A trainee police sub-inspector was nearly beaten to death by an agitating mob after the Basantpur sub-divisional police officer's vehicle ploughed through the crowd, killing three persons.
The demonstrators, who also burnt two police jeeps, were complaining against the alleged activities of a child-lifters' gang in the Madarpur area, 140 km northeast of Patna.
DGP Abhyanand, who was in a meeting with chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna, said: "We are not clear as to what happened because the police have been unable to reach the spot to collect the bodies or make enquires. The sketchy details we have are that there was huge stone throwing on the police as soon as the force reached the spot to (take custody) of two persons the people had detained on suspicion that they were childlifters."
At least 20 persons including 13 policemen have been seriously injured. The condition of assistant sub-inspector Manoj Kumar Mahto was stated to be "very serious".
Witnesses said the people had held hostage a woman and a man, suspecting them to be child-lifters, and had told the police of the matter. They also assaulted the two while waiting for the police to arrive.
There was commotion when the police came and in the hustle-bustle, the man escaped and the policemen rescued the woman from the crowd. At this point when sub-divisional police officer Ashok Kumar Singh's jeep reversed at a high speed, some people trying to encircle the vehicle from behind reportedly came under the wheels, resulting in the deaths.
The villagers who were killed were Rajkishore Ram, 60, Kapildeo Prasad, 17, and Dev Ram, 25. The other villagers were rushed to the Siwan Sadar hospital.