Three men were branded cattle thieves and lynched in a Bihar village early on Friday, with two more mob attacks on individuals elsewhere in the state leaving one man dead and two others in hospital.
The families and neighbours of the trio lynched in Saran district, 90km northwest of Patna, denied they were thieves and alleged a cold-blooded murder, suggesting motives ranging from jealousy to communal hatred.
Saran SP Har Kishore Rai said the lynching happened at Pithauri Nandlal Tola between 4am and 4.30am, after the residents claimed to have caught Naushad Qureshi, 44, Raju Nat, 40, and Videsh Nat, 19, stealing livestock.
“The villagers said the trio had stolen a buffalo and were trying to load it on a pick-up truck when a woman woke up and raised the alarm,” Rai told The Telegraph.
“Two were already dead when the police arrived. The other died on the way to hospital. We have arrested three people.”
At neighbouring Paigambarpur, where the victims lived, Naushad’s family insisted he had been killed because he was a Muslim. His brother alleged an influential Pithauri resident had conspired against Naushad out of jealousy at his prosperity, stemming from agriculture and a small transport business.
A neighbour said the trio had set out early for “some work” and were “passing through the neighbouring village when a mob stopped and killed them”.
Rai said the police had so far found no previous criminal charges against any among the trio.
Two men were later brutally thrashed at a market in Rani Pokhar, Vaishali district, after one of them allegedly fired in the air on being challenged by a suspicious mob. Mohammad Arman, 22, died while Sujeet Mahto, 21, is critically injured.
A mentally challenged youth is in hospital after being beaten in Bhojpur district on suspicion he was trying to kidnap children.
Vaishali SP Manavjit Singh Dhillon said both Arman and Mahto had criminal records and that Arman was an accused in the February robbery of gold jewellery worth crores from a Muthoot Finance branch office in Muzaffarpur.
“The two were waiting on a motorbike outside a Central Bank customer service point. It’s a marketplace and people noticed they were carrying a pistol,” Dhillon said.
“When they accosted the duo, they fired in the air and tried to escape, and were caught and thrashed.”
Arman died in hospital. Two FIRs have been lodged, one of them against the unidentified people who made up the mob.
Thirteen people have been killed in nine incidents of lynching in Bihar this year. This apart, serial mob violence has left dozens injured.
Senior serving and retired police officers suggested the trend reflected people’s loss of trust in law and order, the police and the government.
“Also, people have come to believe they can commit a crime and go unpunished,” former Bihar DGP Abhayanand said. He said “immediate, decisive action and conviction” were the only way to contain the trend.
RJD leader Rabri Devi condemned the state government for the Saran lynchings and demanded a probe. Janata Dal United secretary-general K.C. Tyagi said: “Strict action is being taken and those involved will be punished.”