Three Muslim civilians have been burned to death after Hindu assailants set fire to dozens of homes of a Muslim community in an apparent retaliatory attack in eastern India, officials have said.

Atul Prasad, a Bihar state administrator, said the violence erupted on Sunday after the body of a young Hindu man was found in Sarayian village more than a week after he went missing.

Prasad said the Hindu fishermen community blamed the Muslim community for the 19-year-old's death as he was friendly with a Muslim girl from the nearby Bahilwada Bhuwal village, 105km north of Patna, the capital of Bihar state.

Family members alleged that the boy had been kidnapped by relatives of the girl.

For about an hour, the police could not enter the village as thousands of attackers went about destroying property, India's NDTV reported. Most of the residents ran away, leaving behind their gutted homes and charred belongings, the network said. 

Local media reported that a police complaint has been registered against an "unnamed mob of 5,000" people who attacked the village.

Police said eight Hindu villagers had been arrested for setting the huts ablaze in the poor Muslim community.

The village was tense but calm on Sunday, officials said.

Hindus comprise more than 80 percent and Muslims nearly 13 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. They largely live together peacefully in various parts of the country, but there are occasional incidents of communal violence.

Source: Agencies