Updated: March 2012
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
2011 Overall, the year saw some successes for the Indian government and notable losses for the Maoists. An increased police presence in conflict areas significantly reduced violence from 2010. Naxalites continued to launch offensives against police, as well as civilian targets such as schools and hospitals. . Koteshwar Rao, a member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and leader of the Maoist military, was killed during a firefight in November. In July, the Indian Supreme Court ruled the use of Special Police Officers against the Naxalite insurgents unconstitutional.
2010 Despite a number of major Naxalite offensives, the death toll fell to pre-2008 levels, with 500 to 600 killed in conflict-related violence. The government’s counterinsurgency offensive, Operation Green Hunt, was launched with mixed results. Government troops proved ill-prepared to take on the rebels, who were more familiar with the local terrain and better trained in guerrilla tactics. In April, an entire battalion of government troops was ambushed by insurgents, leaving an estimated 75 dead. The Sulwa Judum, though still active, received less press coverage than in previous years.
2009 The Maoist threat continued to rise as incidents of violence increased. By June, India had seen 1,128 incidents of violence relating to the Maoist conflict. Over the course of the year, the Indian government launched a number of operations and counter-offensives. The death toll for the year was 998.
2008 Fighting between government forces and Maoist insurgents continued through 2008 in a number of Eastern states, with overall fatalities increasing to around 800, half of which were civilian. Reports were that all parties have used children in armed operations.
2007 Throughout 2007, clashes between Maoist insurgents and government forces resulted in the deaths of 650. In March, more than 400 Naxalites attacked a police station in Chhattisgarh, seizing arms and killing dozens. Civilians continued to be intimidated into choosing sides between the Maoists and the government, resulting in widespread fear and insecurity among local populations.
2006 Fighting continued between Maoist rebels and government security forces, resulting in 500 to 700 deaths. Government response toughened and expanded to include arming and training village groups to fight against rebels. Despite government efforts, Maoist influence appeared to be growing and taking hold in a number of Indian states.
2005 Fighting escalated after the breakdown of peace talks between the People’s War Group and the Andhra Pradesh state government. In late 2004, the PWG merged with the Maoist Communist Centre of India to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist), now the largest Maoist rebel group operating in more than nine states. Maoist rebels also increased co-operation with Nepalese Maoist rebels engaged in an insurgency against Nepal’s monarchy.
2004 Sporadic conflict between People’s War Group rebels and government forces continued at a lower intensity than in recent years. The conflict resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people, the majority of these police and leaders of the political party, Telugu Desam Party. A three-month ceasefire agreed to by the government and the PWG lasted mere days.
2003 The conflict between state security forces and the People’s War Group intensified in 2003, resulting in approximately 300 deaths—the highest toll in three years. An assassination attempt on Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister by the PWG further hardened the government’s position against the rebels.
2002 Fighting between the People’s War Group and government security forces claimed more than 100 lives in 2002. The government renewed a ban on the PWG, jeopardizing a peace dialogue initiated in June.
2001 The People’s War Group increased its attacks against the government in 2001 and some 100 people were killed in the fighting. In July, the government of Andhra Pradesh called for talks with the rebels.
2000 The People’s War Group continued its attacks in 2000 after three of its top commanders were killed in December 1999. Police officials estimated 3,000 armed leftist rebels were active in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring states. At least 50 people were killed in 2000, a considerable decrease from 1999.
1999 In 1999, police continued to respond to violent actions by rebel groups against government forces and civilians with summary executions. More than 350 combatants and civilians were killed, an increase from 1998.
1. Government of India: led by Manmohan Singh (Indian National Congress Party) and the United Progressive Alliance coalition. Singh was most recently re-elected to office during the 2009 general elections.
2. Governments of affected Indian states: Jharkand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Andra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
3. The Salwa Judum Movement: Formed in 2005, the Salwa Judum Movement is essentially a militia group, backed and armed by the government, which aims to crush the Maoist rebellion. Since its formation, the Salwa Judum has been cited for numerous human-rights abuses. The group is known to target civilians, and their activity has displaced more than 50,000. In 2008, reports of abuse grew to the extent that the Supreme Court of India ordered the National Human Rights Commission to investigate Salwa Judum activities.
4. The Communist Party of India (Maoist): created in 2004 after the merger of the Peoples’ War Group (PWG) and the Maoists Communist Centre. It is the largest Maoist rebel group operating in India. Members refer to themselves as Naxalites, so-called after the Indian town of Naxalbari, where the movement began more than 25 years ago. There are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Naxalites in India, though more than half of these are inactive. They operate in 20 of India’s 28 states (223 of 600 districts). The Naxalite movement includes a number of autonomous groups such as the Revolutionary Youth Forum and the Parakala Dalam.
2011 An increased police presence in conflict areas significantly reduced violence from 2010. Naxalites continued to attack both civilian and government targets, and were held responsible for the majority of civilian fatalities. But according to Naxalite supporters, Special Forces were not free of blame for civilian fatalities. Naxalites continued to launch offensives against police, as well as civilian targets such as schools and hospitals. Maoists frequently used landmines against police. In February, Naxalites kidnapped two Indian government officials, demanding a halt to the military offensive (Operation Green Hunt), to which the government agreed. The Maoists also demanded that seven top leaders who are in prison be freed in exchange for the two officials. After a May Maoist attack, the bodies of ten policemen were found dismembered in a dense forest. Koteshwar Rao, a member of the Communist Party of India and leader of the Maoist military, was killed during a firefight in November. Overall, the year saw some successes for the Indian government and notable losses for the Maoists.
2010 In March, the government launched a counterinsurgency offensive, Operation Green Hunt, which added some 50,000 paramilitary troops to existing state security forces. The operation aimed to push the Naxalites out of populated rural areas, isolating them in certain remote mountain regions. Each battalion would operate according to a simple “clear, hold, develop” mandate, modelled after U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. But, imported from other districts and trained in traditional security operations, the troops struggled to match their locally raised, guerrilla counterparts. In April, insurgents ambushed 80 troops in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, killing an estimated 75, in what was called the worst-ever attack on Indian security forces since the Maoist-Naxalite insurgency began. Insurgents continued to target government security forces, but it was civilians who were the hardest hit. Insurgents derailed an overnight passenger train in West Bengal, killing 145 and wounding more than 200. Bombs planted by insurgents killed more than 40 people in numerous villages. Also, a number of suspected police sympathizers were abducted and killed. In December, the Maoists demonstrated their capacity for political violence by identifying, abducting and killing 120 Marxists. Political killings such as these were expected to increase in 2011, after state assembly elections were announced.
2009 From January to June, India saw 1,128 incidents of violence related to the Maoist insurgency. The first major accounts of violence came in April, during the country’s month-long elections and ended when voting did, on May 16. Maoists called for a boycott of the elections, set off landmines, snatched ballot boxes and destroyed voting machines. Fears mounted that the Maoist threat was increasing. With an estimated 22,000 members, the Maoist insurgency was described by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the biggest threat to India’s internal security. In June, Maoists took control of Lalgarh region in West Bengal. The government responded with Operation Lalgarh to reclaim the area. Singh admitted in September that the police campaign against the Maoists was largely unsuccessful and that violence was on the rise in many states. On Oct. 9, the government announced a new anti-Maoist offensive. The operation would include the deployment of 70,000 paramilitary troops targeting top Maoist leadership. Maoists continued to launch attacks on trains, railways and other infrastructure. The government responded with Operation Green Hunt, expected to be launched in March 2010. The operation would send troops into former no-go zones deep in the forests, rid them of militants, then build schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. A massive offensive, spanning five states, was also launched in mid-January 2010. Some 100,000 troops were set to be deployed.
2008 Civilians continued to bear the brunt of fighting between Maoist rebels and government security forces. Of the 16 states touched by this conflict, Chhattisgarh and Jharkland were the most affected. Fatalities in Chhattisgarh, though high, were significantly down from 2007. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh, the state with the most Maoist activity a few years ago, saw a drop in fatalities. While conditions improved in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist forces appeared to have shifted their operations to Orissa, where conditions worsened.
2007 Fighting continued between Naxalite Maoists and government security forces throughout the year. The majority of hostilities took place in Chhattisgarh, where more than 400 Naxalites attacked a Chhattisgarh police station, seizing arms and killing dozens. Civilians were caught between joining the Maoist insurgence or the Salwa Judum, facing coercion from both.
2006 Maoists 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 killed police, rebels and civilians. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, security forces were somewhat successful in maintaining control and combating Maoist rebels. The other state most affected, Chhattisgarh, saw an increase in violence between Maoist rebels and villagers supported by the government.
2005 Violent clashes between Maoist rebels and state security forces and paramilitary groups increased following the breakdown of peace talks between the People’s War Group 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; India’s Northeast and Northwest escaped Maoist violence.
2004 Sporadic, low-intensity fighting between the People’s War Group and government forces continued for most of the year. Attacks on police and Telugu Desam Party (a regional political party) officials, believed to be carried out by the PWG, accounted for most major incidents and deaths. A three-month ceasefire between the government and PWG, announced in late June, proved short-lived when a few days into the ceasefire, an attack was attributed to the PWG.
2003 The conflict in Andhra Pradesh intensified as Naxalite rebel groups, in particular the People’s War Group, continued guerrilla attacks on police and government targets while government security forces stepped up counterinsurgency efforts. In October, an assassination attempt was made on the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu.
2002 The People’s War Group intensified its attacks against politicians, police officers and land and business owners after the Andhra Pradesh government banned the group in July. The government responded by tightening security, allegedly ordering attacks on suspected PWG members by state police and the Green Tigers. Police forces continued to enjoy impunity for the murder and torture of PWG rebels. The Maoist Communist Center rebels intensified their armed campaign against Indian security forces after their leader was killed by police in December.
2001 The People’s War Group increased attacks against the government, escalating the conflict.
2000 The People’s War Group continued its attacks in 2000 after three of its top commanders were killed in December 1999. Police officials estimated 3,000 armed leftist rebels were active in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring states.
1999 In 1999, police continued to respond to violent actions by rebel groups against government forces and civilians with summary executions.
Total: Approximately 9,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the conflict in the last 20 years, the majority in the last decade.
2011 According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, the fatalities in 2011 included 275 civilians, 128 troops, and 199 Naxalites for a total of 602 fatalities.
2010 According to Crisis Watch and various news sources, between 500 and 600 people were killed this year. Of those killed, approximately 366 were civilians, 188 were government troops (including police) and 27 were Naxalites. 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.
2009 The South Asia Terrorism Portal reported 998 killed in the conflict: 392 civilians, 312 security forces and 294 rebels.
2008 South Asia Terrorism Portal’s fatality count across the six states that saw the majority of the fighting (Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashira, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh) was 794. This included 399 civilians, 221 security force personnel and 174 insurgents.
2007 According to news reports, this conflict resulted in 650 deaths during 2007; of these 240 were civilians, 218 security personnel and 192 militants.
2006 In 2006, 500 to 750 people were estimated killed, fewer than half Naxalites, and approximately one-third civilians.
2005 More than 700 people were reported killed this year in violent clashes. Over one-third of those killed were civilians.
2004 More than 500 people were killed in sporadic, low-intensity fighting, a reduction from recent years. Most victims were members of the police forces or the Telugu Desam Party (a regional political party).
2003 According to independent media reports, as many as 500 people were killed in the conflict this year, half of these Maoist rebels.
2002 An estimated 140 people were killed in fighting between the PWG and government forces throughout the year. According to government reports, 482 people have died during the conflict this year.
2001 According to media reports, an estimated 100 people were killed. According to government reports, 564 deaths resulted from the conflict this year.
2000 At least 50 people were killed in 2000, a considerable decrease from 1999.
1999 More than 350 combatants and civilians were reported killed in 1999.
1998 At least 300 were killed, according to a combination of police and press figures.
1997 At least 350 were killed, according to one report.
1996 Police reported 156 deaths from 800 “violent incidents.”
2011 In July, the Indian Supreme Court ruled the use of Special Police Officers against the Naxalite insurgents unconstitutional. The Special Police Officers have been accused of multiple violations of human rights in the past, although all parties in the conflict have been accused of human-rights abuses. The tactics employed by peaceful activists have been largely ignored or suppressed, such as the efforts of Dr. Binayak Sen, currently jailed for helping banned militant groups, despite the demands of Amnesty International, a group of Nobel laureates and Human Rights Watch for his release.
2010 In June, the Naxalites offered to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with the government. Citing the short-lived ceasefire of 2004, the government declined the offer, accusing the insurgents of insincerity. To protest the killings and arrests of a number of their leaders, the Naxalites called for a boycott of the November state legislative elections. Despite the call, there was a 50-per-cent turnout in the districts of Aurangabad and Gaya.
2009 India’s Congress party won May general elections amid violence involving Maoist rebels. On June 22, the new government declared the Maoist Communist Party of India a terrorist group. This move gave Indian police the power to detain members of the party even if they were not involved in insurgent activity. In December 2009, Maoists urged a boycott of Jharkhand’s state elections. The government boasted that the 58-per-cent voter turnout was a rebuke of the Maoists.
2008 Elections held in Chhattisgarh state late in the year saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Chief Minister Raman Singh re-elected. According to reports, the government’s strong response to Naxalism was one reason for the victory. A major election issue was Sulwa Judum movement, which Indian and Chhattisgarh state authorities maintained was a “voluntary and peaceful initiative by local people against Naxalites.” Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, cited evidence of human-rights abuses by the group. In response to these findings, in April 2008, the Supreme Court of India ordered the National Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints of Sulwa Judum abuses.
2007 Civilians continued to be caught in the crossfire between Maoist insurgents and government security forces. Intimidation on both sides caused widespread fear amongst local populations in Chhattisgarh state. Conflict over resources continued; 85 per cent of India’s coal reserves come from the five states most affected by the Naxalite uprising.
2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the Naxalites, “The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.” The government began supporting vigilantes with arms and training to fight the rebels. The state of Chhattisgarh saw the appearance of the Salwa Judum, a government-backed group that recruits villagers to fight the rebels. The government of Andhra Pradesh extended its ban on the Maoists to August 2007. The Maoist leadership was substantially weakened this year with the arrest of one major party leader and the death of two others.
2005 Peace talks between Maoist rebels and state officials in Andhra Pradesh broke down early in the year after continued police attacks on rebels. In late 2004, the two largest Maoist groups, the People’s War Group and the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army of the Maoist Communist Centre of India, merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Maoist rebels in India and Nepal also increased cross-border co-operation. In response to an increase in the intensity and territorial reach of rebel activity, the Indian federal government announced a counter-strategy which included plans to increase inter-state police co-operation and funding for poverty reduction in rural India, where extreme socioeconomic inequality and poverty provide recruits for the rebels.
2004 A government decision to lift a ban on the People’s War Group and a three month ceasefire failed to lead to a formal peace agreement. An attack on police forces just a few days into the ceasefire likely contributed to its failure.
2003 The peace process initiated in 2002 proved to be short-lived as relations between the Naxalites and the state government of Andhra Pradesh worsened. In October an assassination attempt was made on the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu. Naidu subsequently announced his intention of “crushing” the Naxalites if he were re-elected in state elections in early 2004. The rebels further disrupted the political process by hindering the movement of election officials in remote areas. Meanwhile, the government of the state of Bihar indicated a willingness to hold talks with the People’s War Group, an invitation welcomed by the group.
2002 In May, the People’s War Group agreed to a month-long ceasefire to facilitate a peace process launched in early June. However, in July, the Andhra Pradesh state cabinet extended a ten-year ban on the PWG for another year, a move that seriously jeopardized the progress of the peace talks.
2001 In response to an upsurge in violence, in July the government of Andhra Pradesh said it was willing to hold talks with the outlawed Maoist People’s War Group. The government also stated that issues surrounding the violence needed to be addressed, such as rural poverty and unemployment.
Described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his country’s greatest internal security challenge, India’s Maoist rebellion has grown from a local, left-wing uprising to an insurgency movement spanning 20 of the country’s 28 states.
Indian Maoism can be traced to a violent uprising of 1967, which began in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari. Though eventually quelled, the revolt became the impetus for an insurgency which effectively controls vast swathes of land in Central and Eastern India, the so-called Red Corridor. The Red Corridor runs through Jharkand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Andra Pradesh and reaches into Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. India’s Maoists refer to themselves as Naxalites.
Led by Koteshuar Rao (also known as Kishenji), who was killed in November 2011 in a firefight with Indian security forces,
the Naxalites advocate peasant revolt against oppressive landlords and an indifferent government. They claim to represent the rights and interests, including concerns over land ownership and distribution of resources, of the rural poor and indigenous tribes-people. The Naxalite manifesto has appeal in some of India’s poorest states. But with minimal to no police presence in the Red Corridor, the rural population may have little choice but to support the group.
In 1980, the militant Peoples War Group (PWG), a major Naxalite faction, began guerrilla-style attacks against the state police, who responded with extrajudicial executions of suspected Naxalites. In 2002, the state government of Andhra Pradesh banned the PWG. In response, the PWG intensified attacks against politicians, police officers and land and business owners. In October 2003, an assassination attempt on the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, was blamed on the PWG.
In late 2004, the PWG merged with the Maoist Communist Centre of India to form the Communist Party of India (CPI – Maoist). By this time, Naxalite fighting had spread to most of rural India, with significant conflicts in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. In large parts of rural India, the rebels formed a parallel government, including a parallel justice system and taxation.
In 2005, the state government of Chhattisgarh armed a civilian militia group called the Salwa Judum, which proceeded to attack and kill suspected Naxalite sympathizers. In 2008, reports of abuses grew to the extent that the Supreme Court of India ordered the National Human Rights Commission to investigate Salwa Judum activities. Meanwhile, civilians continued to be intimidated into choosing sides, resulting in widespread fear and insecurity.
Now in its forty-fourth year, the insurgency continues to produce untold misery. In 2010, the Naxalites were cited in a study as the worst human-rights offender in India. The Indian national and state governments have also been accused of human-rights abuses, including torture and indiscriminate killing.
Although India has a significant domestic arms industry, it imports large volumes of weapons, mainly from Russia, but also from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Ukraine, Italy, Israel, Poland, Qatar, South Africa, Slovakia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Naxalites obtain weapons primarily by stealing them from state police during raids. Weapons are also purchased from foreign bazaars and smuggled across India’s open border with Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Some sources also report a domestic manufacturing capability.
The initial Naxalite rebellion was inspired by Chinese leader Mao Zedong and his ideals surrounding land ownership and equitable resource distribution. Modern Naxalites continue to emphasize their advocacy for peasant rights, including the right to land and a share in India’s recent economic boom.
Government officials are divided in their response to the insurgency. Those who see the Naxalites as merely insurgents tend to advocate a strict military response. Those who acknowledge the economic claims of the Naxalite manifesto argue that the Naxalites feed on the grievances of impoverished tribal inhabitants and that the movement will only fade when the affected regions experience tangible development.
Recently, the state of Andhra Pradesh had success in weakening Naxalite control with a combination of better development efforts and enhanced policing, suggesting that a two-pronged response to the insurgency is most effective.
Naxalite activity is hampering economic growth in the Red Corridor. As long as rebels continue destroying infrastructure and attacking facilities, the mineral-rich forests of Eastern India will remain closed to business.
map: CIA Factbook