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Spanish vlogger’s rape: Only one of eight arrested is a Christian; crime given false communal spin – Alt News

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Trigger Warning: Rape

A 28-year-old Spanish travel vlogger was allegedly gang-raped by seven men in Jharkhand’s Dumka on Friday, March 1. The victim and her partner were headed towards Bhagalpur via Dumka and had set up a tent in the Hansdiha police station area on the night of the incident. The victim posted a video on Instagram where she alleged that the seven men had assaulted them and robbed them. In the video, the couple also said, “They attacked us, beat us, put a knife to our necks and said they were going to kill us…There were seven people…”

The First Information Report reveals that the couple had pitched a tent in a forested hilly area in Kumrahat village, one kilometre from the main road. At first, three men started quarrelling with her partner before assaulting him and tying him up. The other four allegedly forcefully picked her up after showing her a dagger. She was allegedly thrown on the ground, kicked, punched and repeatedly raped by all seven men. She also alleged that the men were inebriated. The incident took place between 7:30 pm and 10 pm.

As of March 6, eight men have been arrested in the case, although the victim had stated in the FIR that seven people were involved. “The eighth person is the one who assisted the seven others in the crime,” Jarmundi SDPO stated.

Three men were initially arrested and sent to judicial custody by a court on Sunday, March 3. After news of their arrest broke, several Right Wing social media users claimed that the three were ‘Rice bag converts’, a derogatory term used to describe Christians.

BJP leader and ex-MLA from Bodh Gaya Hari Manjhi took to X (Twitter) to claim that the arrested persons used to work for a Christian missionary. “What faith or religion do people have who are sold for sacks of rice? They all should be given the death sentence”, he stated. (Archive)

BJP spokesperson and Supreme Court advocate Prashant Umrao tweeted the same claim. He later deleted the tweet. Below is a screenshot.

Right Wing influencer Jitendra Pratap Singh, who is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeted that all the arrested people worked for Christian missionaries. (Archive)

Verified Right Wing account @RealBababanaras tweeted that ‘rice bag converts’ were arrested in the case. The tweet garnered over 2 Lakh views and close to 3,000 retweets. (Archive)

Several other users amplified this claim. (Archives- 1, 2, 3, 4)

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Fact Check

Alt News was able to access the names of the eight accused persons so far. Two minors were involved in the incident whose names we are withholding. The rest are:

-Suklal Hembrom (30), an auto driver by profession

-Bablu Hembrom (22), a labourer in Gujarat who arrived in Jharkhand two weeks before the incident

-Budlal Marandi (21), a labourer in Gujarat who arrived in Jharkhand two weeks before the incident

-Babuji Soren (22), a farmer

-Rajon Marandi (24), a labourer in Gujarat who arrived in Jharkhand two weeks before the incident

-Rajesh Murmu (24), a farmer

Alt News first reached out to Jarmundi sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Santosh Kumar, who told us that none of the three who were initially arrested were Christian or worked for a Christian missionary. He additionally informed us that only one of the eight arrested persons, Babuji Soren, was a Christian. However, he does not work for the missionaries. He is a farmer by profession who also rented out his music equipment for DJs. The SDPO clarified that the rest of the accused persons were followers of the Sarna faith.

Sarna is an indigenous faith popular among tribals and its followers are nature worshippers who have been fighting for a separate religious identity for decades. Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren had in September 2023 written a letter to the Prime Minister seeking recognition of Sarna religious code for tribals. “There is a continuous decline in the percentage of their population, as a result of which it is natural to have an adverse effect on the policies of tribal development under the Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. In view of the circumstances, a separate tribal / Sarna code is necessary to identify the Sarna or nature worshiping tribals as distinct from Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain followers and to protect their constitutional rights,“ the letter said. A large population of Jharkhand follows the Sarna religion.

Other than Soren and the two minors, there are two Hembroms, two Marandis and one Murmu among the accused. All of these are clans within the Santhal community, ‘Hembrom’, ‘Merandi’ and ‘Murmu’ being among the 12 ‘gotras’. Santhals, with a population of around 6 million, are among the largest tribes in India. They are largely concentrated in Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

We reached out to Father Solomon, a Jesuit priest based in Dumka who does social work from the Johar Human Resources Development Centre. He spoke to his local contacts and corroborated that only one of the accused persons was a Christian.

To sum up, only one of the eight persons arrested in the Spanish vlogger’s rape case is a Christian. The alleged crime is being unduly communalized on social media.

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