Three people were beaten to death on Friday by a mob in Bihar's Saran district over alleged attempt to steal a buffalo, a charge vehemently denied by the families of the victims, police said.
The incident took place at Nandlal Tola of Pithauri village within Baniapur police station limits in the early hours when the deceased Raju Nat, Bides Nat and Naushad Qureshi were attacked by a mob which accused them of trying to steal a buffalo tied to a peg.
Two of them died on the spot, while another succumbed to injuries on way to hospital, Superintendent of Police Har Kishore Rai said.
He also said two-three people have been picked up for interrogation but refused to divulge further details.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Ajay Kumar Singh rushed to the village where a clash erupted between the alleged attackers and the family members of the deceased who claimed the trio had gone out to relieve themselves when they were beaten to death on a false allegation.
"We can say it with certainty that this is not one of those incidents of mob lynching which we get to hear about. The cattle allegedly being stolen was a buffalo. The attackers and the attacked belonged to the same social groups. The attackers will be identified and booked for taking law into their own hands," Singh told reporters.
Heavy deployment of police was in place at the village to keep the situation under control while people from both sides were at Baniapur police station insisting on lodging cross complaints.
The families of the victims also created a ruckus at the Sadar hospital where the bodies were taken for post mortem, prompting police to use "mild force" to bring the situation under control, officials said.
Meanwhile, state Communist Party of India secretary Satyanarayan Singh issued a statement in Patna condemning the incident and calling it "yet another example of mob rule which has been in vogue under the governments of Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Narendra Modi at the Centre".
The CPI leader also demanded a judicial inquiry.