Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday ruled out the possibility of naxal involvement in the Khagaria carnage. In what is being described as one of the worst incident of land dispute in the State, 16 villagers were shot dead on Thursday night.

The deceased belonged to Icharwa village and cultivated on fertile piece of land in Amausi village, 4 km away.

Mr. Kumar told journalists, “Information collected by the probe team suggested that the incident was linked to a war of attrition between two groups of anti-socials, rather than being the handiwork of the banned CPI (Maoist) party. Anti-social elements did it with a view to perpetuating terror. The culprits will not be spared and sentenced via speedy trials.”

The Chief Minister said the government “has decided to provide full security to the bereaved families and the living witness, Paro Singh.”

A police post was being set up at the carnage-site to prevent recurrence of such incidents, he said.

Additional Director General (Headquarters) Neelmani said “Riverine patrolling has been intensified following the incident.”

Late on Saturday night, the government suspended the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Khagaria district along with a Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) for “dereliction of duty and failure to reach the carnage site immediately after the incident.”

Mr. Neelmani told The Hindu SP Indranand Mishra and SDPO Ajay Kumar Pandey, along with Station House Officer (SHO) Ajay Yadav were suspended for reaching the carnage spot three hours late.

“The incident came to their knowledge by 2.45 a.m. to 3.00 a.m.; yet they procrastinated and reached the spot at around 6:30 a.m.,” the ADG said.

Additional SP of Aurangabad district Anusuya Ramsingh will be the new of SP of Khagaria and Nalanda Deputy Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Tiwary will take over as SDPO with immediate effect.

The police have lodged a first information report against 37 persons in connection with the killings.

Police said the “caste conflagration” was not a wholly tenable argument in this case, as prime accused O.P. Mahto himself belonged to the Kurmi caste.

Of the 16 villagers killed, 14 are belonged to the Kurmi caste and two to the Koeri caste.

According to police, Mahto had been distributing “parchas” (ownership forms) to the Musahars for possession of the Bhoodan land, the ownership of which was disputed between certain landowning classes owing to lack of availability of registry records.

The police are probing Mahto’s role in abetting the perpetrators.

The Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) have demanded the immediate implementation of the Bandopadhyay commission report.

They said the government’s laxity in implementing the commission’s recommendations was the main reason that led to the brewing resentment among the landless Musahars, which culminated in the killings.