In the first ever carnage during the National Democratic Alliance regime led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, 16 people were gunned down by suspected Maoist cadres in a village in Bihar's Khagaria district late on Thursday night, a top police official said on Friday.
"Nearly 100 people, suspected to be Maoists, armed with automatic weapons, attacked the village Amosi Bharen Diara and fired indiscriminately late on Thursday night, killing 11 men and 5 children on the spot," Inspector General (Operations) S K Bharadwaj said.
According to the police, a land dispute is suspected to be the reason behind the attack on the victims, who belong to backward castes.
When contacted, Additional Director General (Headquarters) Neelmani said that the attack was carried out on the villagers by the suspected Maoists with the intention of grabbing the land.
The victims belonged to Amdaicharua village and had been living in the makeshift camps on the land for cultivation, he added.
"Senior police officials are camping at the site and a special task force has been deployed for combing operations in the riverine area to nab them," Neelmani said,
He added that police patrolling in the area had been increased to keep the simmering situation under control. The victims' bodies have been kept at Morkahi police station from where they would be sent to a government hospital for post-mortems, Neelmani said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has condemned the deadly attack by suspected Maoists in Khagaria district and rushed a team led by his deputy S K Modi to the site of the carnage.
"Violence has no place in the society and the incident is highly condemnable. I am sending a ministerial team with the director general of police who will submit a report to me by today afternoon," Kumar told reporters.
The chief minister said prima facie, it appeared to be the handiwork of Maoists, "but the state government will take a final view and order an inquiry after getting the report from the team."
Kumar announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1.5 lakh, including Rs 50,000 from the CM's relief fund, to the families of the victims.
Incensed over the midnight carnage in Khagaria, angry locals stoned the vehicle of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and jeered at his ministerial colleagues when they reached the site on Friday.
The angry villagers of Amosi broke the police cordon, attacked Modi's vehicle with stones, jeered at others accompanying him in the convoy and shouted anti-government slogans, police said.
However, Modi and Bihar Land Reforms Minister Narendra Narayan Yadav, who were in the vehicle, escaped unhurt, official sources said. Agriculture Minister Renu Kumari Kushwaha was in a car behind Modi's vehicle in the convoy.
The state Director General of Police Anand Shankar was also traveling in one of the cars. The mob was pushed back by the police, the sources said. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had sent the ministerial team led by Modi to make an on-the-spot study of the situation at Amosi Dharen Biara village, and asked them to submit a report by today evening.
Meanwhile, angry villagers stopped the police from taking away the bodies for postmortem, demanding the presence of the chief minister. The wailing wife of 45-year-old Ramsharan Singh, one of the victims, said gunmen pulled her husband out of their hut, bound his hands and feet and shot him dead.
A relative of another victim said, "No amount can compensate the tragedy".