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MLA killed in rebel hotbed
- Mahendra Singh shot dead in Giridih

Jan. 16: CPI-ML legislator from Bagodar Mahendra Prasad Singh was gunned down this afternoon, triggering conspiracy theories that blamed everyone, from Naxalites, politicians to a senior police officer, for the murder.

Singh, 50, was talking to some physically challenged persons at Durgi Dhowaiya village in his constituency, around 75 km from Giridih, after addressing a public meeting in the area when three persons, dressed as commandos, drove up in a motorcycle and asked for him.

Kedar Mandal, a CPI-ML cadre who was with Singh, said: 'The three persons first asked, 'Mahendra Singh kaun hain.' Singh replied, 'Mai Mahendra Singh Hoon.'

Those were the last words uttered by the unsuspecting MLA as the three men whipped out revolvers and shot him from point-blank range.

The legislator sustained bullet wounds in his head, neck and other parts of the body. Sources said there were altogether 13 bullet injuries on his person. But police sources said the exact number of bullets fired on Singh could be ascertained only after the autopsy report. Chief minister Arjun Munda has directed the police to hunt down the culprits within 48 hours and said his government would go for a CBI probe 'if the circumstances so desired'.

Speaking from Calcutta, where he has gone to receive BJP president L.K. Advani, Munda said: 'This is still not clear whose hand is behind the killing. We will not tolerate this. I have directed the police to take immediate action. I have told them that I need results within 48 hours.' Singh's killing, Munda said, was a 'personal loss'.

Home secretary J.B. Tubid did not rule out the possibility of Naxalites having a hand in the killing. The police in Giridih, a district ravaged by Naxalite activities, were working on the lines that the killing could have been executed by the Maoist extremists active in the region. Superintendent of police Deepak Verma said: 'It could be an extremist act.' But reports from Patna said the CPI(Maoist) has denied having a hand in the murder of the legislator.

The cadre brought the body to the Women's Teacher Training ground at Bagodar and demanded a CBI inquiry into the murder. One section blamed a state minister for the murder while another saw the hand of a senior police officer, against whom Singh had launched a crusade.

Party district secretary Rajkumar Yadav, who was leading the agitation, said: 'We will wait for our general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya to arrive and then we will decide what to do. Till then the body will not be handed over to police.'

At the MLA's residence at Khambhra, his family members refused to believe that it was the act of extremists. 'It cannot be an extremist act as they would have killed everyone present,' said his son-in-law, who is also called Mahendra Singh.

The slain MLA was one of the most articulate speakers in the Assembly who often raised uncomfortable questions for the government.

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