A top Maoist leader, who was at the helm of Naxal activities in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region and carried a reward of Rs 40 lakh on his head, has died of a heart attack, a senior police said on Tuesday.
Ravulu Srinivas alias Ramanna, who was in his late 50s, died at a forest in Bijapur district last week, he said.
However, the outlawed CPI-Maoist is yet to issue a statement on this, as the outfit usually does in the event of a leader's death.
"We have information from various sources that Ramanna, the secretary of Dandakarnya Special Zonal Committee of Maoists, died on Saturday night and was cremated at a forest between Pamed and Basaguda villages in Bijapur district," the inspector general of police, Bastar range, Sundarraj P said.
"The police have got a lot of evidence to corroborate this information, but we are still waiting for conclusive evidence to come to our knowledge," he said.
Ramanna was instrumental in several killings and attacks on security forces, including the 2010 Tadmetla massacre that claimed the lives of 76 troopers, he said.
He was also involved in the 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley where 29 people, including some senior Congress leaders and policemen, were killed.
Ramanna, a native of Telengana's Warangal district, was also a member of the central committee of Maoists and carried a reward of Rs 40 lakh on his head in Chhattisgarh, the senior police official said.
His wife Savitri alias Sodhi Hidme, a local tribal, is also a key Maoist leader in south Bastar and is secretary of the Kistaram area committee (KAC).
Their son Ranjit is also an active member of the KAC.
Ramanna, considered a strategist in inter-state Naxal operations, was in-charge of the outlawed movement in Bastar and areas bordering Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
Following his death, local cadres may to try to look for a chance to be elevated to his position as since long, preference was given to Naxals from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for the top posts, resulting in infighting, another police official said on condition of anonymity.
Ramanna, who was active in south Bastar for the past 30 years, was made DKSZC secretary in 2011, he said.
He played a key role in establishing the DKSZC in Bastar and roped in locals for the movement, he said.
His death would further weaken the Maoist movement in the region, the official said.
Image used for representational purpose only. Photograph: Shruti Shrestha / Reuters.