Recovery agents of a finance company in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra city on Wednesday illegally seized a privately-operated bus over non-payment of a loan taken by the owner of the vehicle, India Today reported. They forced the driver and conductor to get down the bus and drove off with 34 passengers in it, according to PTI.

The incident took place in the Malpura police station area when the bus was going to Panna in Madhya Pradesh from Gurugram in Haryana. It triggered panic on social media, with users and political leaders claiming the bus was “hijacked”.

Uttar Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said the bus driver, staff and passengers are safe. “The finance company had illegally seized the bus,” he said in a statement. “The bus owner died yesterday and his son is conducting the last rites.”

However, the state government did not mention the whereabouts of the bus.

Agra police chief Babloo Kumar told reporters that the bus driver and conductor informed them that representatives of the finance company had boarded the vehicle and assured the passengers that no harm will be done to them. “The men in SUVs then chased the bus and overtook it at Malpura area,” he added. “They got into the bus and forcibly brought down the driver and the conductor. Later, four of these men boarded the bus and sped away on the Delhi-Kanpur highway. Preliminary information reveals the bus has been taken away by the people from a finance company which had financed the vehicle. A case has been registered and police teams [have been] formed to search for it.”

Opposition leaders attacked Chief Minister Adityanath over the law and order situation in the state.

“The so-called finance company hijacking the bus in a filmy manner suggests lawlessness in UP,” Congress state unit chief Ajay Kumar Lallu tweeted. “The incident has laid bare the hollow claims of law and order in the state. Dear government, is this the ‘Yogi model’ of law and order?”

The Samajwadi Party asked the government to ensure the safe return of all passengers. “The hijacking of a bus with 34 passengers in Agra is a very sad and frightening incident,” it said. “The law and order situation in UP is so severe that even the biggest of crimes are being carried out anywhere. Prayers for the safety of all travellers.”