The West Bengal police have booked five people for allegedly lynching a farmer in Malda district last week because his seven-year-old son damaged a mobile phone, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday. All the accused are absconding.

The police said the attack occurred on Saturday when the victim, identified as Alimul Sheikh, had an argument with his neighbour Malla Bakkas over a mobile phone. Sheikh’s son and Bakkas’ grandson were playing on the device when it got damaged. Bakkas reportedly became furious and accused Sheikh’s son of breaking it. This led to an altercation between the two families, The Telegraph reported.

“The kids got hold of a smartphone and while they tried to handle it, the device got damaged. Bakkas and his relatives became angry and attacked Alimul,” Sheikh’s older brother, Mohammad Wahab, said. “Around midnight [on Saturday], Bakkas along with his sons and daughters barged into Sheikh’s house and assaulted him with iron rods and lathis.”

Wahab said that when he later rushed to rescue his brother, he found him lying in a pool of blood at the spot where the children had been playing. Sheikh was taken to the Malda Medical College and Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, he added. “He was strangled with a towel,” Wahab said.

Malda Superintendent of Police Alok Rajoria said the police had begun investigating the matter. “The accused are on the run. A search has been launched. The body has been sent for autopsy,” he said. The complaint was registered at the Kaliachak police station.

Rajoria also claimed that the incident was not “mob lynching” in the “true sense” of the term. “Lynching means people taking law into their own hands,” he said. “It was not an incident of mob lynching in true sense of the term. But the allegation is serious and a probe has been initiated.”