India's most macabre crime saga on Monday sparked a second day of clashes between villagers furious over the brutal murder of scores of poor children by two sex fiends and a police force that failed to check the serial killings for over 20 long months.
Hundreds of men, women and even children residing in Nithari village and surrounding areas scuffled with and stoned a large but outnumbered police force, which in turn used batons and fists to disperse the crowds mad over official apathy to the cold-blooded killings of kids as young as eight years.
For two full hours, the streets of Nithari, an overgrown urban village at the edge of the Indian capital, were on the boil as the mobs took on the police under full media glare.
With Uttar Pradesh police chief Bua Singh already admitting that the Noida police had grievously erred in not tracking the missing children, the government on Monday formed a committee to investigate the unexplained police inaction.
Officials said a committee comprising the state home secretary and a senior police officer from Lucknow would probe the police inaction and submit a report within three days.
The mob fury was mainly directed at the palatial two-storey bungalow of businessman and main accused Moninder Singh where he and his servant Surendra apparently carried out gruesome killings of children they lured one by one from the village and, at times after raping them, flung the bodies into a drain. The elegant bungalow was located at one corner of Nithari village.
The first of the children's disappearances was reported 21 months ago, and villagers said 38 children, both boys and girls but all from poor families, went missing. Since Friday, the remains of some kids, their slippers and traces of their clothes have been unearthed from the drain, shocking an entire country.
Nithari was seething with rage on Monday and its residents, once cowed down by the power of the police, took on the administration with complete disgust.
"Even after we registered complaints, the police did not act in time. Had they done so, we might not have lost our children. It seems Moninder killed our children with support from the local police," said a woman as she hurled stones at police personnel some distance away.
Screamed another villager: "We are not going to leave the police in peace as long as justice is not delivered to us. If the police cannot punish the guilty, they must hand over Moninder and his servant Surendra to us. We want to punish them."
The policeman's only response to this defiant display of anger was canes - and fists. Three rioters were detained.
The villagers allege that the local police forced some of them to say that the missing girls had eloped and probably run away to Mumbai.
What has deeply embarrassed both the central and Uttar Pradesh governments is that Noida, where the crime took place, is touted as an IT hub.
Moninder Singh and Surendra were arrested on Friday for the mass murder.
The police on Monday appealed to the villagers not to take law into their hands, saying they needed to thoroughly check Moninder Singh's bungalow that was broken into on Sunday by angry villagers.
One man who went in told journalists that he saw blood everywhere - "on the bed, in the kitchen, everywhere. It was like a hospital mortuary."
Once the violence subsisted on Monday, Senior Superintendent of Police RKS Rathore tried to attribute motives to the unrest.
"What happened today is the work of some ill-advised people. They just want to exploit the situation and spread violence. We are sure the family members of the victims are not part of today's violence," Rathore said.
"We have detained three people over the violence and have detained a maid of Moninder for interrogation," he added.
He promised disciplinary action against all those police personnel who neglected to act on the villagers' complaints.
"Seven policemen have been suspended and we will not hesitate to punish others," Rathore said.
The police have recovered at least 17 skeletons and identified nine of the victims, engulfing the village in sorrow. Samples of skeletons recovered in the drain have been sent to the forensic labs in Agra and Hyderabad.