Maoist Polit Bureau member Kishanji is suspected to have been seriously injured during the seven-hour-long gun-battle between security forces and the rebels at Lakhanpur forest in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district on Thursday. He is believed to be undergoing treatment at a secret location in the district by local quacks.

The police also suspect that the rebels suffered heavy casualties during the exchange of fire and are pegging the casualty figure at around 10, although none of the bodies could be recovered on Friday.

Though West Bengal Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh declined to comment on whether Kishanji was injured, he said: “It is suspected that several of those rebels injured in the firing have succumbed to their injuries.” There was also a report that a student of the city-based Jadavpur University was one of the Maoists killed in the exchange of fire, but Mr. Singh said there was no confirmation on the matter.

Mr. Singh had said on Thursday that there was a possibility that “an important Maoist leader” was present at the site of the gunfight.

A senior district police official, however, told The Hindu on Friday that based on inputs from several channels, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Intelligence Branch of Andhra Pradesh, it is suspected that Kishanji might have “suffered serious bullet injuries if not killed.”

“At around 6 p.m. on Thursday, we received an input from Andhra Pradesh's State Intelligence Bureau that Kishanji has either died or is badly injured. Immediately afterwards, the Maoists started firing more heavily than the earlier hours and tried to move away from the area. The rebels usually use this tactic to shift the bodies of their slain comrades so that the police cannot recover them,” the official said.

He added that villagers informed the police they saw Maoists carrying several bodies towards the Mathurapur forest.Meanwhile, the security forces carried out intense combing operations in areas where they suspected Maoists to be hiding.