The rumours began along the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border and rippled outwards through the forested hills. A letter dropped off in Tawalgah village in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, revealed the death of a man in his mid-forties with a distinctive scar on his right hand.

This April, the Times of India reported the death of Mangal Singh Korchami alias Divakar, Secretary of the North Gadchiroli Divisional Committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), citing a letter sent by Maoist cadres to Divakar's family in Tawalgarh. Divakar’s scar, it appeared, was a relic from a tiger attack many years ago.

The April 26 report quoted unnamed security agents who claimed that Divakar was killed by Maoist cadres who believed their leader had plans of surrender to the police; other reports indicated that he might have overdosed on anti-malarial medication. His body, never recovered, is presumed to be have cremated somewhere in Gadchiroli’s jungles.

Did Divakar commit suicide, or was he murdered?

While intelligence experts admit to a degree of success in breaching insurgent groups in Kashmir and India's North East territories, cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have proved much hard to 'turn'. Yet, the circumstances surrounding Divakar's death suggest that the Maoists could yet prove vulnerable to infiltration.

“There have been some problems in Gadchiroli,” said Gudsa Usendi in a recent telephone conversation, “Last year the party initiated a rectification campaign across all Maoist divisions and in Gadchiroli in particular. A plenary meeting organized last year, there was extensive self-criticism sessions amongst the cadres.”

Maoist sources also told this correspondent that a disproportionate number of cadres from the North Gadchiroli have surrendered in the last few years, including Maoist-turned police informant Suresh Halami and Maharashtra state committee member Renu (who supposedly defected to the police after she was demoted).

Divakar, Mr. Usendi said, joined the CPI (Maoist) in 1992 and headed the Tippagarh military dalam for many years before heading the entire North Gadchiroli division. “We first began noticing disciplinary problems about a year and a half ago,” he said. Divakar had begun maintaining contacts with ‘known police informants’ and could not account for his movements.

“He would suddenly disappear without telling anyone,” said Mr. Usendi, “But he was a senior leader, so no one really questioned him.” Senior Maoist leaders also received reports that Divakar was misappropriating party funds and extorting money from civil contractors without the party’s permission. “We received a complaint from the wife of a contractor who told us that Divakar had demanded money from, and subsequently killed, her husband,” Mr. Usendi continued.

Divakar’s detractors included his wife, a Maoist commander called Jyoti. Her charges were rejected twice as the leadership suspected personal motives behind her complaints, but an investigation was launched when she complained the third time. “Divakar was questioned at the December [2010] plenary meeting and asked to give a full account of his movements and actions,” Mr. Usendi said, “He was then demoted and removed from his post.”

In April, a state-level investigating team was dispatched from Dandakaranya (a Maoist Division corresponding to the five southern-most districts of Chhattisgarh) to conduct a deeper review. “On the morning after the first day of questioning, Divakar swallowed some medicines and began vomiting,” said Mr. Usendi contradicting police claims that Divakar was killed by Maoist cadres, “Nobody hurt him…we tried to revive him, but he died.”