Jharkhand is on the boil again; this time, because of the five theatre artists of a non-government organisation (NGO) who were gang-raped on Tuesday by at least half of dozen men in Kochang village of Khunti district, Jharkhand. The accused allegedly filmed the incident on their mobile phones and threatened the women it would be made viral if they approached the police.
All of the five victims had been engaged in an anti-human trafficking campaign by an NGO and they had travelled to Jharkhand to raise awareness through their Nukkad Natak (street plays) on migration and human trafficking issue. While they were performing the play, they were forced to sit inside the car, taken to a nearby forest area and gang-raped.
National General Secretary of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), Rakesh Kumar condemned the incident and demanded that accused should be arrested immediately.
Speaking to NewsClick, Rakesh said, "The Jharkhand unit of IPTA has already taken up the matter and has intervened effectively. National Committee directs its units to protest against the incident in coordination with other progressive organisations."
"The Gang Rape of the five anti-trafficking campaigners in Jharkhand brings to the focus the safety of anti-trafficking campaigners; We have to reach the remotest villages & conflict situations to ensure young children & women don't fall prey to traffickers," Rishikant, the spokesperson of an NGO named Shakti Vahini who worked on human trafficking in deep interior villages told NewsClick.
Without naming any NGOs, Rishikant further added that when you are working in the Naxal areas, you should inform the local police to avoid such horrific incident, but some organisations work beyond their limit and land themselves in trouble and create problems for others too.
Over being asked that there is a rumour that the accused could be tribal, Rishikant said that he and his team are working since long but this kind of an incident has never had happened with them. For a journalist sitting in Delhi, it is very easy to blame anyone and to believe in the fake news without fact checking. But there must be a standard operating procedure for the people, journalists, and workers, and safety guidelines as well that need to be followed before visiting such areas.
Jharkhand is among the top five states in India that have reported increasing cases of human trafficking, with traffickers targeting poor villages, convincing vulnerable families to send their daughters away for employment, said Rishikant.
National Commission For Women (NCW) has also formed a three-member fact-finding committee that is visiting the state and will submit its report and recommendations at the earliest.
Speaking to NewsClick over the telephone, NCW chairperson, Rekha Sharma said, "The team has already reached Ranchi on Friday night and they will be reaching on the spot today late night. I can only update you once the team reaches there."
She further added that she has also written a letter to Jharkhand Police director-general DK Pandey over the issue but has not received any update yet.
"Out of the five victims, four are tribals, not the accused. Further investigation is going on and we will very soon nab all the accused. The incident happened while they were performing a street play at RC Mission School in Khunti’s Kochang block," Ashwini Sinha, SP, Khunti said.