Singh, was abducted came to light only after his release on Friday.South Chhotanagpur IG Naveen Kumar said Singh, who was part of a team that raided a nearby village, went to Munda’s house to drink water as he was not feeling well and was abducted.“The abductors released the four in a forest area from where they walked for nearly 40 minutes to reach Cyco police station at 2.30 am,” he said.“The four guards said they were kept in a school in Ghaghra village on June 26 and later shifted to the forest. Their rifles and magazines were recovered from the same village on Friday,” the IG said.The guns were in a heap of straw after police searched the village on information provided by the guards. Searches were also intensified in many villages and forest areas.Pathalgadi, a practice adopted by many tribal villages, involves the declaration of gram sabhas as the only sovereign authority — rejecting the supremacy of the state and central governments. Huge stone plaques — called Pathalgadi in local dialect — and signboards have been installed outside at least 100 villages in Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and West Singhbhum districts to dissuade outsiders from entering.This particular stand-off between police and the villagers started when five women tribal activists working with a Christian NGO were abducted by six men while they were performing a street play at RC Mission School in Khunti’s Kochang village on the afternoon of June 19. They were allegedly taken to a forested area and raped.After the incident, police arrested two local residents — Ajub Sandi and Ashish Longo — who confessed to raping the women at the behest of Pathalgarhi leaders John Jonas Tiru and Yusuf Purty. The leaders allegedly wanted to teach the activists a lesson for entering their village.Police also took Father Alfanso Aien, a Christian priest heading the school from where the women were abducted, into custody for allegedly trying to hush up the crime. On June 26, a police team raided Udburu village to arrest Purty but he managed to escape. They then proceeded to attach his properties.The same day, a mob of nearly 300 Pathalgadi supporters attacked former Lok Sabha deputy speaker Karia Munda’s house in Chandidih village and abducted the three police guards — identified as Subodh Kujur, Vinod Kerketta and Suyom Surin. Police said the rifles snatched from them are yet to be recovered.Police raided on Gaghra village, where the policemen were being held hostage, on June 27. At least 5,000 villagers, including women, put up a stiff resistance for over two hours. A villager died and more than 200 others suffered injuries. A group of villagers managed to whisk the abductees into the forest.Commenting on the release of the guards, chief minister Raghubar Das said the mission was yet to be completed.“We have to restore rule of law in the entire Pathalgadi areas. The Pathalgadi leaders are misguiding innocent tribal people and challenging the country’s sovereignty. These leaders, who teach the villagers to discard the government’s system, had applied for teachers’ job in government school. While they himself keep bank accounts with nationalised banks, they misguide the people to deposit money in an illegal bank set up by them,” Das said.