| Grieving relatives of those killed in Nalanda. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, June 5: A brick kiln owner and nine labourers were shot dead in Nalanda last night by a criminal gang allegedly employed by a rival kiln owner.
About a dozen heavily armed criminals swooped on Pankaj Brick Kiln in Dinar village and shot dead owner Kamta Prasad and nine Dalit labourers. The labourers are mostly local and some from Vaishali district.
Sources said the criminal gang, allegedly headed by Vipin Choudhary, stood Prasad and the labourers in a row and fired at them one by one from close range. Eight died on the spot and one in hospital. Six were seriously injured.
Police have arrested Vijay Kumar, owner of an adjoining kiln, and four others. An FIR naming nine persons, including the five arrested, has been lodged, Nalanda police superintendent Amit Lodha said. One person is in judicial custody and others are undergoing interrogation.
“The case is prima facie a revenge killing due to rivalry, but we are yet to discover all the dimensions of the case, especially because the nearby kiln owner Vijay Kumar, who is the main accused, has apparently no criminal antecedents.”
The murdered kiln owner’s son Uday Kumar said he suspected Vijay’s hand in the attack. “Maybe he wanted our kiln closed and so employed the gang to finish us off,” he told a local newspaper.
Sources said Vijay had been forced to close down his kiln allegedly because he could not cough up extortion money. He could have set the criminal gang on Prasad to get his kiln shut too.
Uday is reported to have said that Choudhary’s gang had demanded a lakh from his father about a month back.
The injured kiln workers have been admitted to the government hospital in Biharsharif. They might be referred to Patna Medical College Hospital by evening, sources said.
The incident has again brought Bihar’s “jungle raj” issue to the fore. Opposition parties have threatened to corner the Rabri Devi regime in the Assembly.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, on a short visit to Bihar, said the killings were prompted by rivalry. He said the victims’ families would get proper compensation and the culprits would be punished.