- The incident took place on Tuesday evening at Erki's Kochang
- An 11-member team had gone to hold street play against human trafficking
- Armed men interrupted performance, took the women away at gunpoint
"We are not ruling out the possibility of the involvement of trafficking gangs and are investigating all aspects," police Ashwini Kumar Sinha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Rape has been confirmed by medical tests, the results of which were shared in court today.
Nobody has been arrested yet; the police are offering Rs 50,000 as an award for any information that could help identify the attackers.
The women said in their complaint that they were performing a play to raise awareness about human trafficking in the largely tribal Khunti district of Jharkhand when they were abducted. A second police complaint or FIR filed by Sanjay Kumar, the leader of the troupe performing the play, blames a local priest along with unidentified others of allowing the abduction of the women.
The women work for Asha Kiran, an NGO which is supported by a local Christian missionary group, said police officer Rajesh Prasad to news agency AFP. Police sources said that troupes like the one that was targeted are being used by some local officials in an attempt to turn locals against Pathalgadi, an anti-establishment self-rule movement popular in several tribal villages. The sources said they are looking into whether the attack may have been caused by this tension.
Asha Kiran runs a shelter home for the rehabilitation of rescued girls in Khunti district of Jharkhand, which has been identified as a trafficking hotspot. There are around 200 rescued girls in Asha Kiran's shelter.
"We are still processing what has happened," said Rajiv Ranjan Sinha of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network - a coalition of 14 grassroots organisations working in the state. "This is the first time field workers have been targetted and it is both surprising and shocking. It is now going to become more difficult to work on this issue."