Suspended Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manoj Baitha, accused of running over and killing nine schoolchildren in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, has surrendered, the police said on Wednesday.
On February 24, Baitha, allegedly driving while drunk, rammed his SUV into a government school building’s compound wall, crushing to death nine students who were walking out of the school. Twenty-four children were injured. Images showed the vehicle had a BJP board, and the police later confirmed the vehicle belonged to Baitha.
Baitha surrendered after the BJP leadership in the state asked him to do so in the face of increasing protests by parents and residents of the district, NDTV reported. After his arrest, Baitha was taken to the Patna Medical College and Hospital to have his injuries treated.
The Bihar Police filed an FIR against Baitha on Monday. The BJP, which first denied that Baitha was a party member, has now suspended him for six years.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has said the police were directed to take “sternest possible action” against Baitha irrespective of his political affiliations, The Times of India reported.
For days after the accident, the parents of the dead students have been demanding Baitha’s arrest. Villagers had blocked the National Highway that runs through the district in protest.
Closed-circuit television footage of the incident purportedly showed Baitha fleeing the site after the vehicle hit the school’s compound wall.
Minapur police station in-charge Sona Prasad Singh told The Indian Express that the police have concluded it was Baitha who was driving the vehicle. “We have taken statements of several Dharmpur villagers who have said as much,” Singh said. “The villagers’ statements are consistent, of seeing a man wearing a kurta-pajama leaving the scene. Footage from the Runi Saidpur toll plaza has helped prove Baitha was driving the SUV,” he said.