Extremism and Naxalism in India and Developmental Challenges IAS Target

Extremism and Naxalism in India and Developmental Challenges

30 Jul 2020

Category : Security

Topic: Extremism and Naxalism in India and Developmental Challenges

A Naxal or Naxalite is a member of any political organisation that claims the legacy of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), founded in Calcutta in 1969. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the largest existing political group in that lineage today in India. The term Naxal derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the Naxalite peasant revolt took place in 1967. Naxalites are considered far-left radical communists, supportive of Mao Zedong's political ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) following the Naxalbari peasant uprising, leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) two years later.

Initially, the movement had its epi-centre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread to less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Some Naxalite groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as:
  • the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation and
  • the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Jana-shakti.

As of April 2018, the areas where Naxalites are most visible are (these region also known as Red zone):

Andhra Pradesh Visakhapatnam
Bihar Gaya, Jamui, Lakhisarai
Chhattisgarh Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Rajnandgaon, Sukma
Jharkhand Bokaro, Chatra, Garhwa, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Palamu, Ranchi, Simdega West, Singhbhum
Maharashtra Gadchiroli, Gondia, Yavatmal
Odisha Koraput, Malkangiri
Telangana Bhadradri, Kothagudem

Why Naxalism emerge in India

Peasant revolt Naxalbari uprising was an armed peasant revolt in 1967 in the Naxalbari block of Siliguri subdivision in Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India. It was mainly led by local tribals and the radical communist leaders of Bengal and further developed into Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) in 1969. The event became an inspiration to the naxalite movement which rapidly spread from West Bengal to other states of India creating division within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) party.
Developmental Deficit The Naxal affected areas face rampant poverty and unemployment. The areas also lack education and health facilities. There is also a deficit of infrastructures such as roads, bridges and communication facilities.
Governance Deficit There is a lack of routine administration with incompetent, ill-trained and poorly motivated personnel. There are corruption and mismanagement of government schemes and poor implementation of special laws. Electoral politics is perverted and the working of local government is unsatisfactory.
Social Exclusion and Alienation There are human rights violations and the dignity of life is not ensured. There is a disconnect with the mainstream society which all leads to the discontent against the government.
Jal-Jangal-Jameen The issues of land, forest and water rights. There is an evasion of land ceiling laws and unlawful encroachment and illegal occupation of community lands. The traditional rights are not recognised and there is unfair land acquisition without any compensation or proper rehabilitation. The tribe- forest relations are also disrupted.

Current status of Naxalism in India

  • The Naxalite movement has come a long way since its birth and continues to persist in terms of spatial spread, intensity of violence, militarisation and increased efforts to draw out mass support. Naxal influence is spread over a large land area and it has to be conceded that Naxalism has come a long way in these forty plus years. It is no longer an agrarian driven movement. Naxalites have improved in training and are increasingly taking recourse to high-end technology. They have become more aggressive and have resorted to attacking economic infrastructure. Their method of operation revolves around stealth, speed and surprise. They often target unprepared and lethargic police establishments by overwhelming them in large numbers.

  • Naxals today are very well organised and have a very clear strategy of engaging in anti-State operations in various states. Naxal cadres are drawn from across class and caste barriers, with even educated unemployed youth joining them. Their source of finance is the local extortion economy and their support base is in areas that lie in the remote interiors. Mis-governance and poor socio-economic profile as well unstructured, top-down state response are factors that facilitate their sustenance. Nexus with politicians is also a factor that provides impetus to the Naxal movement. According to Govt., as of today, 20 states of India and 223 districts, feel the heat of its progress in a big or small way. Chhattisgarh remains the most seriously affected State by Naxalite violence followed by Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar. Naxalites operate in vacuum created by functional inadequacies of field level governance structures, espouse local demands, and take advantage of the prevailing dissatisfaction.

  • Simultaneously, they make systematic efforts to prevent execution and implementation of development works, to keep the remote and background areas in a state of inaccessibility and deprivation. Naxalites continue to focus on fresh recruitment and militarization of their cadres. The CPI (Maoist) continues to remain the most active group among the naxalite groups, accounting for about 88% of total incidents of violence and 89% of resultant killings. Countrywide, LWE violence was reported from 400 Police Stations in 87 districts of 13 States in 2008 as compared to 371 Police Stations in 95 districts of 13 States in 2007. The level of violence remains high in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra. Together, these five States accounted for 86.39% of the total incidents of naxal violence during 2008.

Naxals choose tribal areas

The Naxals chose the tribal areas for their activities because they observed that the Adivasis are most inhumanly treated by the cunning and fraudulent rich Sahukars who employed them in their farms at:
  • Low price,
  • Deceived them in wages,
  • Plundered their jungles exploited their labor,
  • Grabbed their land at an insignificant price.

Besides, the tribal areas are full of forests, wild rivers having no road communication. The police cannot enter there to stop their activities. They would easily win the heart of the tribal people against the government. So they chose this region as their sphere of activity.

Aims and Objectives of Naxalites:

  • They feel that the tribal areas are full of minerals, coal bauxite, natural_ resources. The government gets plenty of revenue from this area, but the government has the least attention for the upliftment of the tribal people, the natives of the jungles.
  • There are no roads, no schools, no hospitals. They have no food, no dress, no culture, and civilization.
  • The corrupt officers dupe them take their thumb impression and take away their money.
  • The cultured and cunning Sahukars behave them like slaves, exploit their labor and grab their land pushing them to disease, squalor, malnutrition and premature death.
  • To end age-old exploitation, torture, to establish social and administrative justice the Naxals fight ceaselessly. Their aim is to uplift the poor illiterate Adivasis, farmers who have been crushed for centuries by faulty government machinery and policy.

Method of work:

The objective of the Naxals is quite admiring but to achieve the goal, the path they have accepted is quite loathsome. They loot police stations, kill police on duty, fire the farmhouses, boycott elections, kill innocent people, spread horror. They create violence and bloodshed. They follow anti-democratic and anti -humanitarian methods to achieve the end. No sane people can support such divisive force, supported by people’s war group, Maoists, Marxists and equipped with wireless, AK 47 rifles, mortals, bombs, grenades they put a potent threat to the administration and the government.

Tactics adopted by LWE

  • They threaten the locals before the conduct of elections and prevent them from voting. Violating the principle of participative democracy.
  • They resort to violence through their guerrilla tactics and attempt to setup their own government in the local villages.
  • They destroy the roads, transport system and government resources, thereby creating hindrance in governance and last mile connectivity. The poor are deprived further.
  • Urban Naxals, who sometimes operate under the cloak of NGOs or social-work units, raise questions about the use of force by government machinery. This helps them build a strong bastion of sympathisers and volunteers in towns and cities and across social media.
  • They resort to extortion, abduction of important personalities like Politicians, bureaucrats, police etc and put up their demand.
  • They hire vulnerable people who have low literacy levels, unemployed or low income, particularly the tribals, who aren’t aware of consequences of joining such forces, building up their cadre.
  • They also have nexus with politicians, they find this as a medium to put up their demands through voices of Politicians.
  • They attack the police, government and collect weapons, technological devices to fight against them on technological front.

Naxalites Strategy as per writings of Mao Zedong should be –

  • Organization, consolidation, and preservation of regional base areas situated in isolated and difficult terrain.
  • Progressive expansion, which includes attacks on police stations, sabotage, terror tactics, elimination of persons with alternate viewpoints.
  • Destruction of the enemy through conventional battles and capture of power.

In initial phases they wage guerilla warfare and inflict surprise attacks. This is to make enemy weaker and project their claim over an area. This is also used by them to make common people under their influence believe that state is not all mighty and it is possible to defeat the state. They keep a strict vigil on people under them and suspected detractors or people with different views are brutally killed or tortured.
This strategy is long one, and they believe that it will take decades to achieve their objective. Till they prefer to silently strengthen their network and build capacity. Some leaked official documents of CPI (M) suggest that they plan to bring down Indian State by 2050 or 2060. Obviously, this is outright impossible, but we’ll have to agree that they can inflict substantial damage and State’s responsibility and focus is to minimize this damage. Maoists possibly have more sophisticated, better armed and trained elite force, which they are yet to brandish. Further, it is suspected that they might be receiving some support from retired armed forces personnel or some foreign powers. Worse is that maoist are amicable to any anti-India force which serve their purpose. Whether they are terrorist organization, organized crime mafias, Human/animal traffickers, smugglers or any foreign state enemy of India, all have some or other nexus with Maoists.
They can make use of counterfeit notes, provide passage to illicit materials, give refuge to anti national elements and carry out contract killings to get what they want in return. This way they can arrange for money or modern weapons. They have openly declared their support for Kashmir and North east separatists. Linkages between the Naxalites and the People’s Liberation Army in Manipur (PLA) came to light when PLA and Maoist cadres were arrested in Delhi in 2011 while making elaborate plans to form a “strategic united front” with the Naxalites in India. Any mishappening and state negligence is big opportunity for them to provoke people. For e.g. recent tragedy with 13 women in sterilization camps in Chhattisgarh or poisoning through Mid-day meal food, used by them against state. Also, they are believed to have support of anti-dam protestors of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
(The general concern of police sources is that the anti-talk faction of the ULF A may try to establish strong linkages with the Naxals and provide them with arms from its base in Myanmar and China. The small arms network is one of the strongest in the Northeast running all the way from Thailand, China, and Cambodia via Myanmar to Manipur and Nagaland.). Having said this, they operate their own medical and education services under the areas controlled by them. Similar confidence building exercise by state is not liked by them, so they have in past attacked government schools and hospitals.

Naxals make their presence felt in Urban areas

Naxalites brandishing weapons and in fatigues holed away in the dense jungles of Western Ghats like outlaws is a stereotype. The state intelligence admits that the extreme Left-wing radicals are effortlessly slipping into cities like Bangalore, Mangalore and Hubli, and remain inconspicuous. Maoists have ultimate objective to capture the cities and Mao in a statement said that this is not possible without ‘adequate work’ on ground in urban areas. There have been traditionally, underground urban networks, providing logistic supplies to interior bases, providing shelter in case of medical emergencies etc. But these front organizations keep alive anti state ideology in the media. They condemn government desperately on every stem. They try to mobilize working class against employers and government.
The strategy for urban areas of the country includes mobilization and organization of the working classes, building a Tactical United Front (TUF) of classes similarly placed to the working classes and military tactics involving sabotage actions and select assassinations by ‘action teams’. Time and again, Maoist Sympathizers are arrested from Delhi and found to be aiding activities of the Maoists.

Government response to Naxalite problem:

Developmental measures
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA) – to develop infrastructure and public services.
  • Special Infrastructure Scheme – to cater to critical infrastructure gaps that are not covered in any other schemes.
  • Security Related Expenditure Scheme – funds to train and equip security forces and rehabilitation of surrendered Naxalites.
  • Road Connectivity Project– for construction of about 5,500 km roads.
  • Skill development and educational development initiatives – construction of skill development centres, ITIs, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and schools under the Eklavya model.
  • Installation of Mobile Towers– for endless telecom connectivity.
  • Financial Inclusion- for ensuring the presence of banking facilities to all citizens residing in LWE affected areas.
  • Roshni Scheme– Skill development program for the Tribal population by the Rural Development ministry.
Security measures
  • Ministry of Home Affairs has created a Left-Wing Extremism division to effectively address the Left-Wing Extremist insurgency in a holistic manner. This division deals with security related aimed at capacity building in LWE affected states.
  • SAMADHAN strategy of government to frame short term and long-term policies to tackle LWE. The acronym SAMADHAN stands for Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and training, Actionable intelligence, Dashboard Based KPIs (key performance indicators) and KRAs (key result areas), Harnessing technology, Action plan for each theatre, and No access to financing.
  • Government has formulated National Policy and Action Plan adopting multi-pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlement of local communities etc. This has several sub-schemes like Security related expenditure scheme(2017-20), Special Central Assistance scheme which involves modernisation of police force, Civic action program which aims at bridging the gap between Police and locals through personal interaction.
  • Institutional measures like Blank Panther Combat Force (inline with the Greyhounds of Andhra and Telangana region), Bastariya battalion (locals joining as police, who are well informed of the terrain), multidisciplinary groups under MHA to check funding to the naxalites.
  • On Infrastructure development front, government has been constructing roads, LWE mobile tower project to bring the locals into mainstream.
  • Government is aiming for capacity building and skill development of the locals, schemes like ROSHNI that aims at providing jobs to the locals, the Ekalavya model residency schools for better educational facility to tribal children.
  • Government is also working on Economic Inclusion, like providing support prices for Minor forest produce (MFP), establishing Van Dhan Kendras to aid tribal income.
  • The Surrender and Rehabilitation policy too, has seen success to some extent.
  • Worst affected states launched a large scale offensive by the deployment of heavy troops.
  • The Andhra Pradesh government demonstrated the Greyhounds model which led the Maoist leaders to leave Andhra Pradesh.
  • Surrender and Rehabilitation Policy- the state governments rehabilitate the Naxalites in order to bring innocent individuals caught in the trap of LWE in the mainstream.
  • The government formed The national strategy to counter LWE, a multipronged approach to ensure participatory governance and protection of the rights of local tribals.
  • A separate 66 Indian Reserve Battalion (IRBs) was raised to curb the menace apart from Intelligence sharing.

Maintenance of law and order is domain of state governments, yet central government has deployed troops of CRPF in these areas. These troops are attached to police station or to district police. They don’t have specific job assigned to them and hence doesn’t have autonomy. They just act as support system to state police. Also, centre has deployed CoBRA – Commando Battalion for Resolute Actions are also deployed. These are elite forces specializing in guerrilla and jungle warfare. This has time and again created chain and command problems. There have been ego problems and confusion between operations of two forces. Further these forces are commanded by Inspectors who are in their 50’s and don’t have any experience of similar operations, knowledge of terrain and intelligence support. Recently about 14 members of CRPF were killed in Maoist attack and this was partially due to lapses on part of troops as they compromised protocol. There is repeated demand for involvement of army. While army is involve in training of CRPF and State police troops, yet it is not involved in operations.

Experts against involvement of Army because:

  • Army is option for the last resort. Currently problem is not lack of physical capacity of our police/paramilitary forces, but intelligence support is certainly lacking. In absence of this Army will end up achieving very little and deterrent aura of Army reservoir will be lost.
  • Further, Maoist will use this deployment and some associated developments as deliberate abuse of power by government against poor tribals. This may earn Maoist sympathy of tribals.
  • Our Army is already over stretched and if we start using it internally, our frontiers will be quite vulnerable. This we can’t afford as we know nature of our neighbors.
  • It may be asked that, then why AFSPA is implemented in J&K and North East areas, but not in Maoist affected area? This is because they already are on international borders and anti-state elements there are actively being supported by foreign power.
The Greyhounds are an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh, India created to combat left wing extremists. It is considered the best anti Naxalite force in the country, even above the CRPF’s CoBRA which has more men, budget and better arms than the Greyhounds. Greyhound is a simple but effective organization and recruits the best of the best from the Andhra Pradesh Police. The Force is also known for its guerrilla approach and its functioning in the field, which is near similar to that of the Maoists. The commandos of Greyhounds undergo rigorous training and have a strict day to day combat regime. They are highly paid, motivated and well-armed. Operation Green Hunt name used by the Indian media to describe the “all-out offensive” by government of India’s paramilitary forces and the state’s forces against the Naxalites. The operation is believed to have begun in November 2009 along five states in the Red Corridor. Recent attack on CRPF battalion is said to be in retaliation against this operation.

Failure of Salwa Judum

Salwa Judum was a militia that was mobilised and deployed as part of anti-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, aimed at countering Naxalite violence in the region. The militia, consisting of local tribal youth, received support and training from the Chhattisgarh state government. It has been outlawed and banned by a Supreme Court court order, but continues to exist in the form of Armed Auxiliary Forces, District Reserve Group and other vigilante groups. It was a mass movement against the atrocities committed by Naxalites in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The movement was a failure as the Naxalite propaganda effectively countered it by painting it as anti-people and as a proxy police movement. Several leaders and hundreds of villagers along with a Congressman who supported the movement were executed by the Maoists.
Salwa Judum cadres, some of them as young as 15–16 years in age and its cadres were made Special Police Officer s (SPOs), given a rifle each and paid Rs 1500–2000 a month. Poorly trained, ill equipped and immature, some of the Salwa Judum cadres themselves looted many tribal villages. It resulted in civil war like situation in these regions. On 5 July 2011, the Supreme Court of India in a case filed by Nandini Sundar and others declared the militia to be illegal and unconstitutional, and ordered its disbanding. The use of Salwa Judum by the government for anti-Naxal operations was criticised for its violations of human rights and poorly trained youth for counter-insurgency roles.

Intellectual Support to Naxalism

Influential Intellectuals advocating an egalitarian society, human rights and tribal rights often support Naxalism. They condemn the security forces for human rights violations but maintain a noble silence on Naxal brutalities. These intellectual forces must instead encourage the Naxals to join mainstream politics and not to oppose developmental projects. Naxalism is against the Constitution and democratic values and must be condemned.


The action needs to be on both the fronts i.e. action through security forces and developmental action that should aim at integrating the locals with the outside world. The Greyhounds model of Andhra Pradesh that helped northern Telangana districts get rid of Naxalism, can help us find many solutions. there should not isolation operation and silos work by centre and states. All states govt and centre work together to fight naxalism which is more than 70 years problem. so this issue need co-oeperation and coordination from all stakeholders at the same time govt need to take steps so that tribal peoples problem solve and their alienation prevented. we need both dialogue and security measures to eliminate the most dangerous internal security problem of India