2. Naxalism in India

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What is Naxalism or Left Wing Extremism (LWE):

  • The term ‘Naxal’ derives its name from the village Naxalbari of district Darjeeling in West Bengal.
  • This is where the movement originated in 1967 under the leadership of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal.
  • It involves the use of violence to destabilize the state through various communist guerrilla groups.
  • It is a form of militant and violent armed struggle by the peasants and tribals who accept Marxist-Leninist ideology.
  • It arises from aggregation of social problems such as unemployment, poverty and other socio-economic injustices.

Background of Movement

The term Naxalism derives its name from the village Naxalbari of West Bengal. It is originated as rebellion against local landlords who bashed a peasant over a land dispute. This rebellion was under the leadership of Kanu Santhal and Jagan Sanyal with an objective of rightful redistribution of the land to working peasants which was initiated in 1967.

A number of Left Wing Extremist outfits have been operating in certain remote and poorly connected pockets of the country for a few decades now. 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 a majority of incidents of violence and killing of civilians and security forces and has been included in the Schedule of Terrorist Organizations along with all its formations and front organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The CPI (Maoist) philosophy of armed insurgency to overthrow the Government is unacceptable under the Indian Constitution and the founding principles of the Indian State. The Government has given a call to the Left Wing Extremists to abjure violence and come for talks. This plea has been rejected by them, since they believe in violence as the means to capture State power.

This has resulted in a spiraling cycle of violence in some parts of India. The poor and the marginalized sections like the tribal are bearing the brunt of this violence. Many well-meaning liberal intellectuals fall prey to the Maoist propaganda without understanding the true nature of Maoist insurgency doctrine which glorifies violence and believes in adopting the military line to capture power.

Between 2004 to 2019 (up to 31.12.2019) 8197 people have been killed by the LWE in different parts of India. The majority of the civilians killed are tribal’s, often branded as ‘Police informers’ before being brutally tortured and killed. In fact, the tribal and the economically underprivileged sections, whose cause the Maoists claim to espouse, have been the biggest victims of the So-called ‘protracted peoples war’ of the CPI (Maoist) against the Indian state.

Factors responsible for the growth of Naxalism

  1. Mismanagement of Forests

 It is one of the main reasons for the spread of Naxalism. It started with the British government. The monopolization of the forest started with the enactment of various forest laws. The integration with the wider world led to an influx of a new class like moneylenders. The administrative machinery became more exploitative and extortionate at functional level.

  • Social Iniquity and Exploitation

The oppressed classes were not only exploited as sharecroppers and landless labourers by the landlords – they also fell prey to money lenders. The groups constituting the sharecroppers and the landless laborers wanted a new social order with equity and the landed classes wanted to retain the prestige and 16 status that was associated with the zamindars under the old system. .Also, in India, since there wasn’t any distinction between class and caste relationships at that time, class conflict was manifested as caste conflict. The manifestations of the caste struggle as part of the Naxal movement is region specific. In Srikakulam, a government sponsored study noted that “Chronic poverty and 18 destitution have become the patterns of tribal life”

  • Poor implementation of Tribal policies: Even during the post Independence era, the government was not able to stop the process of the tribal alienation and their displacement caused by large projects. Even the issues of food security were not fully sorted out. Consequently, Naxalism made inroads in Orissa and other states.
  • The Growing inter and intra regional disparities: Naxalalism attract people who have poor livelihood like fishermen, farmers, daily labourers and bamboo cutters. The government policies have failed to stem the growing inter and intra regional disparities. The poor people think that Naxalism can provide solutions to their problems.
  • Lack of land reforms: The half-hearted implementation of land reforms by the government has yielded negative results. The agrarian set up has not been defined in the absence of proper implementation of survey and settlement. This further damaged the agriculture production and the rural economy.
  • Absence of proper Industrialisation Absence of proper industrialization has failed to generate employment for rural people leading to dissatisfaction with the government. It is also one of the causes behind Naxalism.
  • Geographical Terrain: Naxalism thrives in areas covered with forests. It helps them fight against the police and the army by waging Guerrilla warfare
  • Middle Class Youth: The educated youths have been the largest supporters of the Naxalist movement as the maximum of the youths involved in the movement are medical and engineering graduates. Universities have turned up to be a pitch for the creation of radical ideologies.


  1. The history of the Naxal movement is the history of a continuous process of organizational conflicts, splits, and mergers
  • The movement essentially represents simultaneous (though not necessarily peaceful coexistence of many streams) presence in all parts of the country.
  • The growth of the Naxal movement is closely linked with the ongoing process of organizational conflict. The ultimate political objective is to build a leftist alternative and mobilize people against increased ‘Imperialist Intervention’ and ‘Pro-Imperialist Policies’ pursued by the union government, and in support of ‘revolutionary war’ based on the Chinese leader, Mao’s theory of organized peasant insurrection
  • The history of the Naxal movement, right from its first phase of 1967, demonstrates that even if there has been a continuous evolution in terms of their understanding of the Indian situation, the focus of the movement, its character, and the fighting capabilities and financial resources of these groups.
  • They have remained more or less consistent as far as their core ideology is concerned. Barring the Liberation, they all reject the parliamentary system of governance and want to bring about a fundamental change in the nature of the Indian state. For this, they have adopted the strategy of protracted armed struggle, which entails building bases in rural and remote areas and transforming them first into guerrilla zones and then liberated zones, besides area-wise seizures and encirclement of mergers
  • The object of the Naxalite movement is to capture the Indian state through armed insurgency and overthrow the Government. They want a system of ideological dictatorship. No ballot, no enterprise, no freedom and no fundamental rights. They want to achieve it through a guerrilla army. They want to capture the rural areas. They want these to become secluded islands of their authority.
  • They extort money from contractors, farmers, employees and traders. They recruit cadres by paying them per person per month. They snatch weapons from the armoury of the government. Their extortion amount is 1,500 crore a year. They believe power flows from the barrel of the gun. They believe that the enemies armoury(police weapons) is their armoury. They want to kill class enemies, and they call them police informers. They also use opium and poppy cultivation to collect money.
  • The movement is viewed with greater anxiety in the government because it is most intense precisely in areas which are rich in natural resources and, therefore, targeted for fast-track industrial development. These are also the areas which have a history of mass protests by the peasantry against colonial policies.
  • Originally Naxalism is based on the theory of class struggle of Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung. Mao applied Marxism and Leninism to the needs of an overwhelmingly agricultural and still traditional society. Naxalites have a similar aim.
  1. Indian Naxalites accept Maoism at the ideological level but their strategies and the method of the revolt are different from Maoist theory.
  1. Naxalism in India is an ideological, political and economic struggle to establish equality and abolish all kind of exploitation in the society.

Thwe dynamics of Maoist Insurgency

  • Some sections of the society, especially the younger generation, have romantic illusions about the Maoists, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. The central theme of Maoist ideology is violence. The Maoist insurgency doctrine glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures.

    The Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist), has been created with this purpose in mind. In the first stage of the insurgency, the PLGA resorts to guerrilla warfare, which primarily aims at creating a vacuum at the grass-roots level of the existing governance structures. This is achieved by killing lower-level government officials, police-personnel of the local police stations, the workers of mainstream political parties and the people’s representatives of the Panchayati Raj system.

    After creating a political and governance vacuum, they coerce the local population to join the movement. A strident propaganda is also carried out against the purported and real inadequacies of the existing state structure.
  • In areas under Maoist domination, the absence of governance becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy since the delivery systems are extinguished through killings and intimidation. This is the first step in the strategy of the Maoists to seek to control the countryside. In the meanwhile, many Front Organisations are created to facilitate mass-mobilisation in semi-urban and urban areas through ostensibly democratic means. Most of the Front Organisations are led by well-educated intellectuals with a firm belief in the Maoist insurgency doctrine. These ideologues function as masks to cover the violent nature of the CPI (Maoist) ideology. They also form the propaganda/disinformation machinery of the party.
  • They stridently take up issues like ‘displacement of tribals’, ‘corporate exploitation’, ‘human rights violations’ by security forces etc. and often make fantastic claims in this regard which get reported even by the mainstream media. The Front Organisations also skilfully use state structures and legal processes to further the Maoist agenda and weaken the enforcement regime. The important functions of these Organisations include recruitment of ‘professional revolutionaries’, raising funds for the insurgency, creating urban shelters for underground cadres, providing legal assistance to arrested cadres and mass- mobilisation by agitating over issues of relevance/ convenience. The Front Organisations aim to provide short-term democratic subterfuge to cover-up the totalitarian and oppressive nature of the Maoist ideology. The CPI (Maoist) also have a strategic game-plan to create a ‘United Front’ with all like-minded insurgent/terrorist outfits in India. It needs to be remembered that many of these outfits are supported by external forces inimical to India and the CPI (Maoist) consider such alliances as strategic assets.
  • In a nutshell, the CPI (Maoist), the main LWE outfit in India, aims to overthrow the existing democratic state structure with violence as their primary weapon, and mass mobilization and strategic united fronts as complementary components and plans to usher in So-called ‘New Democratic Revolution’ in India.


The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. In dealing with this decades-old problem, it has been felt appropriate, after various high-level deliberations and interactions with the State Governments concerned, that an integrated approach aimed at the relatively more affected areas would deliver results. With this in view, a detailed analysis of the spread and trends in respect of Left Wing Extremist violence has been made and 90 districts in eleven States have been taken up for special attention with regard to planning, implementation and monitoring various interventions.

However, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ being State subjects, action on maintenance of law and order, lies primarily in the domain of the State Governments. The Central Government closely monitors the situation and supplements and coordinates their efforts in several ways. These include providing the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs); sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools; modernisation and upgradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus; reimbursement of security related expenditure under the Security-related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme; providing helicopters for anti-LWE operations, assistance in training of State Police through the Ministry of Defence, the Central Police Organisations and the Bureau of Police Research and Development; sharing of Intelligence; facilitating inter-State coordination; assistance in community policing and civic action programmes etc. The underlying philosophy is to enhance the capacity of the State Governments to tackle the Maoist menace in a concerted manner.


In order to holistically address the LWE problem in an effective manner, 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.

  1. Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme:This Scheme has been extended by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a subscheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years till 2020. Under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme, the central Govt. reimburses to the State Governments of 11 LWE affected States Security Related Expenditure of 90 districts relating to training and operational needs of security forces, ex-gratia payment to the family of civilians/security forces killed/injured in LWE violence, compensation to Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrendered in accordance with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the concerned State Government, community policing, Security related infrastructure for village defence committees and publicity materials.

    There is a substantial increase in annual outlay and new items such as compensation for Security force personnel incapacitated during anti LWE operations and compensation for the property damage have been included in this scheme. The SRE Scheme aim at strengthening of the capacity of the LWE affected States to fight the LWE problem. Rs. 212 crore have been released in the current financial year as on 31.12.2019.
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA) for 30 most LWE affected districts: :This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme, ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ for a period of 3 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The main objective of the Scheme is to fill the critical gaps in Public infrastructure and Services, which are of emergent nature. Rs. 1775 crore have been released to the Stats during last 3 years. Rs. 600 crore have been released in the current financial year as on 31.12.2019.
  • Special Infrastructure Scheme, along with Construction of Fortified Police Stations in the LWE affected States: On regular demand of the LWE affected States, the Central Government has approved this Scheme as a sub-scheme of the Umbrellas Scheme, ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ for a period of 3 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The total outlay of the scheme is Rs. 1006.00 crore i.e. Rs. 604 crore as Central Share (60%) and Rs.402 crore as State share (40%). Rs. 56.5 crore have been released in the current financial year as on 31.12.2019.
  • Scheme of Fortified Police stations: The Ministry had sanctioned 400 police stations in 10 LWE affected States. Of these 399 of PSs have been completed.
  • Assistance to Central Agencies for LWE management Scheme:This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. Under the Scheme, assistance is provided to Central Agencies (CAPFs/IAF etc) for strengthening of infrastructure and hiring charges for Helicopter.
  • Civic Action Programme (CAP): This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. CAP in LWE affected areas is being implemented since 2010-11 to bridge the gaps between Security Forces and local people through personal interaction and bring the human face of SFs before the local population.

    The Scheme has been very successful in achieving its goal. Under the Scheme, funds are released to the CAPFs, deployed in LWE affected areas, for conducting various civic activities for the welfare of the local people. 17.16 crore have been released to CAPFs in the current financial year as on 31.12.2019.
  • Media Plan:This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The Maoists have been misguiding and luring the innocent tribals/ local population in LWE affected areas by their So-called poor-friendly revolution through petty incentives or by following their coercive strategy.

    Their false propaganda is targeted against the security forces and the democratic setup. Therefore, the Government is implementing this Scheme in LWE affected areas. Under the scheme activities like Tribal Youth Exchange programmes organised by NYKS, radio jingles, documentaries, pamphlets etc. are being conducted. 7.41 crore have been released in the current financial year as on 31.12.2019.
  • Road Requirement Plan-I (RRP-I) for LWE affected areas:This Scheme is being implemented by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for improving road connectivity in 34 LWE affected districts of 8 States i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. This scheme envisaged construction of 5,422 km roads lengths in LWE affected States, of which 4,868 km roads have been completed by 30.11.2019.
  • Road Connectivity Project for LWE affected areas (RRP-II):The Government approved this scheme on 28.12.2016 for further improving road connectivity in 44 districts of 9 LWE affected States. This Scheme envisages 5412 km roads and 126 bridges at an estimated cost of Rs. 11,725 Crores.

    Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this project. The roads included under the scheme have been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the State Governments and the security agencies. 1373 km roads have been constructed so far till 31.12.2019.
  1. LWE Mobile Tower Project:TTo improve mobile connectivity in the LWE areas, the Government on 20.08.2014 approved installation of mobile towers in LWE affected States and 2335 mobile towers have been installed in Phase-I. Phase-II of the project has been approved by the Government of India, under which 4072 mobile towers, involving an expenditure of Rs. 7330 crore, will be installed in LWE affected States.
  1. Aspirational District:The Ministry of Home Affairs has been tasked with the monitoring of Aspirational districts programme in 35 LWE affected districts.


It is the belief of the Government of India that through a holistic approach focussing on development and security-related interventions, the LWE problem can be successfully tackled. However, it is clear that the Left Wing Extremists do not want root causes like underdevelopment to be addressed in a meaningful manner since they resort to targeting school buildings, roads, railways, bridges, health infrastructure, communication facilities etc in a major way. They wish to keep the population in their areas of influence marginalized to perpetuate their outdated ideology.

Consequently, the process of development has been set back by decades in many parts of the country under Left Wing Extremists influence. This needs to be recognised by the civil society and the media to build pressure on the Left Wing Extremists to eschew violence, join the mainstream and recognise the fact that the socio-economic and political dynamics and aspirations of 21st Century India are far removed from the Maoist world-view. Further, an ideology based on violence and annihilation is doomed to fail in a democracy which offers legitimate forums of grievance redressal.

Steps taken by the Government

  • Operation Green Hunt: It was started in 2010 and massive deployment of security forces was done in the naxal-affected areas.
    • From 223 districts that were affected due to naxalism in the year 2010, the number has come down to 90 in nine years.
  • The government even started ‘Relief and Rehabilitation Policy’ for bringing naxalites into mainstream.
  • Members of Central Committee Politburo of communist parties have either been killed or arrested.
  • Aspirational Districts Programme: Launched in 2018, it aims to rapidly transform the districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas.
  • Continuous efforts of government have reduced the frequency of violent attacks in the naxalism-affected regions.

Practice the following Questions

  1. Naxalism is a national security threat owing to incoherent and shifting ideological principles. Analyse.

2. Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is showing a downward trend, but still affects many parts of the country. Briefly explain the Government of India’s approach to counter the challenges posed by LWE. (2018)

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