The CRPF on Friday forcefully denied that Maoist leader Kishenji was felled on Thursday in a fake encounter even as heaps of theories and circumstantial evidence centring around the death have begun to accumulate.
In some ways, this is acquiring the shape of a replay of what happened after Cherkuri Azad died in July 2010.
"There was no fake encounter. We cornered him and took him within the firing range. He tried to flee by firing at us and we also counter-fired," said K Vijay Kumar, CRPF director general, at the spot where Kishenji's body was found on Thursday.
However, scepticism abounded.
"According to my information, Kishenji was arrested yesterday (Thursday) around noon and later killed. If this report is true, it is a heinous crime … and a proper investigation should be conducted and clarified," CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta said in a letter to Union home minister P Chidambaram.
Human rights activist Choton Das, one of the six interlocutors appointed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee for pursuing peace talks with the rebels, said in the same vein: "I suspect this is a case of fake encounter. A drama has been created over the entire issue."
Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, who along with Kishenji's niece came from Andhra Pradesh to Kolkata to claim the slain rebel's body, described it as "murder".
Kishenji always used to be surrounded by a core team of people's liberation ‘soldiers' who are experts in jungle and guerrilla warfare. However, the police have not found any other body – adding to the mystery.
"There were many policemen in the village on Thursday. This is the paddy-harvesting season, and we were working in the fields. The police allowed us to work freely, but in the afternoon, we suddenly heard several rounds of firing. I returned home," said Nagendra Mahato, 25, a local resident.