Uttar Pradesh's anti-naxal police force has been put on alert since Friday night following the killing of two Maoist commanders in an intra-cadre caste clash just across the border in Bihar on Thursday.
"More caste clashes are feared," said a police officer on condition of anonymity.
Virendra Yadav aka Rana, head of the political wing of the Maoists, and Vishnudeo Yadav, in-charge of the levy collection cell, were shot dead by a group of Maoists belonging to other backward classes (OBC).
Special director general of police (law and order) Brij Lal said the incident happened in the Navhatta area of Rohtas district in Bihar.
The spot is around 30km east from the Kon police station in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The cops recovered an AK-56 rifle and a large cache of ammunition from the crime scene.
Virendra Yadav was the mentor of Munna Vishwakarma, a dreaded Maoist commander and head of the military wing of Sone-Vindhyachal committee. The zone includes areas from Sone in Bihar to Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh.
Both UP and Bihar police have announced a reward on Vishwakarma. Virendra had also been on the wanted list of the Uttar Pradesh police.
The Bihar government also had announced a reward of R50,000 on him.
"Virendra used to hold regular classes in remote villages located on the UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh borders to motivate rural folk to join the Red Brigade," the police officer said.
"The UP police had tried to nab him several times, but he managed to give them the slip."
The killing of top Maoist commanders puzzled the cops.
Initial investigation has revealed that the dead commanders were from the Yadav community, and their attackers belonged to OBC.
The OBC Maoists leaders Ajay Rajbhar, Nakhru Kharwar and Anil Koeri are suspected to have had a hand in the killing, the police said.
The Maoists belonging to other backward castes are trying to assert themselves in an organisation dominated by Yadavs.
Usually Maoists coming from the Yadav community hold the top post in the Maoists committee in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Those coming from the other backward castes and schedule castes occupy posts further down in the hierarchy.
"The recruitment from Yadav community into the Maoist cadre has diminished of late," said a police officer working on anti-naxal operations.
He added that majority of recruits were coming from OBC, fuelling this struggle for power.
Recently caste clashes among the Maoists had been reported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.