Five people, including a village council member, have been arrested in Bihar on charges of beating a man to death for allegedly stealing a temple statue, officials said on Wednesday.
Rakesh Kumar, 26, was on Tuesday lynched by a mob led by village headman Prem Chandra Singh in Patahi village in Sitamarhi district, about 200 km from Patna.
He was beaten to death with sticks and rods after a witchcraft practitioner identified him as the one who had stolen the statue. This was yet another case of vigilante justice just four days after 10 suspected thieves were lynched in the state.
Sitamarhi Superintendent of Police MR Naik said five people were arrested in connection with the crime. Rakesh's father had lodged a police complaint against 13 people.
"Rakesh had reportedly denied stealing the statue, but he was beaten to death by villagers," Naik said.
Sitamarhi District Magistrate Suman Kumar said Rakesh had not stolen the statue from the temple. "A witchcraft practitioner had stolen the statue, but the sarpanch instigated the villagers against Rakesh," he said.
The incident comes two days after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a collective fine on a village if its residents took the law into their own hands.
The announcement came after 10 alleged thieves were lynched at Dhelpurwa village in Vaishali district on Thursday. The victims were Kueris, a sub-group of a nomadic tribe called Nat.
Many nomads have reportedly fled from villages to towns while others are planning to migrate, fearing a threat to their lives in the wake of the incident.
There have been several other cases of mob fury against suspected criminals in Bihar in the past month.
Last week, a mob reportedly gouged out the eyes of a person in Nawada district for allegedly snatching a motorcycle. In another incident, two minor boys were beaten and their heads tonsured partially when they were suspected of having stolen detergent powder from a shop in Nawada.
On August 28, a youth was beaten up by a mob at Nathnagar in Bhagalpur district for allegedly snatching a gold chain from a woman. He was then tied to the back of a motorcycle by policemen and dragged along the road.