The deaths of at least 22 schoolchildren in a massive food poisoning case in the eastern Indian state of Bihar could be caused by deliberate poisoning, said a local official Thursday.
Meanwhile, local TV channel Times Now said at least 27 children are believed to have been killed in the food poisoning rather than 22 as officially confirmed.
The TV channel quoted villagers as saying angry parents and relatives had buried at least 27 bodies in front of a public school where the tragedy took place, in an angry gesture of protest.
Residents of Dharmashati Gandaman village of Saran district in the state also said the 27 buried children did not include at least six other children who died on way to Patna, the state capital.
State education minister Prashant Kumar Shahi told the media traces of organic phosphorous, a lethal poison, had been found in the food served to the kids.
"It is a criminal case of poisoning," he said.
Shahi alleged that the cooking ingredients came from a store run by the school principal's husband who belongs to a rival political party of the state government.
The school principal, Meena Devi, has fled and the sole other teacher of the school is said to be on vacation.
A cook had warned the principal that the mustard oil given to her to make soya curry had a foul smell, according to the official.