Bihar bans 15-year-old vehicles in Patna, old govt cars in entire state

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Hours after the Supreme Court came down heavily on state governments for failing to take adequate measures to curb air pollution the Bihar government decided to ban 15-year-old vehicles in Patna. The government has also decided to ban all government vehicles over 15-year-old across the state.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday convened an emergency meeting over the pollution crisis which was attended by Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Environment Sushil Kumar Modi, Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar, Chairman of Bihar Pollution Control Board Ashok Ghosh, Patna commissioner of Police Sanjay Kumar Agarwal and Patna DM Kumar Ravi.

The Environment department gave a presentation on the pollution situation prevailing across the state.

During the meeting it was decided that no commercial vehicles more than 15-year-old will be allowed in Patna. It was also decided that the state government will ban all government vehicles that are more than 15-year-old across the state.

Giving relaxation to private vehicle owners, the government has decided to allow vehicles more than 15-year-old only after they get pollution under control (PUC) certificates.

“The state government has taken an important decision to curb pollution in the state which includes banning of old commercial vehicles. It has been found that vehicles account for almost 30 per cent of the pollution in the state. All the decisions taken in the meeting will be notified tomorrow,” said Deepak Kumar, chief secretary Bihar.

It may be mentioned that the air quality in Patna has worsened after Diwali. Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday almost touched the 400-mark, which is the worst in the state. Air quality in Muzaffarpur and Gaya was slightly better but remained in the very poor category at 369 and 317, respectively.

Fugitive’s Jail Road stroll stuns Ranchi.

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A chance encounter of The Telegraph photographer Manob Chowdhary with fugitive Birsa Munda jail undertrial Ashish Ghosh on Tuesday evoked strong reactions from residents of the state capital, especially on the role of the police in the whole case.

This paper reported Ghosh’s account, caught on tape by Chowdhary, including sensational claims of his being framed for the August 2018 double murder of a woman and a boy that he said he did not commit, severe beatings and sodomy he alleged by policemen at Bariatu police station leading to his shoulder dislocation and anal bleeding, and finally, his escape from RIMS on October 18 this year, which he said he managed by bribing a policeman Rs 5,000.

Though the police on Tuesday denied all of Ghosh’s allegations, treasurer of People’s Union of Civil Liberties Anand Kumar Singh, however, said that the man’s allegations of torture warranted a judicial inquiry. “The statement of undertrial prisoner Ashish Ghosh puts a big question mark on the working style of the police. Third-degree torture after arrest is a violation of guidelines given by Supreme Court judge D.K. Basu. A judicial inquiry should be done in the matter,” Singh said.

Pointing out how easily Ghosh fled RIMS under judicial custody, Jharkhand High Court advocate Rajeev Kumar, who has filed hundreds of PILs on various issues, said he was aghast at how the state’s biggest government hospital, had become a sub-jail of sorts.

“There is some nexus between the police, jail administration and RIMS,” he said. “This nexus decides how to use RIMS for the benefit of high-profile or sensitive prisoners,” he added, pointing out the “prolonged treatment of Lalu Yadav” and “the easy way this man fled and became a fugitive on city roads”.

Former president of the Federation of Jharkhand Chambers of Commerce and Industries and social activist Vikas Singh, supporting advocate Kumar, said the way a fugitive was found roaming in the capital without being caught, suggested something was fishy. “It requires a thorough probe,” Singh said.

Rajan Kumar Singh, an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who has joined the Aam Aadmi Party as its state secretary, called for a CBI probe in the case.

“Unfortunately, the Raghubar Das government has reduced law and order to jungle raj. In several cases, the role of police has been suspicious. Jharkhand police is on the verge of losing its credibility. The CBI should probe the case,” Rajan said.

Sadar DSP Deepak Pandey admitted their failure to nab Ghosh on Wednesday, a day after Chowdhary had spotted him by chance on East Jail Road. “CCTV cameras installed on roads have so far not given any clue. However, we are on the job. Raids are being conducted at various locations of the city to nab Ghosh, including near his Bariatu residence,” the DSP said.

Officer-in-charge of Bariatu police station Sanjeev Kumar could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated calls to his cellphone from this paper.

Wanted: Saviour for felled trees in Jharkhand.

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Remember the outrage recently when the Supreme Court stepped in after thousands of trees were cut in Arey, a suburb of Mumbai, for the Metro rail project? Now sample this: The Jharkhand forest department has still not been able to implement a high court direction from three years ago on transplanting trees cut for infrastructure projects.

The department has been struggling to complete the tender process to find an agency to undertake the task.

Concerned over mindless felling of trees in the name of development, Jharkhand High Court while hearing a public interest litigation in June 2015 had imposed a total ban on cutting of trees for widening highways.

The court had constituted a high-powered panel of lawyers and experts to study the present conditions and the need to cut trees for projects. The committee comprised the regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) of Ranchi as its chairman and also the road construction department chief engineer, former IFS officer Narendra Mishra, environmentalist Bulu Imam, and the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) CEO.

The committee had in its report suggested empanelment of a tree transplanting agency.

“We had started the tender process for empanelment of tree transplanting agency three times in the last three years but the process could not be completed as only one firm took part in the bidding process,” a highly placed forest department source said. “We have again started the process again and have also initiated talks with some local agencies to show interest in the tender bid so that we can complete the process.”

The high court had in August 2016 had criticised the state government for delay in arranging a tree transplanting agency.

A senior forest official associated with the project of finalising the tree transplanting agency confirmed that Hyderabad based Volvo Trucks is interested in executing the work across state.

“Volvo Trucks has tree transplanting machines and has taken part during all the tender processes. However, no other agency took interest as the truck-mounted transplanting machine costs in excess of Rs 4 crore. We are in talks with some local agencies so that they take part in the tender agencies, even if they do not meet the eligibility criteria, to complete the tender process through multiple bidders. This is because we cannot complete the bidding process with a single bidder. We hope to complete the exercise by the end of October,” said the official.

According to the norms, whoever applies for the job should have at least three years’ experience in this field in the country. The company should also have a qualified team of at least one tree biologist and/or silviculturist (tree specialists, especially for forests) and a minimum of 10 tree transplanting machines, besides adequate number of complementary machines and other requisite resources to successfully carry out the task in time.

Jharkhand principal chief conservator of forest Sanjay Kumar said the department wanted to comply with the high court direction.

“The department is trying its best to select a tree transplanting agency for empanelment across state as per the advise of the high power committee constituted by the high court,” Kumar said. “Hopefully, it will be completed soon. As of now, agencies carrying out development work requiring tree felling are either carrying out tree plantation or transplantation on their own. It is mandatory to compensate for each felled tree by planting trees.”

The PIL was initiated suo motu by the high court on the basis of a news report that the road construction department had cut thousands of trees but had not planted saplings as it was supposed to do so.

Geologist and environmentalist Nitish Priyadarshi, lecturer in the department of environment and water at Ranchi University, said that in recent years hundreds of trees have been felled for road widening projects.

“In the last one or two years, hundreds of old trees have been cut in Taimara under Bundu police station area along NH-33 for its widening. There are proposals to cut hundreds of trees for widening of the Ranchi-Khunti and Ranchi-Silli road. Tree transplanting is the best method as merely planting saplings are no replacement for cutting old trees; the saplings would take years to grow, which would harm the ecology,” said Priyadarshi.

There are reports that nearly 3.44 lakh trees would be felled for the North Koel reservoir (known as Mandal dam) in the Palamau Tiger Reserve. “Tree transplantation should be done for projects both in city and rural areas as loss of tree cover will harm the environment,” Priyadarshi said.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar hints at pay hike for agitating Bihar teachers but only on a condition


In the face of an agitation by teachers seeking salary hike on the Teachers’ Day, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar gave them a stern message as well as hope of a salary hike in the near future.

Kumar asked the teachers to shoulder their main responsibility of teaching with sincerity first, as it was only his government that would do something for them, like in the past. “Don’t worry, we will do whatever is to be done, not others, who are these days joining your dharna. If you deserve, we will be happy to do it for you,” Nitish said, while taking a subtle dig at the opposition parties supporting the agitation.

Reminding them of a reversal at the hands of the Supreme Court earlier this year after a long legal battle and teachers’ condition prior to 2005, when Shiksha Mitras were appointed for a meagre Rs 1500, Kumar said he was not worried about demands raised by the teachers or his criticism, as it was their democratic right, but hoped that they never lose sight of their main role.

He also indirectly hit out at the opposition for allegedly fanning the stir after having called them “incompetent” earlier and also having blamed them for “destroying education”. “I always said that the teachers are competent. I have always stood by the teachers. I respect the teachers. And all I can assure you on the Teachers’ day is that in the future also, only we will do something, not those giving lip service,” Nitish said.

Ahead of the 2015 assembly polls, Bihar government had announced a new pay-scale for the school teachers following their long agitation.

On the occasion, he also launched the “Unnayan Bihar” programme, modelled on the lines of highly successful ‘Unnayan Banka’ project, for class 9-12 in all secondary and higher secondary schools run by the State. The programme involves use of information technology as supplement to classroom teaching to make learning more interesting and receptive.

Kumar said that from April 2020, all the panchayats in the State would have a secondary school starting with Class 9 and equipped to run the ‘Unnayan Bihar’ programme. “In the field of education, Bihar has done a lot with over 99% enrollment, major drop in the gender gap and a slew of other initiatives including huge infrastructure development, but the quality of education remained a concern. It is a global concern and that is why teachers’ role becomes important,” he added.

Kumar said that an intervention by the government will come at an “appropriate” time if the teachers did their job with “sincerity”. “All I expect from you is that you should shoulder your responsibility sincerely, as my commitment is to people. You raise your demands, but at the same time you also teach. Only demand will not do, certainly not if it is at the cost of teaching,” he added.

He also asked chief secretary Deepak Kumar to see what could be done for the teachers, hinting that another pay hike for teachers was under government’s consideration.

“When my government came to power, we had to make large-scale recruitment. We did so with a fixed pay of Rs 4000-7000, but later increased it and in 2015 put teachers on a pay-scale. In 2017, we also announced 7th pay commission benefits. Still, if I have to face criticism, I humbly take it in my stride. But be sure, only we will do it again,” he said.

The CM also honoured 20 teachers from across the state on the occasion. Despite protests by the teachers, all of the awardees turned up to receive the honour.

The awardees welcomed the CM’s speech, especially the hint to increase their salaries, some of the teachers, however, lamented the absence of any acclaimed teacher or eminent academician on the dais on the Teacher’s Day.

OPINION | Amid Soaring Crime Graph, Bihar Police Officers Lock Horns Over State Govt’s Decision to Split Force in Two


Patna: Amid growing incidents of lynching and deteriorating law and order situation in the state, Bihar police officers are locked in a bitter war of words, reflecting the rot that has set in the state police force over the years.

The state police force has mainly two groups that are at loggerheads.

The reason for the ongoing tug of war is Bihar government’s decision to bifurcate the state police force into two separate wings — the law and order wing and crime investigation wing — down to the police station level from August 15. The Supreme Court had issued an order in 2006 for separating the law and order duty and crime investigation down to the police station level.

Now there have been allegations that a concerted attempt is on to post the patrons of sand and liquor mafia within the police force in the law and order wing, but they want to control the crime investigation wing so that they can run the cartel without any hindrance.

Recently, the state police headquarters had directed to remove at least 386 Station House Officers (SHOs) and Circle Inspectors (CIs) from their posts as they were facing different charges, including moral turpitude, and were accused in cases involving sand and liquor smuggling. Most of them want to get posted in the lucrative crime investigation wing.

A few of them, however, claimed that the charges against them were fabricated and the senior officers did not do justice with them before blacklisting them. In response to the Facebook posts of Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey, an SHO had observed that he had been punished due to personal vendetta of his seniors even though he performed his duty with full sincerity.

The DGP, however, said that the grievances of such officers would be heard and taken care of if found to be correct. But the decision to shift them has been taken at the instance of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has ‘zero tolerance’ on crime and corruption, the DGP said.

The Bihar Policemen’s Association has also taken up the matter contending that some of the officers have been wrongly put in the tainted list. “We will talk to the top officers for rescinding the decision or the working committee will meet on August 25 to chalk out future course of action,” said association president Mrityunjay Kumar Singh.

Against the backdrop of deteriorating crime situation, the DGP had recently revealed on his Facebook that he is not being allowed to work the way he wants to as some of his colleagues are spreading all kind of canard against him, thereby demoralising the morale of the police force.

The anguish expressed by DGP Pandey is a tell-tale story of how policing system in Bihar has been afflicted with deep-rooted casteism, lobbies patronised by senior officers and overall corruption even though some officers stand out in terms of integrity and dutifulness.

Insiders in the police headquarters claimed that the incumbent DGP is opposed by a coterie of senior police officers. His orders on improving infrastructure in police stations and controlling crime were either not obeyed or buried in official files on one pretext or the other.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has reviewed the law and order situation twice last month in view of rising incidents of contract and political killings, rapes, abductions for ransom and bank loot in the recent past in Bihar. The leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, had shot off a letter to the chief minister listing government’s alleged failure on the law and order front.

After coming to power in 2005, Nitish had demystified the myth that crime could not be kept on tight leash in Bihar. Within the framework of law, he focused on quick disposal of cases registered under the Arms Act since the witnesses in all such cases were primarily the policemen. This proved very effective in bringing down the number of pending cases under the Arms Act as scores of accused were convicted at the end of the trials.

Nitish appeared much aggrieved to know that nearly 1.4 lakh criminal cases are pending in the police stations across the state. The chief minister directed the DGP to dispose off pending cases at priority, upgrade the police stations and release the contingency funds.

The Bihar Police have been facing problems ever since the state government decided to introduce total prohibition and to regulate sand mining in the state. Most of the policemen have found smuggling of liquor and sand as lucrative trade and source of easy money.

Prior to his elevation to the post of DGP, Pandey had launched a personal campaign for implementing the liquor ban policy of the state government. He had addressed altogether 160 meetings in 35 districts in five months to make people aware about the liquor ban.

Policing in Bihar also grapples with the problem of poor police-public ratio as the state has one policeman for every 840 persons. According to the data of Bureau of Police Research and Development, a central agency keeping track of the state and central police forces, Bihar ranked 33rd among states and union territories in terms of police-public ratio as there is a huge shortage of manpower.

Having created investigation and law and order wings, the Bihar government has decided to recruit 24,000 constables, 4500 sub-inspectors and 2000 drivers to fill vacancies in the understaffed police force.

Bihar: 12 incidents of mob lynching reported in last 15 days, say Patna Police


There have been 12 incidents of mob lynching across Bihar in the last 15 days, Additional Director General of Patna Police Jitendra Kumar told ANI on Wednesday. “Public shouldn’t take law in their hands,” said Kumar, adding that the Patna Police have organised a special drive across the state to spread awareness among people to not believe in rumours.

Two lynchings were reported from Rupaspur and Dhanarua in Patna district on Saturday night, according to The Times of India. As many as 32 people have been arrested in the Rupaspur case and two in the Dhanarua one.

“Specific instructions were given after Supreme Court had taken up the mob lynching issue and had directed state governments to act accordingly for preventing such violence,” Kumar said. “But after some recent incidents of thrashing over rumours, officials were directed to take steps by roping in public representatives.”

The Patna Police have begun conducting public events from Monday, Kumar said. He added that the police have been asked to pass on a message through village mukhiyas, sarpanches, and other representatives that nobody who indulges in rumour mongering will be spared.

Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Garima Malik said that a police-public meeting was held at Kadamkuan on Monday. Another event was held at Danapur bus stand in Danapur Cantonment.

“The motive to organise the programme at Danapur bus stand was that several people traverse through that point and words of police would reach locations were people would travel.” She said that the police also shared their phone numbers with members of the public.

Apart from Bihar, a spate of mob lynchings has claimed dozens of lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka since March. In nearly all cases, the mobs seem to have been incited by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers. The victims have ranged from innocent people asking for directions; transgendered people; the poor; and the mentally challenged.

Enough evidence to show your ”Dadagiri”, SC tells ex-Jharkhand minister Sao


New Delhi, Jul 26 The oral testimony of witnesses is enough “to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactics)”, the Supreme Court Friday told former Jharkhand minister Yogendra Sao, who has challenged his conviction and sentence in a 2011 extortion case.

The top court said this while agreeing to hear Sao”s plea challenging the April 26 order of Jharkhand High Court which dismissed his appeal against the conviction and two-and-a-half year sentence in the case.

A bench of Justices A M Sapre and Indu Malhotra issued notice and sought response from the Jharkhand government on the plea.

Senior advocate Rakesh Khanna, appearing for Sao, said the magisterial court did not have privilege to see entire call detail records (CDR) which included the period of alleged crime.

“Allegation is that I made a phone call and asked for money but the complete CDR was not filed. The CDR, which was filed before the trial court was till the month of March while the alleged occurrence of crime had taken place on April 24, 2011 and August 25, 2011,” he said.

Khanna said the trial court relied upon the testimony of prosecution witnesses and the informant who was an interested party.

“The oral testimony is enough to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactic). We cannot re-appreciate the whole evidence. There are concurrent findings against you by two courts,” the bench observed.

The top court, however, said that it will examine the matter and sought response from the state government in two weeks.

On April 26, the Jharkhand High Court had refused to interfere with trial court”s January 28, 2015 order convicting and sentencing Sao for two-and-a-half year rigorous imprisonment.

Sao was booked by the police on the charges of extortion on a complaint from a manager of Ramgarh Sponge Iron Private Limited and a case was registered against him on August 25, 2011.

The manager of the company has alleged that Sao threatened him on phone and demanded Rs 5 lakh.

Sao was then an MLA of Congress party and a member of the Committee of Jharkhand Legislative Assembly on Pollution Control.

Sao is lodged in jail after the apex court on April 12 ordered him to surrender before a court in Ranchi in cases related to rioting and inciting of violence.

The apex court had on April 4, trashed Sao”s plea seeking to campaign for the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls and cancelled his bail, saying he has violated the bail conditions.

Sao became a minister in the Hemant Soren-led UPA government in Jharkhand in 2013. He is named as an accused in over a dozen cases of rioting and instigation of violence.

The top court had then refused to cancel the bail of Sao”s wife Nirmala Devi. It had transferred the trial of 18 cases against Sao and Devi to Ranchi from Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand.

Both Devi and Sao are accused in a case relating to violent clashes between villagers and police in 2016 in which four persons were killed.

Devi, a Congress MLA, had led an agitation against NTPC authorities for their alleged attempt to forcibly evacuate villagers from Barkagaon without giving them due compensation or rehabilitation, according to police.

SC Refrains from Continuing With Pleas on Encephalitis in Bihar, Says Steps Have Been Taken to Combat Menace


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday decided to refrain from hearing any further the petition relating to the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district saying steps have already been taken to combat the menace.

The apex court took on record the affidavits filed by state government and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in which the two said that they were cooperating and working together to combat the disease which has claimed more than 100 deaths.

The Bihar government had said that the state, in cooperation with the Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other agencies, has simultaneously provided all medical facilities to treat the affected children.

Similarly, the Centre had also said it was proactively providing all support to Bihar in containing the AES.

“Having perused the affidavit of Bihar and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, we are not inclined to continue to entertain these writ petitions any further in view of the steps which are stated to have been taken to combat the menace of the encephalitis disease that has struck the different parts of Bihar.

“If the petitioners have any further grievance, they are free to move the High Court of Patna. The writ petitions are disposed of accordingly. Intervention application(s) and other pending interlocutory applications, if any, shall stand disposed of,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta said.

During the hearing, the bench expressed displeasure that the petitioner has raised other issues like 57 per cent shortage of doctors etc.

“So you want us to exercise our jurisdiction for filling of vacancy of doctors. You go to Patna High Court.,” it said, adding that petitions would be filed relating to shortage of ministers, shortage of MPs in Rajya Sabha and shortage of water etc.

“We are not inclined to entertain,” the bench said.

The apex court on June 24 had taken note of the petition filed by an advocate, Manohar Pratap, who had said he was deeply “pained and saddened” by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in the past weeks.

It had asked the Centre and the state government to file their affidavits on the adequacy of medical facilities, nutrition and sanitation and the hygiene conditions in the state.

Keep Apex Court out of Aya Ram-Gaya Ram game


It is clear the JD(S)-Congress Government of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in Karnataka has lost majority. It is also equally clear the CM is using every stratagem to delay the inevitable. But why is the State Governor, Vajubhai Vala, shooting off missives to the Chief Minister and the Speaker, K R Ramesh Kumar? Why cannot he let the warring politicians sort out the mess on their own? What is the Governor’s hurry, even if a case can be made out to justify his intervention? Yes, under the Constitution he is empowered to intervene, but when both sides are engaged in a naked power struggle, it is better that the Governor adopts a hands-off approach so long as it does not degenerate into something worse. Besides, Governor’s anxiety to set a short schedule for the trust vote creates the impression that he is leaning in favour of his former party and its leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, B S Yeddyurappa, who is keen to replace Kumaraswamay as chief minister. Having said that, it is regrettable that the ugly Aya Ram, Gaya Ram sport that the rival politicians play with some relish invariably drags in the higher judiciary as the umpire. As a result, its independence and impartiality unnecessarily gets dragged into the bitterly partisan tussle for power.

In the current instance, the Supreme Court order that virtually nullified the power of the whip to force obedience allowed the leavers from the JD(S)-Congress to absent themselves from the trust vote, thus, giving the Opposition a clear advantage. Had the coalition partners retained the power of the whip, the deserters would have forfeited their membership for failing to attend and vote for the Kumaraswamy Government. On Friday, the ruling coalition, unheeding the two gubernatorial directions for conducting the trust vote, first, by 1.30 p. m., which later, in a second directive, was revised to 6 p.m., adjourned the proceedings till Monday, July 22. In the meantime, the coalition partners would again seek the SC intervention to a) withdraw its controversial order allowing legislators freedom to decide whether or not to attend the House and, b) to challenge the validity of the Governor’s action in setting time for the confidence vote. It is argued that the Governor could not have intervened during the debate on the trust vote while he could have done the same before its start.

The Supreme Court being asked to intervene in these matters, which of course diverts its time and attention away from disposing the mountain of long-pending cases before it, ought to be unwelcome. As cited above, even if its pronouncements are meticulously fair and just, it is bound to displease one party or the other. In these days of a bitterly divided politics, it does not enhance the image and dignity of the court to be dragged in almost on a regular basis in matters involving wholly unprincipled power struggle in one State or the other.

A set of guidelines on the constitutional dos and don’ts, clear red-lines so to speak, ought to be framed by the higher judiciary so that it can be insulated from the inter- and intra-party disputes of the nature that we now witness in Karnataka. In some way, Karnataka’s game of defections with all its attendant consequences has nothing new. We have been there before several times. Therefore, a Standard Operating Procedure for Aya Rams and Gaya Rams in all its permutations and combinations ought to be put in place. The Supreme Court, when the new set of petitioners knock on its door seeking reversal of its order freeing the coalition’s defectors from the obligatory attendance in the Assembly is taken up on Monday, ought to consider appointing an amicus curie to frame the above-mentioned SOP. Since politicians are unlikely to stop playing the game of defections, we cannot have the highest court in the land being dragged in their power struggles on a regular basis.

Mob kills three in Bihar on suspicion of cattle theft, three arrested


NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A mob on Friday beat to death three men suspected of trying to steal cattle in Bihar, police said, the latest in a spate of attacks that have provoked alarm among religious minorities.

In recent years angry mobs have lynched many people from marginalised groups in India, especially Muslims and the Dalits who occupy the lowest rung of the ancient caste system, often over suspicions of cow slaughter.

The three men were caught by some villagers early on Friday while trying to load cattle on a pickup truck, police official Har Kishore Rai said.

“They were trying to load a buffalo and a calf when some villagers woke up and took the three into their custody and beat them up,” he said, adding that the men had died.

Police have arrested three people from the village of Pithauri and have filed a case of murder against four more from the village, administrative official Lokesh Mishra told Reuters.

Police have filed a case of theft against the three men, and the villagers face a separate case of murder filed by the victims’ families, naming three accused people, although more names are likely to be added, Mishra said.

Hinduism, India’s dominant religion, considers cows sacred, and killing them is taboo.

Activists have tracked a rise in the number of mob lynchings in the last five years that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has been in power. Critics accuse it of not having done enough to rein in such violence.

The Supreme Court last year recommended making mob lynching a separate offence. In July, opposition parties in Bihar demanded a separate law against mob lynching in the state, where they say the problem is growing.