Indian police have arrested 14 people after clashes between Hindus and Muslims in a village in the eastern state of Bihar led to three people being burned to death. The mob reportedly set fire to nearly a dozen houses in the village and police officials filed a complaint against an "unnamed mob of 5,000" people, local reports said, citing officials.
The clashes were reportedly triggered by a relationship between a 19-year-old Hindu youth from Bahilwara Mali Tola, a village in Muzaffarpur district, and a Muslim girl from Azizpur, a neighboring village. The boy, Bhartendu Sahni, went missing on Jan. 9, and his body was found on Sunday near the house of a person accused of kidnapping him, following which a mob gathered and burned down houses in the girl's village, according to NDTV, a local news network. Sahni’s relatives have alleged that he was kidnapped by the girl’s family.
“Following retaliation, the attackers went on the rampage and set 10 houses belonging to another group on fire. Around 15 vehicles were also gutted,” a villager said, according to the Hindustan Times, a local newspaper.
Police dispatched reinforcements to the region to control the mob, and a senior police official who reached the location after the attack, promised action against those responsible.
“No one will be spared if found guilty. We are verifying the facts and responsible persons would be identified after reviewing the video footage of the incident,” Ranjeet Kumar Mishra, the senior police official, said, according to the Hindustan Times, adding: “We have to work hard to control the situation. We have talked with responsible persons from both the groups and requested them to maintain restraint.”
The state’s Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has ordered an inquiry into the incident, according to The Hindu, a local newspaper, which added that a compensation of 500,000 rupees ($8,112) was also given to each of the victims’ families.
According to The Associated Press, the situation in the region continues to be tense. Communal tensions are an ongoing issue in Hindu-majority India, where Muslims constitute about 13 percent of the overall population.