Atul Bose, a 55-year-old daily wager in Durgapur village, north Dinajpur district raised an alarm after hearing a noise near his cow shed on Thursday night. Villagers rushed in and caught the three men.
There had been a couple of cattle thefts in the village over the last couple of months. Cattle theft is common in the area. The thieves usually sell the cattle across the border. Around festive occasions, prices are higher.
Some of the villagers, who were on guard duty, suspected that the men were stealing cattle. Before the police arrived, the mob had beaten two men to death. The third died in the hospital.
"I tried to stop them. I told them let the police come. But no one listened. Everyone was very angry," said Mr Bose, 55. He had two cows and a calf which, he said, were worth about Rs 1 lakh.
The family of one of the dead men, who filed the complaint with the police, however, could not explain what he and the others were doing in a village 15 km from their home at 2 in the night. Md Samiruddin's family confirmed that he had been arrested for 12 days in April but did not know why.
Hasinara Khatoon, wife of 30-year-old Md Samiruddin, said her husband was home till 7 pm. "Then he got a phone call and left," she said. Her husband, she said, used to make cement rings that are used to line wells.
The two other men killed were Md Nosiruddin and Nasirul Haque, both in their 20s. Md Nosiruddin used to work as a construction worker or daily wager locally, his family said. Nasirul Haque's wife said he was a construction worker in Delhi.
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