Jesuit Priest among several held in Jharkhand gang-rape case

Jesuit Priest among several held in Jharkhand gang-rape case

Published on: 5:07 pm, June 22, 2018 by: By Cyprian Ekka

Ranchi: Police in Jharkhand have taken into custody five people, including a Jesuit priest and two men, in connection with the abduction and gangrape of four girls and a married woman by some unidentified persons.

More than 100 policemen came to Sacred Heart Church in Kochang village in Khunti district on June 21 morning and took into custody Father Alphonse Kullu, the parish priest, and two teachers for interrogation, Jesuit provincial of Ranchi Father Marianus Kujur told Matters India on June 22.

The Khunti police also took into custody two Ursuline Sisters Ranjita Kindo and Anita Nag of “Asha Kiran”, a rehabilitation center at Fudi (20 km south of Ranchi), who brought a 6- girl team and 5 staff members to Kochang to conduct nukkad (street play) on human rights in the parish on Father Kullu’s invitation.

While the Sisters were released June 22 afternoon, the remaining persons continue to be in police custody, said Sr. Eileen Kujur who oversees medical treatment at the rehabilitation center.

The police suspect the priest’s involvement in the abduction as the girls were taken from the parish school.

“The whole thing is concocted,” asserted the provincial, who has assigned two Jesuit priest lawyers to deal with the case.

The gang-rape survivors were part the nukkad team that conducted the street play in the Stockman Memorial Middle School attached to the Kochang parish.

As the play was on July 19, a group of armed masked men barged into and took away four girls and the woman to a nearby jungle where they were subjected to gangrape. The victims returned to the parish late in the evening and tried to lodge a complaint at the Khunti police station, Jesuit Father Gyan Prakash Minj, assistant parish priest of Kochang, told Matters India.
Father Minj, who is in Hazaribag for some days now, said the case was finally registered in Ranchi, the state capital.

The gangrape came to light at a press conference police held on July 21 in Ranchi, some 90 km north of Kochang.

Ranchi range deputy inspector general A V Homkar said motorcycle-borne armed men abducted the women and forced them to sit inside a car before taking to a secluded place.

He said the survivors were engaged with a Church-managed NGO.

“The perpetrators, who are Pathalgadi supporters, released the girls after three hours,” Homkar told the media.

The police officer’s statement is contestable as the girls had gone to stage the play in support of the Pathalgadi itself, Sr. Eileen Kujur told Matters India.

Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by several tribal villages in Jharkhand to declare their gram sabha (village council) as the sovereign authority, rejecting the authority of central or state government.

Huge stone plaques and signboards — called Pathal in the local dialect — have been erected outside tribal settlements in Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and West Singhbhum districts, with certain Constitutional provisions favourable to the indigenous peoples’ rights inscribed upon them.

PS. Fr Mahendra Peter Tigga texted 5.45 PM (June 22) that all have been released from the police custody. Further details are being explored.

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