The three policemen who were kidnapped from the home of a BJP lawmaker, allegedly by tribals in Jharkhand, have been set free, police said today. However, the return of four personnel in total may have embarrassed the state police as top officers were reportedly oblivious to the abduction of the fourth cop.
RK Mullick, Additional Director General (operations), acknowledged the slip, and said that last night the policemen were allowed to go and they have safely returned. "None of them are hurt. We don't know where they were kept, but the policemen have told us that the kidnappers took them from one place to another. We haven't recovered the rifles that they took with them. We are talking to the policemen to get more details," he said.
The policemen were kidnapped on Tuesday, hours after the police raided villages in Jharkhand's Khunti area to find the men who had raped five activists last week. The villagers had tried to prevent the police contingent from entering the village earlier. Eyewitnesses to the abduction said around 150 men had come to the lawmaker's home.
Four policemen were stationed at the lawmaker's home, and it was believed that only three were kidnapped while the fourth managed to escape. The mob asked about him and dragged away the three policemen who were present, an eyewitness said. "They took away their INSAS rifles too," he added.
The police suspected the involvement of supporters of "Pathalgarhi", an anti-establishment, self-rule movement in parts of the state's tribal belt, in the kidnapping.
BJP lawmaker Karia Munda, at whose home the three policemen were posted as security personnel, said, "There is no doubt that they (the kidnappers) were from 'Pathalgadi' community."
However, during a face-off between the police and Pathalgarhi supporters in Ghaghra village, Nagendra Singh, the fourth policeman, was also taken away.
The Khunti district administration had yesterday announced a reward of Rs 50,000 for any information regarding the policemen.
Last week, a group of six men had kidnapped 11 activists from Khunti, about 100 km from state capital Ranchi. The activists, including five women, had gone to the area to conduct an awareness campaign on human trafficking. The activists work for Asha Kiran, a local non-profit.
The men had gang-raped the women - who were between the ages of 20 and 35 - for four hours, violated them with a pistol and a branch of tree and forced them to drink urine, the police said. They had also recorded videos of the assaults on their cellphone.
Senior police officer RK Mullick said it was "not a crime of passion... it was a conspiracy to teach them a lesson".
The incident led to widespread tension in the area and hours-long confrontation between the police and villagers led to violence when the locals attacked the police with bows and arrows. A villager died and another was injured when the police tried to control the mob.