At least five women working for an NGO have been abducted and gang-raped at gunpoint in eastern India’s Jharkhand state, police have said.
“An FIR (First Information Report) and a statement in court has been lodged. We are trying to identify the criminals. Our probe is ongoing,” Ashwini Kumar Sinha, superintendent of police in Khunti, told Al Jazeera.
“A team of street play artists had gone to perform in a school in Kochan, the remotest area of Khunti when some men came and threatened them. Nine men and women were abducted. Five women were raped while the men were beaten,” he said.
The women were performing a play raising awareness of human trafficking in the Khunti district on Tuesday when armed men abducted them at gunpoint, it was reported on Friday.
Attackers filmed the assault and used the video to blackmail the women not to go to the police.
The women were working for Asha Kiran, an NGO supported by Christian missionaries, police officer Rajesh Prasad told AFP news agency.
“We have been questioning several people,” Prasad told AFP.
Police rounded up some supporters of Pathalgadi, a self-rule movement associated with hostility to outsiders.
The National Women’s Commission on Friday ordered state police to provide them with a report about the gang rapes.
Sister Julia George, project director at Asha Kiran in Ranchi, told Al Jazeera that men arrived at the scene on bikes and overpowered the NGO workers.
“They put them in the same vehicle by which the Asha Kiran group were travelling and drove some kilometres away from the place. Then they were raped,” George said.
This is the latest high-profile sexual assault in India.
Three girls were raped and set on fire in India in one week in May, two of them in Jharkhand state.
In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a moving bus in New Delhi sparked street protests.
In 2016, 39,000 rape cases were reported in the country.
Additional reporting by Zeenat Saberin in New Delhi