In a disturbing reminder of the violent confrontation between the Ranvir Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Budhram Paswan was murdered in Bihar’s Bhojpur district on Saturday. While the CPI (ML) has condemned the incident as a political murder, the police, in a guarded response, said the case was still under investigation.

The incident took place in the Charpokhri block, Ara Lok Sabha constituency. Paswan, CPI (ML)’s block secretary, was returning to his village Repura, where he was to attend an election meeting. “Some people intercepted his motorcycle. They strangulated him and shot him dead. There are shoe marks on his chest. Paswan’s body was found in a field,” CPI (ML) State secretary Kunal told The Hindu.

The police have registered an FIR against six persons, Chandrabhushan Singh, Arvind Pandey, Virendra Pandey, Vinod Pandey, Bikhari Rai, Munna Rai and seven unknown persons. The accused have been booked for murder, common intention, and under Sections of the Arms Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, as Paswan was from the Dalit community.

“Two of the accused persons were acquitted in the Nagari Bazaar massacre of 1998 [in which 10 CPI (ML) members were killed in Bhojpur]. Some are members of the Ranvir Sena,” the police said.

Superintendent of Police Satyaveer Singh remained non-committal about whether the murder was the handiwork of the Sena. “We are still investigating the case. The CPI (ML) may have named the accused persons due to their enmity with them. We can’t say if it is political violence, as yet.”

Although the police cited land issue as the cause, Mr. Kunal said there was no immediate trigger that could have led to the murder. “They [Sena] want to vitiate the political atmosphere and subvert the democratic process by spreading terror,” he said.

“Sena supporters celebrated the murder by firing triumphantly in the air. This is a political murder, an attempt to terrorise voters on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, in which CPI (ML) candidate Raju Yadav is a strong contender for victory,” Kavita Krishnan CPI (ML) politburo member, said. Indu Bhushan, son of late Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhia, is reportedly planning to field candidates in the Lok Sabha election.