Masaurhi, Dec. 26: Seven members of two families were shot dead late last night in Bairichowk village, about 10 km from here, in Patna district.
A breakaway group of the People’s War (PW), led by Sunil Tiger, is suspected to have carried out the massacre, in which two women, two men and three children between one and 10 years were killed.
Six masked and armed persons raided the village at 10 pm and forced themselves into the houses of a Yadav and a Sahu family. They pumped bullets into seven members from both families. The six escaped 15 minutes later in the heavy smog as scared villagers stayed in their houses.
“No one from the village stepped out to call the police. They were scared stiff. The police station at Masaurhi was told around 8 am today,” Patna deputy inspector-general Ravindra Kumar said.
“We could hear the muffled sound of gunshots and the groan of women. But it was not safe to step out of our homes,” villager Vijay Sahu said.
“We have information that the gang of Sunil Tiger, who was part of the PW, is behind the killings,” Bihar director-general of police R.R. Prasad said. “He (Sunil) deserted the group to float his rival Naxalite outfit... The police have now launched a manhunt for the gang,” he added.
Masaurhi witnessed Naxalite violence between the MCC and the PW in 1998-99, followed by a bout of CPI(ML)-PW rivalry.
Police feel that the latest killings in this central Bihar block may increase the caste and political divide. In 1999-2000, at least 89 people were killed in Masaurhi. Police estimates put the number of casualties at 430.
According to Prasad, the seven victims are Tiger’s neighbours, whom he has killed over a land dispute. No villager or local policeman confirmed the theory.
Another theory says Tiger attacked the seven because they continued working for the PW ignoring his warning. It’s also likely, some villagers say, they were suspected of passing on information to the police.
“Masaurhi is scared of the gang as the region has seen a mushrooming of splinter (Naxalite) gangs,” said CPI-ML (Liberation) leader Nandkishore Prasad.
The CPI-ML(L) is fighting a running battle with the PW.
“The multiplicity of gangs can been attributed to the PW’s disintegration. Those who were trained to be part of the organisation could not have joined any political party (once they quit). So they chose to run their own gangs,” he said.
The PW in Masaurhi split when its commandant Jaynandan Yadav walked out to form his gang. He was killed last year in a police encounter. Sunil Yadav took over from Jaynandan. He, too, was killed. Next came the gang of Sunil Tiger.