On a day when Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar is all set to be sworn-in as chief minister of Bihar for a third term, the state is reeling under tension after a road accident took a communal colour, resulting in the death of a inspector and a civilian.
The incident took place in Lalganj municipality in Vaishali district of Bihar.
How it started?
On Tuesday afternoon, Mohammed Rizwan, who was driving a pick-up van, crashed into a house, killing a 60-year-old businessman Rajendra Sah and his 8-month-old granddaughter Sapna on the spot.
"Rajendra Chaudhary was sitting near the door adjacent to the road along with granddaughter Sapna when the vehicle suddenly crashed into the house and crushed them," an eyewitness, Dhirendra Chaubey, told The Times of India.
Soon after the accident, a mob attacked the houses of the driver, the owner of the vehicle, Nanhe Khan, and their three relatives, according to The Indian Express.
The police arrested the driver and brought the situation under control, but tension arose on Wednesday morning after rumours of Rizwan's release started spreading in the area. The police told the local residents that Rizwan was not released, but was shifted to another police station.
It was also reported that another incident also played a significant role in triggering violence in the area. According to the Firstpost report, Rizwan had hit an elderly woman, resulting in severe injuries.
"The situation was normal till next morning when rumour went around that the driver – Rizwan – also hit and critically injured an elderly woman. However, no one was sure about the woman and her village," an eyewitness, Jai Prakash, told Firstpost.
On Wednesday morning, around 1,000 people gathered at the Masjid chowk in Lalganj and attacked the houses of Rizwan, Khan and their relatives. They torched several houses, a four-wheeler and a two-wheeler.
"The mob attacked the homes Rizwan and his fellow community members and set them on fire. At least 10 houses were set ablaze. The situation turned more violent when stone pelting and exchange of bullets took place from both sides. It began at 9 am and continued till 2 pm," Prakash said.
Soon, a clash ensued between the mob and the police that had arrived there to control the situation. As the mob started pelting stones, the police first started lathicharge but later resorted to firing as the situation got out of control.
A 17-year-old boy was hit by a bullet in the police firing that enraged the mob even more. The enraged mob lynched Belsar outpost in-charge Sub-Inspector Ajit Kumar.
"Personnel from Lalganj police station reached the spot at around 10 am. Men in uniform from Belsar police outpost were also rushed in under the leadership of Inspector Ajit Kumar. Initially, the police used mild force and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the violent mob. But when they failed to get control over the situation, they opened fire. Rakesh Kumar (17) was hit by a bullet. This further infuriated the mob which chased the police force. They caught hold of inspector Kumar and assaulted him brutally," a resident of the village, Afaque Alam, said.
"SI Ajit Kumar had gone with a police team to the spot but was left behind. By the time we saved him from the mob, he had suffered massive internal injuries," the police and local residents told The Indian Express.
The teenage boy and sub-inspector Kumar were admitted to Patna Medical College hospital where they died later.
Vaishali Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kumar, District Magistrate Rachna Patil and Additional Director General (law and order) Alok Raj arrived in the village with heavy police support and brought the situation under control.
"It was simply a road accident. Calling it a communal tension is a little exaggeration. The situation is completely under control and no untoward incident has been reported since yesterday. We appeal people to maintain peace and help us restore normalcy in the area. We assure everyone that the guilty will not be spared," Vaishali DM Rachna Patil told Firstpost.
Meanwhile, the state government announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of Kumar (policeman) and Rs 4 lakh each to the family members of the deceased villagers. A two-member committee of Inspector General (headquarters) Sunil Kumar and IG (prisons) PS Meena will probe the incident.
Kumar, whose Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) achieved a massive victory in the Assembly polls, will take oath as the chief minister on Friday.