As all our readers must be aware, in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces, Maoists killed 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured seven in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh on 24th April 2014.
Despite efforts from the government to reduce Maoist violence in the country, Naxal attacks have persisted. The number of attacks or fatalities have fluctuated over the last decade but there has not been a significant result to show continuous drop in the violence.
Indeed, Naxalism poses the biggest internal security threat to India. The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.
In this 4-part detailed write-up, we are going to examine the issue in detail and explore the options available before the nation.
In this 1st part, we are tracing the genesis and evolution of naxalism in India.
A brief overview
India, having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and being the most populous democratic country, has great potential to become a future superpower. However, in this increasingly globalised environment, India faces several threats to its security. Naxalism has been identified as the biggest internal security threat to India. The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.
The term ‘Naxal’ derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the movement had its origin. The Naxals are considered far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist).
Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread into less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). For the past 10 years, it has grown mostly from displaced tribals and natives who are fighting against exploitation from major Indian corporations and local officials whom they believe to be corrupt.
In a significant development in 2004, the People’s War (PW), then operating in Andhra Pradesh, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), then operating in Bihar and adjoining areas, merged to form the CPI (Maoist) Party. The CPI (Maoist) Party, is the major Left Wing Extremist outfit responsible for majority of incidents of violence and killing of civilians and security forces and has been included in the Schedule of Terrorist Organisations along with all its formations and front organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) have been attacking police establishments and infrastructures such as public transportation, causing insecurity and instability to the area. From the period 2006-2010 alone, there were nearly 10,000 incidents with Naxalites with over 4,000 civilians killed.
The LWEs are active in approximately 40 percent of India’s geographical area. They control large portions of remote and densely forested areas and are concentrated in an area called “Red Corridor”. This area is also the tribal belt where the tension between economic development and aboriginal land rights is most apparent.
Background of Naxal Movement
The naxalite movement in India traces its origins to communist movements and is particularly liked to the Telengana Movement (see Box 1) – a guerrilla-style uprising by farmers of Telengana. The Telengana Movement was the first large-scale attempt at establishing a Maoist society in India.
Box1: The Telengana Movement
Starting in July 1946, communist-led guerrilla squads began overthrowing local feudal village regimes and organizing land reform in Telugu-speaking areas of [erstwhile Kingdom of] Hyderabad, collectively known as Telengana (an ancient name for the region dating from the Vijayanagar period).
About 3,000 villages and some 41,000 square kilometers of territory were involved in the revolt. Faced with the refusal of the Nizam of Hyderabad to accede his territory to India and the violence of the communist-led rebellion, the central government sent in the army in September 1948. By November 1949, Hyderabad had been forced to accede to the Indian union, and, by October 1951, the violent phase of the Telengana movement had been suppressed.
The effect of the 1946-51 rebellion and communist electoral victories in 1952 had led to the destruction of Hyderabad and set the scene for the establishment of a new state along linguistic lines. In 1953, Telugu-speaking areas of Madras state were separated from to form Andhra, India’s first state established along linguistic lines.
The Naxalbari episode
The Naxal movement, however, had its first big moment at a small hamlet named Naxalbari in West Bengal (hence the name) in March 1967.
A tribal youth named Bimal Kissan was attacked by local landlords while attempting plough a plot of land he had been allotted under the land reforms. This sparked a tribal retaliation that soon started to resemble an insurrection, leaving one police sub inspector and nine tribals dead.
The state government [United Front headed by CPI (M)] crushed the uprising in a ruthless manner, indulging in large-scale violence and repression. However, the movement soon acquired great visibility and tremendous support from cross sections of leftist politicians and activists from across India. Naxalbari thus came to symbolise the class-struggle in India and related left-wing violence soon acquired the name of Naxalist Movement.
Militant communists had a formal meeting in November 1967 and consequently formed the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in May 1968. ‘Allegiance to the armed struggle and non-participation in the elections’ were the two cardinal principles that the AICCR adopted for its operations. However, ideological differences soon led to a split, and the movement broke into two streams – the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (M-L)] and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).CPI (M-L) was the more powerful of the two.
The CPI (M-L) held its first congress in 1970 in Kolkata and Charu Mazumdar was formally elected its general secretary. Charu Majumdar soon became the undisputed leader of CPI (M-L) and with help of Kanu Sanyal, was able to increase the reach of the movement to large parts of India. However, the government tackled the left wing violence with an iron hand and Charu Majumdar’s death in 1972 left the CPI (M-L) virtually rudderless.
Later developments till 2004
The group suffered a number of splits in this period of time. One of the most important ones was the People’s War Group, formed by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, with its base mainly in Andhra Pradesh. For a long time since then, Naxalite movement was dominated by CPI (M-L) and PWG. While the different strands had their ideological differences (and this led to numerous incidents of internecine violence), all were virtually unanimous in denouncing the parliamentary democratic system of governance and vowed to wage ‘people’s war for people’s government’.
In 2004, MCC and PWG merged into the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a watershed event that has resuscitated a moribund movement and led to increased violence.
Major naxal incidences in India since 2008
The following timeline present a brief account of major incidences related to rise of the naxalite movement in India.
April 24, 2017: 24 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed on Monday in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district in an encounter with Maoists. A road-opening party of jawans from the 74 Battallion of the CRPF was attacked by Maoists. The attack took place between Burkapal Chintagufa area. The area is part of the worst Maoist-violence affected regions of south Bastar in the state.
March 12, 2017: 12 CRPF jawans were killed in a Maoist attack in insurgency-hit Sukma district in Chhattisgarh. The attack was an ambush. After killing the jawans, the Maoists stole 10 weapons from the dead troopers and detonated an IED explosive. The ambush of troopers from 219 Battalion of CRPF was reported from Sukma’s dense forest areas near Kottacheru village near Bheji village. The location is at a distance of nearly 450 km from state capital Raipur.
March 11, 2014: 15 security personnel were reported killed in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.
February 28, 2014: Maoists attack police personnel in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Six police officials including an SHO were killed in the attack.
July 2, 2013: The Superintendent of Police for Pakur, Jharkhand and four other police officials were killed an attack by Naxals in Dumka area in the state.
May 25, 2013: In one of the deadliest attacks by Maoists in recent history, 25 leaders from the Congress party were killed including former state minister Mahendra Karma. Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel was also killed in a Maoist attack in Darbha valley in Chhattisgarh.
October 18, 2012: Maoists kill six CRPF jawans and eight left injured including a deputy commandant in the force. The naxals adopt the method of ambush by landmines followed by a gunbattle with the policemen. The attack took place in Gaya district.
June 29, 2010: 26 CRPF jawan killed in Maoist ambush attack in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district. Attack was part of a string of large attacks in the year which was one of the bloodiest in terms of naxal killings.
May 8, 2010: Naxals carry out an explosion of a bullet-proof vehicle in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. The incident kills eight CRPF personnel.
April 6, 2010: In one of the largest naxal attacks on security personnel, Maoists killed 75 CRPF personnel in Dantewada district. A state police official was also killed in the attack.
April 4, 2010: The elite anti-naxal force Special Operations Group suffers setback. 11 personnel of the SOG were killed in a landmine blast in Koraput district in Odisha.
February 15, 2010: At least 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) were shot dead by Maoists when they attacked the EFR camp in Sealdah in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district.
October 8, 2009: Maoists attack Laheri police station in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The ambush kills 17 policemen and leaves several injured.
September 26, 2009: The sons of BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap are killed at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.
September 4, 2009: Maoists kill four villagers of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. The villagers belonged to Aaded village.
July 27, 2009: Naxals triggered a landmine in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. The blast kills six persons.
July 18, 2009: A villager is killed by naxals in Bastar. Maoists also torched a vehicle in a separate incident. The vehicle was being employed for road construction work in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.
June 23, 2009: A group of motorcycle borne armed naxals opened fire in the premises of Lakhisarai district court in Bihar. They freed four of their comrades including the naxal group’s zonal commander of Ranchi.
June 16, 2009: 11 police officers were killed in a landmine attack carried out by Maoists. The blast was followed up by armed assault. The Maoists, in a separate attack Maoist ambush by naxals in Beherakhand in Palamau district, Jharkhand. four policemen were killed and two others were left seriously injured
June 13, 2009: Two landmine attacks and a bomb blast in Bokaro killed 10 policemen. The attack left several others severely injured.
June 10, 2009: During a routine patrol in Jharkhand’s Saranda forest area, nine policemen including officers and CRPF officials were ambushed by naxals.
May 22, 2009: Police personnel are attacked by Maoists in jungles in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. At least 16 police officials were killed in the attack.
April 22, 2009: Maoists carried out one of the most daring operations. A Maoist party hijacked a train with at least 300 people on board. They then took the train to Jharkhand’s Latehar district but they had to flee later.
April 13, 2009: Maoists kill 10 paramilitary troops in eastern Odisha. The attacks takes place near a bauxite mine in Koraput district.
July 16, 2008: Naxals killed 21 policemen after they blew up a police van with a landmine. The attack takes place in Odisha’s Malkangiri district.
June 29, 2008: Maoists carried out an attack at a boat. The attack takes place at Odisha’s Balimela reservoir. The boat was carrying four police officials and 60 greyhound commandoes. 38 troops were killed in the ambush.
In the next part:
Cause of rise of naxalism – Historic and Immediate
Findings of D. Bandyopadhya Committee
“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
Naxalism, the far-left radical communist organization though trace its origin to West Bengal in the early 1960s, gradually spread its wings towards the less developed areas of southern and eastern parts of the country. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been trying its hand in weakening the strength of the naxalites and other extremist groups who in the name of welfare for the downtrodden have done many heinous crimes resulting in deaths and harassment. Min of Home Affairs has recently declared that it takes twenty more years with an additional functioning of more than three lakh security force companies to completely eradicate the problem of Naxalism (It is also a known fact that the govt has merely lost its grip over the naxalites capture). Intelligence sources revealed that the South Asian Maoist parties have organized a secret meeting on strengthening the power of naxalite movements across. Intelligence also cautioned the ministry of Home Affairs that the naxal groups are seeking the help of Militant groups of Kashmir in order to strengthen their power in the regions they operate (training and weapons)
The naxalite groups have spread themselves in the dense forests of North, North-East unto the South region. The entire locality in these regions is a free zone for their organization and operations they carry on. They undergo strenuous training and motivation under the guidance of few activists and are supplied with powerful weaponry which they believe is the only source of justice. The strength of the entire naxal groups is around fifteen thousand and the weapons they train under are very much latest when compared to our own security forces, and the training our security forces undergo is far low to counter the naxalites.
The spread of Naxalism is an indication of the sense of desperation and alienation that is sweeping over of large sections of our nation who have been not only systematically marginalized but cruelly exploited and dispossessed in their last homelands…the central Indian adivasis have been described as “the original autochthonous people of India” meaning that their presence in India pre-dated the Dravidians, the Aryans and whoever else settled in this country…these are the real swadeshi products of India, in whose presence all others are foreign. These are ancient people with moral rights and claims thousands of years old. They were here first and should come first in our regard…Unfortunately like indigenous people all over the world; the India’s adivasis too have been savaged and ravaged by later people claiming to be more ‘civilized’.
The main hurdle is that the State govts have taken their own stand on the counter strike towards Naxalism which is definitely interference to the action plan the central govt has made for curbing the naxal operations. The abduction of Mr. Vineel Krishna (IAS of Odisha Cadre) has raised several questions on the way the State govts are acting towards these extreme groups.
On record, it is evident that in the 2010-11, the highest number of civilians and police forces have been killed by Naxal groups all over the country (over 1200 people were killed in Operation Green Hunt). The number is more than that f the deaths caused by the militant groups in Northern borders.
The need of the hour is effective training facilitates to the security forces and increase in their number. It is advisable for the security forces to get immense training under the Army forces to meet the extent of operations that the extremist forces carry.
The only solution to the problem of naxalism is in the hands of the regional political will. These regional political heads need to cooperate with the central govt action plan and work for the welfare of the people and try to reach deep into the rural and downtrodden areas by making them aware of their basic rights and govt initiatives that take them forward in their life.
The recent elections in the left wing extremist areas of Chattisgarh have seen deployment of more than 600 companies of security forces (in addition to the already existing security forces are 22companies).
Here are some of the initiatives taken by the individual states:
States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will share information and coordinate with one another in adjoining border areas (to stop the Naxals from escaping across the borders after launching attacks).
The Jharkhand government is setting up a state industrial security force on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to protect industries as the Naxalites (who operate in 18 of the 24 districts in the state) often destroy equipment of business establishments if they are not given extortion money.
The Orissa State government will be getting 10000 extra personnel for fighting the Naxals – long term deployment of two battalions of CRPF in Orissa and an additional five India Reserve Battalions.
In Tamil Nadu, a 10-day guerilla warfare training programme has begun for 320 cops in the seven districts falling under the Central Zone. The commandos of the elite STF will provide specialised training such as (1) sophisticated arms training (2) combing operations in reserve forests (3) setting up of temporary tents and bunkers to the 320 cops.
The Kerala govt is now surveying labourers from other states as the Maoists are using the state as a hide-out.
The Maharashtra government and the state police is setting up with a special force.
While the Centre has ruled out deployment of the Army as the forces’ hands are already full, the government has the following plans:
The central government will be investing Rs 500-crore to fight the Naxals. This money will be used to provide Critical-mobility to the police
(2) secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations,
(3) build basic roads for the forces so they have mobility in otherwise inaccessible areas.
India’s Interior Ministry has set up an anti-rebel cell to ensure periodic review and close monitoring of rebel activities.
The government has proposed a three-pronged strategy to combat Naxalism:
Gain confidence of local people by taking up more welfare related activities.
Build up infrastructure in naxal-affected areas and generate employment.
Launch joint security operations with neighbouring states to eliminate left wing extremists.
Few policy recommendations on the problem of naxals
The army can only treat the symptoms through arrests or killings without treating the root cause of the problem. Similarly, the use of the Salwa Judum is highly counterproductive and has made things worse.
• The villagers are not against the state per say but against corrupt officials, politicians and contractors. It is corruption, which is one of the main problems. Unless the state is able to identify and punish people, who are stealing money meant for development of these areas, it is not going to be able to deal with the problem.
• Development should come simultaneously with counterinsurgency measures. Grouping of public health, education, public works, agriculture and irrigation to form cohesive multi-disciplinary task force and efforts to generate employment
opportunities for people will send a message of the government seriousness in addressing the basic problems of the people. Moreover, it is important provide good and sophisticated weapons to the security personnel and to train them in all aspects including networking with the local population, intelligence gathering, sharing, combat operations and coordinated developmental activities.
• “Locate, isolate and eradicate” – Locate the insurgents, isolate them from the local population and their channel of communication and then finish them
• Contrary to popular perception it is not all about guerrilla warfare but about revolutionary politics, which accounts for 70 percent of the strategy. Revolutionary politics is a combination of information warfare and political warfare. More than armed fighting they use propaganda. Unless the politicians recognise what revolutionary politics is they cannot hope to defeat the naxals.
• The naxals have declared that the armed rebellion is nonnegotiable.Talks should be there only for a short time but not for such a long duration that it provides an opportunity for the naxals to consolidate themselves.
• The government expenditure is mostly limited to the fortification of the police stations and procurement of arms and ammunition. The coordination among the forces on the
ground is clearly missing and their mobility has been curtailed due to geographical constraints.
• In order to tackle the problem, there is a need for simultaneous and coordinated action on all the core fronts of credible governance including development, security, perception management and political form. The state must re-establish connectivity with local and tribal people as this can hit the Maoists the most where it matters.
The process of development must also have a human face to prevent tribal alienation. Moreover, displacement without compensation should be avoided. The government must device a public-private partnership to ensure implementation of developmental projects and utilize the media to spread awareness of its good intentions.
1. India Today Magazine
2. History of Naxalism – HT
3. National Dialogue on Naxal Problems