The Maharashtra Government on Thursday sent Superintendent of Palghar police Gaurav Singh on forced leave, three weeks after three men were lynched in the district, The Indian Express reported. The government has already suspended five policemen from the Kasa station, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, while 35 others have been transferred.

On the night of April 16, three Mumbai residents, who were on their way to Silvassa, were lynched by local residents in Gadakchinchale village of Palghar district on the suspicion that they were thieves. A large mob of villagers had surrounded the car of the three men and started attacking them with sticks and iron rods, leading to their deaths. Two of the victims were reportedly local religious leaders from Kandivali suburb in Mumbai, and the third was their driver.

More than 100 people have been booked for the murders. The Crime Investigation Department of the Maharashtra Police last month took over the case.

The decision to send Singh on compulsory leave came after Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh visited the the Gadhchinchle village. He was accompanied by Director General of Police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal and officers from the state CID. At the village, Deshmukh met local political representatives including the MP, MLA and members of gram panchayat.

Unidentified officials told the newspaper that villagers and local leaders complained that the police did not take adequate steps to quell rumours about thieves and child lifters, which led to the killings. “It was believed that if strict action had been taken to curb the rumour mongering, the lynching could have been avoided,” an official said.

After the visit, Deshmukh in a video message said he met the elected representatives and locals there to “understand the reason behind the incident”. “After listening to them, the government has decided that Palghar superintendent of police Gaurav Singh be sent on forced leave and additional superintendent of Palghar be given the charge in the interim,” he added.

The state home minister had also received applications from the families of those who were arrested in the case, alleging they were wrongly accused by the police, unidentified officials said.

The lynching attack became a political flashpoint. The Congress last month alleged that two of the three accused in the case are members of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress demanded that the BJP take action against the accused, but the saffron party denied they were its workers. Attempts were also made to give the incident a communal colour. However, the Maharashtra government has repeatedly assured people there was no communal angle in the incident.