In a shocking incident, seven half-burnt bodies of suspected thieves who were bludgeoned to death by an irate mob in Rajapakar village in Vaishali district five days ago, were found floating in the Gandak river on Sunday.
Three officials —Sarvesh Kumar Singh, R.K. Singh and Vibha Kumari — tasked with getting the bodies cremated have been placed under suspension and departmental proceedings have been initiated against them. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also gave marching orders to District Magistrate Lallan Singh and Superintendent of Police Anupama Nilekar. Meanwhile, a search is on for three more bodies as 10 men—all of them nomads—were killed in the lynching incident.
State administration officials were taken aback when they received information that the bodies of the suspected thieves had not been consigned to flames, as directed, but had been thrown in the river after Vikrant, the son of one of the deceased, had performed mukhagni. He and the sweeper of Konhara ghat, where the bodies were taken for cremation, were allegedly threatened into silence by the three officials. But some mediapersons smelt a rat and coaxed Vikrant into revealing the real story.
Local residents were the first to notice the bodies floating in the river. “We informed the state administration,” said one Rupesh Kumar. A team led by Singh and Nilekar visited the ghat and engaged fishermen for fishing out the bodies. Seven bodies were found and cremated in the presence of the DM and SP.
The three officials reportedly not only lied to the media, but also sent a false report to state headquarters saying all the bodies had been cremated on Wednesday night.
“This is the height of callousness and insensitivity on the part of district officials,” said Home Secretary Afzal Amanullah.
Pratima Verma, joint secretary in the health department, has taken over as the district magistrate while AIG (Q) Paras Nath has been made the new SP. Both officers were asked to take charge on Sunday evening itself.
In a shocking reminder of the infamous Bhagalpur blindings of 1980s, villagers had surrounded the thieves and massacred them with sharp weapons, bamboo sticks and iron rods.