A group of Christian activists seeking to draw attention to the escalating human trafficking crisis that continues to grip the nation of India were recently captured and raped in an utterly horrific attack.
Five female anti-trafficking activists who had just finished performing a street play with the aim of raising awareness of local human trafficking issues were taken at gunpoint to a secluded area and brutally raped for three hours, multiple international sources reported.
According to NDTV, the women were then “violated with the branch of a tree, a pistol and tobacco” and even forced to drink their own urine.
“This was not a crime of passion,” senior police officer RK Mallick said.
All six of accused have now been identified, according to The Hindu. Mallick confirmed that so far, two of them have been arrested.
The female victims were working with a non-governmental organization called Asha Kiran to raise awareness about human trafficking and were delivering a presentation in Kochang village, Jharkhand. The NGO is supported by a local Christian missionary center, which housed the group while they completed their community work.
“After performing, they headed towards a local mission school,” senior police official AV Homkar told BBC’s Niraj Sinha. “Around the same time, some armed people reached the school. They abducted five girls from their team and took them to a jungle and raped them. We have dedicated three teams of police to interrogate several people.”
The Indian women are now safe in protective custody, and are being treated at a medical facility.
“We have taken the statement of the victims,” Homkar Amol Venukant, Deputy Inspector General of Police in Ranchi, the state capital of Jarkhand, told CBS News on Friday.
In a vile twist, it was noted that the victims told officers the attackers “filmed the act on their mobile phones,” and threatened to post the videos on the internet if the crime was reported.
The women were accompanied by four men and two nuns as they performed the street play, before returning to the mission facility where their gun-toting attackers were lying in wait. The attackers were reported to be agitated over the activists’ entering the village without their permission. An anti-establishment and “self-rule” movement, Pathalgadi, has gained momentum in many of the southern states, and it appears that those accused could have been involved in this volatile group. In villages under this type of governance, it is not uncommon for locals to openly disobey law enforcement and rule by mob.
“The investigation is on. We will look at all angles to ascertain who is behind this heinous crime,” Superintendent of Police, Ashwini Kumar Sinha, told CBS.
NDTV also reported that the head of the school where the group of activists was based urged the rape victims ask the accused to come with them to report the crime. The priest later told them to not report the incident, according to a top Jharkhand Police officer. Some have accused the police of framing the priest, Father Alonso. It is an accusation that has been vehemently denied by the authorities.
“The police never takes action on the basis of religion or caste. They do it within the framework of the law and the police have done the same in the case of the gangrape,” Officer Mallick said. “When the criminals came, Father Alfonso asked them to leave out the nuns and told the five women to go with the culprits for two hours.”
“After four hours, when the women were taken back to the missionary, Father Alfonso had advised them not to report the matter to the police,” he added.
The prevalence of rape and sexual assault, particularly of minors, has been ushered into the spotlight of the international media following the horrific rape and murder of a 23-year-old Delhi woman, Jyoti Singh. Jharkhand has also been in the news recently after three teenage girls were raped and set on fire in separate incidents that all occurred in the month of May.
Sexual assault and rape in India is shrouded by a lethal concoction of shame and stigma. According to the BBC, around 40,000 rape cases were reported in India in 2016. Around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in India every single day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Indeed, in a recent poll taken by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, it was found that India is the worst place in the world to be a woman.
According to the poll’s website, this is as a result of “the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.”
“As India’s rape epidemic gets worst by the year, critics have pointed fingers at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for not doing enough to protect women,” the summary noted.
The human trafficking situation is completely out of control in the South Asian nation. Reuters has reported that almost 20,000 women and children were trafficked in 2016 alone.
The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has urged India to “increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking” calling the country a “source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking” and adding that “investigations, prosecutions, and convictions remained low for the scale of human trafficking in India.”
The 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report outlined the sheer scale of the human trafficking taking place across India:
“Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages in India or Gulf States and subject women and girls to sex trafficking. In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications, and online money transfers to facilitate commercial sex. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and by foreign travelers in tourist destinations. Many women and girls, predominately from Nepal and Bangladesh, and from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia, including minority populations from Burma, are subjected to sex trafficking in India.”
Please join Faithwire in praying for healing for these victims and justice for their attackers.