The Bihar Police lodged an FIR against absconding Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manoj Baitha for the death of nine school children in Muzaffarpur district, IANS reported on Monday. On February 24, police had confirmed that the vehicle that killed the students belonged to Baitha.

The BJP, which had earlier denied that Baitha is a party member, suspended him for six years, ANI reported. “He belongs to our party but would not be spared for such heinous crime,” News18 had earlier quoted Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi as saying. “We have ensured rule of law in the state and whosoever is found guilty would be punished.”

The parents of the deceased students have demanded Baitha’s arrest, while the villagers blocked the National Highway that runs through the district in protest. The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal staged a protest against the incident outside the Assembly and demanded action against the accused.

The police are searching for Baitha, who is from Sitamarhi district. “We have registered an FIR against Mr Baitha on February 25 on the basis of a complaint by Mohammad Ansari of Dharampur village,” Meenapur Station House Officer Sona Prasad Singh told the news agency. “Ansari lost five grandchildren in the tragedy on [February 24].”

Ansari alleged that closed-circuit television footage of the incident purportedly showed Baitha fleeing the site after the vehicle hit the school’s compound wall in Muzaffarpur. In a photograph of the accident site, a BJP board can be seen on the vehicle. Twenty-four children were injured.

Protestors purportedly assaulted teachers and set school property on fire after the incident.