Hours before dawn broke on the 140th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, suspected Maoist guerrillas gunned down 16 people, including five children, after dragging them out of their homes here in Bihar’s Khagaria district, 190 km from Patna. The killings were apparently over a land dispute between Musahars, who are mostly landless Dalits, and Kurmis, who come under Other Backward Castes (OBCs). “Land dispute was the cause of the carnage,’’ Khagaria SP Indranand Mishra said. In a sign of assertion, possibly egged on by the Maoists, Musahars were demanding that the Kurmis vacate their land for them. Another senior police officer said the killings could be the work of Naxalites. “The extremists took up the cause of Musahars who are Maoist sympathisers,’’ he said.