A founder member of the radical Maoist insurgency that has plagued large parts of India for 40 years committed suicide on Tuesday in the village where the movement was formed, police said.
Kanu Sanyal, 78, was found hanging in his hut in Naxalbari, 600 kilometres (370 miles) from Kolkata, in the eastern state of West Bengal.
“He committed suicide by hanging himself and we are investigating the case,” senior police officer Surojit Kar Purokaysatha told AFP.
Sanyal and Charu Majumdar established the extreme left-wing peasant uprising in 1967 in Naxalbari — giving Indian Maoist rebels their name “Naxalites”.
The insurgency is now active in 20 out of 28 states with strongholds in a so-called “Red Corridor” stretching across north and eastern India.
India’s government, which sees the Maoist rebels as its biggest internal security threat, has launched offensives against them in recent months but has failed to curb their operations.
At least 900 people died in Maoist attacks in 2009, the highest figure since 1971.
The Maoists have used administrative power vacuums and under-development to establish control over large tracts of land across state boundaries.
In February, the government gave a cautious response to a rebel offer of peace talks, saying the insurgents must first stop their attacks and make a formal proposal.