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Five women engaged in an anti-human trafficking campaigns in Khunti district were allegedly abducted and gang-raped by armed men earlier this week, police said on Thursday.

“The survivors, engaged with an NGO supported by Christian missionary, were abducted by motorcycle-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 Tuesday afternoon,” said Ranchi range deputy inspector general (DIG) AV Homkar.

“They were forced to sit inside cars, taken to a nearby secluded place and raped,” he added.

“The perpetrators, who are Pathalgadi supporters, released the girls after three hours,” he said.

Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by several tribal villages in Jharkhand to declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, rejecting 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 in Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and West Singhbhum districts, warning visitors from entering or settling down in these villages.

Police officers said the NGO had taken a team of more than half-a-dozen to Kochang under the Arki police station, nearly 45 km from the district headquarters, to carry out an awareness campaign at the school. While, the team was conducting a street play, the armed men reached the venue at around 1 pm. Two nuns associated with the Christian missionary also accompanied them.

The abductors reportedly made videos of the incident and threatened the girls that the videos would be made viral if they disclose the incident.

The DIG, however, appealed to the media to report to the police if they come across any video regarding the incident.

“Three separate teams have been constituted to nab the criminals, some of them have been identified. Raids are on at suspected locations,” Homkar said refusing to divulge any further details.

“A medical board has been constituted to examine the victims. The two sisters, associated with the Christian missionary accompanying the girls, were not subjected to any crime. They were released safely,” said Khunti SP Ashwini Sinha.

A father associated with Kochang RC Church reported the matter to the police but there was no investigation. The organisation, then, lodged complaint with higher authorities, which is when the police swung into action.
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