Seven performers were allegedly gang-raped after being abducted from a school during a play on human trafficking.
New Delhi: The rape of five street play artistes in Jharkhand two months ago was a bid to terrorise society, and the victims chosen at random, a fact-finding team sent to the site of the crime by a Kolkata-based NGO has said.
The findings were revealed at a press conference held by members of the team, constituted by Citizens of Justice, in Delhi Saturday. The team comprised Ashok Sahu a retired IPS, Sib Prasad Raju, a retired district judge, Suman Chauhan, an advocate in the Delhi High Court, Ankita Chaudhary, a Supreme Court advocate, and Debjani Ghosal, a lawyer in the Calcutta High Court.
On 19 June, five women and two men went to a Roman Catholic school in Kochang village to perform a street play on human-trafficking. During the performance, five people on two motorbikes entered the school campus and kidnapped the seven performers. Later, the women were taken to nearby forests and allegedly gang-raped.
The team visited the site of the crime, Kochang village in Khunti district, in two phases, on 26-27 June and 20-22 July, and interacted with the victims, the accused, and the eyewitnesses.
“We found that the victims were not the targets. The target was society. The culprits wanted to terrorise society,” said Sahu at the conference.
The team added that they suspected the perpetrators belonged to the Maoist group, the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI). “After the incident, PLFI expelled their leader of that area. Therefore, we think they are linked,” Sahu said.
The role of Maoists has been a line of investigation from the beginning, with police hinting at the possibility of their involvement since the incident occurred.
The team said there was “a nexus between outlawed Left-extremist organisations, illegal cultivation of marijuana and opium by villagers, the Christian missionaries and the pradhans of different gram sabhas”.
Talking about the arrest of the school’s principal, Father Alphonso Aind, Sahu said he as good as helped the culprits by not making any efforts to rescue the performers and informing police about the incident.
They also noted that the “collective failure of the local administration and government” in providing the basic amenities to tribal villagers was helping Maoists expand their influence in the area.
According to the team, they found the state-funded schools dysfunctional and no doctors at the local hospital”.
“For the last 70 years, the government is only giving slogans. They are under obligation to serve these tribals who do not have a voice,” said Sahu.
The team also submitted copies of their report to the union home minister, and chiefs of the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Women.