Six men have been accused of rape in connection with a gang rape this week of five female anti-trafficking workers in a village in eastern India, police told CNN on Saturday.
Two of the six men have been arrested and charged, while police said they are looking for the other four. A man who helps run a school in the village also has been arrested and charged in connection with abetting the attack.
Police said the attack took place Tuesday in Kochang village in Khunti district in the state of Jharkhand, the same region where two teens were raped and then set on fire last month.
The anti-trafficking activists who were raped have been discharged from a hospital and are being kept in a safe house, police said. The women have been given police protection and trauma counseling.
The five women were performing a street play with three men on the issue of human trafficking when armed men on bikes disrupted the performance.
The performers were taken to a nearby forest, where the women were raped and men beaten up. They were released about three hours later, police said
The attack is the latest high-profile rape case in India, which has been grappling with the scourge of sexual violence.
Around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in India every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. There were nearly 39,000 alleged attacks in 2016, an increase of 12% from the previous year.
The anti-traffickers work for Asha Kiran, a nongovernmental organization supported by a Roman Catholic missionary that raises awareness about human trafficking.
Asha Kiran runs a shelter in Khunti district for girls and young women who leave home in search of work and often end up as domestic workers and victims of sex trafficking. The shelter provides them with counseling, formal education and vocation and skill development.
Officials said they believe the accused are members of a tribal community hostile to outsiders.
“They do not believe in the state government. The individuals were attacked because they were outsiders. This is a problem in the area and the police are doing work to educate villagers about this,” said Amol Homkar, deputy inspector general of police in Jharkhand’s capital, Ranchi.
Julia George, part of the organizing committee that runs Asha Kiran, told CNN that the activists were doing a street play in a market and then went to a school. Around that time, men from the tribe confronted them.
She wasn’t at the event but heard accounts about it.
The men made the activists surrender their mobile phones and took their driver’s key. They then took them to the jungle using the activists’ bus and their own.
“The tribe has this culture where they are against outsiders,” George said. “They came and asked them, ‘How did you come to this area without our permission?’ “
CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.