Former top Maoist leader dead

KOLKATA: A former leader of India’s outlawed communist rebel movement was found dead today in his home in eastern India, police said.

The body of 78-year-old Kanu Sanyal was sent for an autopsy to determine whether he had hanged himself, said police official Surajit Kar Purkayastha. Neighbours found Sanyal’s body in his home in Naxalbari in West Bengal state, about 400 km northeast of Kolkata, the state capital.

The Press Trust of India news agency said Sanyal was suffering from age-related ailments.

The communist rebels have been fighting for more than four decades in a number of Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural labourers and the poor. Sanyal was a co-founder of the rebel movement and was jailed in 1970 for participating in it.

Sanyal gave up arms after his release in 1977 and founded the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which fielded candidates in West Bengal state elections without much success.

The rebels are known as Naxalites, after Naxalbari, the village where the movement was founded in 1967.

Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels are present in more than 220 of India’s 600-plus districts across 20 states. About 2,000 people including police, militants and civilians have been killed in the violence over the past few years.