The Jharkhand Police on Sunday arrested the two main accused in connection with the rape of five women in Khunti district on June 19. Two others were arrested on June 23.

The accused had abducted the five women, who were working with a non-governmental organisation, while they were performing a street play at a school in Khunti district’s Kochang, about 90 km from Ranchi. They took the women to a nearby forest at gunpoint, raped them, made videos of the act and threatened to distribute them. The women had gone to the village to create awareness about migration and human trafficking.

The accused told the police that they thought anti-Pathalgadi sentiments will be portrayed in the NGO’s street play and so wanted to teach the performers a lesson. Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by some villages in Jharkhand to declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, not the state or central government.

The police identified the two people arrested on Sunday as John Jonas Tidu and Balram Samad, PTI reported. They reportedly also planned the abduction of four policemen who were guarding a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator’s house in Khunti district on June 26. The kidnap was allegedly in retaliation for a police raid on a village to arrest Tidu and Yusuf Purty, reportedly supporters of the Pathalgadi movement in the state. The policemen were rescued from a school in Butigada village three days later.

Tidu and Samad were arrested while they were trying to sneak out of the state to Maharashtra. “We formed a special task force on Saturday night on a tip and picked up Tidu from Hata area under Potka Block of East Singhbhum district the same night,” Hindustan Times quoted Jamshedpur senior superintendent of police Anoop Birthare as saying. “We got crucial leads from Tidu, which subsequently led to Balram Samad arrest from Jeevan Tollah under Murhu police station.”

Tidu and Samad are allegedly chief aides of Pathalgadi leaders Yusuf Purty and Laxman Soy – both still absconding even after police have attached Purty’s properties.

Kolhan Inspector General Kuldeep Dwivedi said Tidu and Samad confessed during their interrogation that they had incited People’s Liberation Front of India’s Bazi Samad and Jonas Mundu to allegedly rape the women. “They had said these girls informed the administration about them, hence [they] needed to be humiliated and taught a lesson.”

Tidu was wanted in 12 cases, while Samad was wanted in eight criminal cases in Khunti district.