Naxalites : Past and Present

Naxalite Insurgency has prevailed in India since a long time. And it’s important that we understand how it started, it’s important that we understand the names involved and it’s important we understand the figures involved, which are by no means, meager. In 2006, it was established by the intelligence agencies that around 20,000 armed Naxalites were operating along with 50,000 regular cadres. It has been termed as the “Most serious internal threat to India’s national security”.

All forms of Naxalite organizations have been declared as terrorist organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967). According to the Government of India, as of July 2011, 83 districts (this figure includes a proposed addition of 20 districts) across 9 states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh) are affected by left-wing extremism down from 180 districts in 2009.


Naksalvadi is the generic term that is used to refer to various Communist guerrilla groups in India, mostly under the influence of the CPI-Maoist. Naxal – the term is derived from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where a section of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) led by Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal initiated a violent uprising in 1967. The movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal had the agenda to adopt armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless. These conflicts arose with the failure of implementing the 5th and 9th Schedules of constitution of India. Theoretically, these Schedules provide for a limited form of tribal autonomy with regard to exploiting natural resources on their lands, e.g. pharmaceutical & mining, and ‘land ceiling laws’, limiting the land to be possessed by landlords and distribution of excess land to landless farmers & laborers.

At the time, the leaders of this revolt were members of the CPI (Marxist), which joined a coalition government in West Bengal just a few months back. Now that they were in power, CPI (M) did not approve of the armed uprising, and all the leaders and a number of Calcutta sympathizers were expelled from the party.

Subsequently, In November 1967, this group, led by Sushital Ray Chowdhury, organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). Violent uprisings were organized in several parts of the country. On April 22 1969 (Lenin’s birthday), the AICCCR gave birth to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI (ML)).

Practically all Naxalite groups trace their origin to the CPI (ML). A separate offshoot from the beginning was the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh group. The MCC later fused with the People’s War Group to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). A third offshoot was that of the Andhra revolutionary communists, mainly represented by the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India, UCCRI (ML), following the mass line legacy of T. Nagi Reddy, which broke with the AICCCR at an early stage.

During the 1970s, the movement was fragmented into disputing factions. By 1980, it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30,000.


The present conflict began after the 2004 formation of the CPI-Maoists, a rebel group composed of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

The armed wing of the Naxalite–Maoists is called the PLGA (Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army) and is estimated to have between 6,500 and 9,500 cadres, mostly armed with small arms.

The Naxalites controlled territory is throughout Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh and is greatly supported by the poor rural population. The Naxalites agenda is to fight for improved land rights and increased jobs for agricultural laborers and poor. The Naxalites claim that they are following a strategy of rural rebellion similar to a protracted people’s war against the government.

February 2009 saw the arrival of a new nationwide initiative launched by the Indian government ,called the “Integrated Action Plan” (IAP) which aimed at dealing with the Naxalite problem in all affected states, namely (Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal). This plan included funding for grass-roots economic development projects in Naxalite-affected areas, as well as increased special police funding for better containment and reduction of Naxalite influence. In August 2010, after the first full year of implementation of the national IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of Naxal affected states.

The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency gained international media attention after the 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley that resulted in the deaths of around 24 Indian National congress leaders including the former state minister Mahendra Karma and the Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.


The People’s War Group (PWG) intensified its attacks against politicians, police officers, and land and business owners in response to a July ban imposed on the group by the Andhra Pradesh government. The government responded by tightening security, allegedly ordering attacks on suspected PWG members by state police and the “Green Tigers”. According to government reports, 482 people have died during the conflict that year.

The conflict in Andhra Pradesh intensified as Naxalite rebel groups, in particular the PWG, continued guerrilla attacks on police and government targets while the security forces stepped up counter-insurgency efforts. An October assassination attempt on Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was consistent with the PWG’s practice of targeting government officials to draw attention to their cause. According to independent media reports, as many as 500 people were killed in the conflict this year, half of these Maoist rebels.

Sporadic, low-intensity fighting between the PWG and government forces continued for most of the year. Attacks on police and TDP party officials, believed to be carried out by the PWG, accounted for most major incidents and deaths. A three-month cease-fire, announced in late June, led to failed negotiations between the government and the PWG. A few days into the cease-fire, an attack attributed to the PWG placed the cease-fire in jeopardy. More than 500 people were killed and Most victims were members of the police forces or the Telugu Desam Party (a regional political party).

Violent clashes between Maoist rebels and state security forces and paramilitary groups increased following the breakdown of peace talks between the PWG and the state government of Andhra Pradesh. Rebels continued to employ a wide range of low-intensity guerrilla tactics against government institutions, officials, security forces and paramilitary groups. For the first time in recent years, Maoist rebels launched two large scale attacks against urban government targets. Fighting was reported in 12 states covering most of south, central and north India with the exception of India’s northeast and northwest. More than 700 people were reported killed this year in violent clashes. Over one-third of those killed were civilians.

Maoist attacks continued, primarily on government and police targets. Civilians were also affected in landmine attacks affecting railway cars and truck convoys. Clashes between state police and rebels also resulted in deaths of members of both parties, and civilians that were caught in the crossfire. Fighting differs from state to state, depending on security and police force responses. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, security forces have been somewhat successful in maintaining control and combating Maoist rebels. The other state that is most affected, Chhattisgarh, has seen an increase in violence between Maoist rebels and villagers who are supported by the government. In 2006, 500 to 750 people were estimated killed, fewer than half Naxalites, and approximately one-third civilians.

Fighting continued between Naxalite Maoists and government security forces throughout the year. The majority of hostilities took place in Chhattisgarh, which turned especially deadly when over 400 Naxalites attacked a Chhattisgarh police station, seizing arms and killing dozens.

In November 2007 reports emerged that anti-SEZ (Special Economic Zone) movements such as the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee in Nandigram in West Bengal, which arose after the land appropriation and human displacement following the SEZ Act of 2005, have joined forces with the Naxalites since February to keep the police out. Recently, police found weapons belonging to Maoists near Nandigram. Civilians were forced to choose between joining the Maoist insurgence or supporting the Salwa Judum and face coercion from both sides. According to news reports, this conflict resulted in 650 deaths during 2007; of these 240 were civilians, 218 security personnel and 192 militants.

Civilians were most affected in the ongoing fighting between Maoist rebels and government security forces. Of the 16 states touched by this conflict, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were the most affected. One positive note for Chhattisgarh was that fatalities, although still high, were significantly down from 2007. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh, the state with the most Maoist activity a few years ago, has improved security with a corresponding drop in fatality rates. Unfortunately, as conditions have improved in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist forces seem to have shifted their operations to the state of Orissa where conditions have worsened. South Asia Terrorism Portal’s fatality count across the six states that saw the majority of the fighting (Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh) was 794. This included 399 civilians, 221 security force personnel and 174 insurgents.

In 2009, Naxalites were active across approximately 180 districts in ten states of India.

In September 2009 India’s PM Manmohan Singh admitted that the Maoists had growing appeal among a large section of Indian society, including tribal communities, the rural poor as well as sections of the intelligentsia and the youth. He added that “Dealing with left-wing extremism requires a nuanced strategy – a holistic approach. It cannot be treated simply as a law and order problem.” In the first half of 2009, 56 Maoist attacks were reported. The South Asia Terrorism Portal reported 998 killed in the conflict: 392 civilians, 312 security forces and 294 rebels.

During February the Silda camp attack killed 24 paramilitary personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles in an operation the guerrillas stated was the beginning of “Operation Peace Hunt”, the Maoist answer to the government “Operation Green Hunt” that was recently launched against them. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal and government sources, over 1,000 deaths occurred in the conflict this year. This includes 277 security forces, 277 Naxalites, and more than 600 civilian. This year saw a big increase in Naxal attacks including innumerable attacks against army and police as well as a couple of train derailments, like Kolkata–Mumbai night train and Triveni Express on Singrauli-Bareilly route.

During May, Naxalites killed and dismembered ten policemen, including one senior officer in the Gariyaband, Chhattisgarh area on the border with Orissa. In June, the total fatalities of both the police and the paramilitary were 43.

On 21 July, Maoist rebels in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh blew up a bridge, killing four people and wounding five others. The attack happened when the Congress party chief of the state, Nandkumar Patel, was returning from a party function.

Despite the continued violence in 2011, the most recent central government campaign to contain and reduce the militant Naxalite presence appears to be having some success, the 2011 toll of 447 civilians and 142 security personnel killed having been nearly 50% lower than the 2010 toll. Some states experiencing this sharp reduction in Naxalite hostilities, such as Madhya Pradesh, attribute their success to their use of IAP funds for rural development.

In mid-March, Maoist rebels kidnapped two Italians in Orissa. They later released one, while the government of Orissa negotiated for the release of the second. The Maoists released the second hostage in the middle of April. The Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Laxmipur constituency (Orissa), Jhin Hikka, was abducted by the Maoists in March, who demand the release of 30 Maoist cadres (presently in jail) in exchange for the freedom of the MLA. He was later released on the condition that he would resign from Orissa Assembly.

On 27 March, an explosion blamed on Maoists killed 15 Indian policemen in Maharashtra.

The 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley resulted in the deaths of around 24 Indian National Congress leaders including the former state minister Mahendra Karma and the Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.

28 February: Six police personnel, including a SHO, killed in Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

11 March: 15 security personnel and 1 Civilian were killed in Chhattisgarh Naxal attack in Tongpal village, close to the Darbha Ghat area, of Sukma district in south Chhattisgarh, while they were engaged in a road opening exercise in the area.

12 April: In a major post-poll attack, 15 people, including six personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and nine civilians, were killed when Maoists blew up an ambulance and a bus in two separate incidents in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.


Overall 12,180 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 1980, which includes 6600 civilians, 2400 security personnel and 3100 insurgents. The entire Naxal conflict can be described as a battle between India’s most neglected people and the nation’s most powerful industrial businesses. The adivasis make up about 8.4 percent of the population and live in severe poverty. They live in remote areas where government administration is weak and there is a lack of government services. These indigenous people have the lowest literacy rates in the country and highest rates of infant mortality. Given this socio-economic alienation, it is easy to see how the Naxalite’s ideology is popular among the rural poor and indigenous tribes, and why the adivasis view the guerrillas as their “saviours”. The adivasis do not feel like they have any political power to voice their grievances legitimately, and therefore the alternative of subversive, illegal groups seem attractive. The Naxalite problem, thereby, poses as the biggest menace to India’s security in the present and the future.

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