A fresh gunbattle broke out between the Maoists and the joint forces in Salboni area on Saturday, while the police remained tightlipped over reports that top leader Kishenji was injured in Thursday's encounter at Hatiloth forest in West Midnapore district.
The firefight began when the special anti-Maoist Commando Battalion for Resolute Action personnel were carrying out a search in Hatiloth and Bhalukbasa forests, both in Salboni area, besides Chotokalsibhanga forest in Lalgarh area, police sources said.
There were no immediate reports of any casualty.
Asked whether Kishenji, who twice escaped arrest, was hurt in Thursday's gunbattle with the joint forces, Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma said, "A group of Maoists in Hatiloth forest were injured, but it cannot be said for certain whether Kishenji was present."
Kishenji was trapped when the joint forces surrounded a group of Maoists during the release of kidnapped Officer-in-Charge of Sankrail police station Atindranath Dutta on October 22 last year. However, he escaped after threatening to kill Dutta.
On January 21, Kishenji gave the second slip, while his laptop and headphones were seized at a jungle between Jitushol and Dumurpota under Kotwali police station.
Stating that the anti-Naxal personnel had cordoned off Lalgarh, Jamboni and Kotwali police station areas and were tightening the noose on the maoists, the police official said, "If Kishenji had called up the media to state that he was hurt it would have been a different matter, but there is no specific information about him."
Another senior police officer said, "I have also heard that he is hurt, but there is no information about his whereabouts."
Asked whether the elusive Maoist leader was in Midnapore district or had fled, another senior police officer said his mobile phone was being tracked.
On whether any Maoist has been eliminated in the ongoing encounter, Verma said, "We cannot say anything until a body is recovered. So far we have not recovered a body."
The official said two Maoist squad leaders Sanatan Pal and Prasanta Patra were arrested from Salboni area on Friday. They were remanded to police custody till April 4 on Saturday.Sanatan was arrested with an SLR rifle, while Prasanta, regarded as a big catch, was involved in all major attacks in Belpahari and Banspahari area of the district for the last three years, Verma said.