Even as speculation that Communist Party of India (Maoist) Polit Bureau member Koteswara Rao, alias Kishenji, was killed in a fake encounter refuses to die down, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attempted to clear the air on Friday. “Kishenji's death was not something that we did knowingly. It was an incident that occurred,” Ms. Banerjee told journalists at the State Secretariat.

Speaking to journalists after the surrender of leading Maoist leader Suchitra Mahato, Ms. Banerjee clarified the reason for the long delay in the announcement about Kishenji's killing. “I was away in Delhi at that time. The police also did not know for sure. If the police knew, they would have announced it earlier,” the Chief Minister said.

Kishenji was killed in an encounter with security forces in the Burisole forest area in Paschim Medinipur district on November 24. However, rumours that it was a fake encounter started doing the rounds from the very next day.

Revolutionary poet and Maoist sympathiser Varavara Rao, who had accompanied Kishenji's niece to collect the body, had claimed that there were signs of torture.

Sujato Bhadra, who was one of the key interlocutors appointed by Ms. Banerjee's government in July last year to explore the possibility of talks with the Maoists, has also been sceptical about the circumstances in which Kishenji was killed. He resigned soon afterwards.

Mr. Bhadra included Kishenji's death in the book Bhooya Sangharsher Hatya (Fake Encounter Killings) that was released at the 36 Kolkata International Book Fair in February.

Renowned writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi, who is believed to be close to Ms. Banerjee and has made public appearances at Trinamool Congress rallies, has also emphasised the need for a detailed investigation into the incident.