India – Maoist Insurgency (1980 – first combat deaths)

Updated: August 2014
Summary
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
Political Developments
Background
Arms Sources

Economic Factors

The Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): The Government of India and the governments of affected states are allied with the Salwa Judum Movement (although there have been restrictions placed on this movement due to its violations of human rights). Their main opposition is the Communist Party of India (also known as Maoists and Naxalites) which seeks to dismantle the current government and address the vast inequity among Indians.

What (started the conflict): In 1967 a violent uprising in West Bengal, in the village of Naxalbari, became the catalyst for the Maoist movement. In the 1990s, poverty and inequality increased substantially throughout the country, especially among indigenous populations, as a result of government policies. These included the displacement of over 84 million Adivasis to exploit their mineral rich lands to build iron and steel corporations. Other groups within Indian society were also marginalized by India’s drive for economic prosperity. The Communist Party of India emerged to fight for those who felt betrayed by the government. Its long-term goal is to overthrow the Indian government, and replace it with a socialist-communist government.

When (has fighting occurred): Although discontent began in 1967 and grew under the government’s neoliberal policies of the 1990s, the current Maoist insurgency emerged from the 2004 amalgamation of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) to form the Communist Party of India. Conflict fatalities have been on a steady decline since 2011, but fighting is still frequent.

Where (has the conflict taken place): The insurgency has largely occurred in the collection of states known as the Red Corridor. These are Jharkand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Andra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Summary

2013 Maoists intensified their campaign against the state with new tactics including the use of dead Indian soldiers as booby traps with Improvised Explosive Devices in their stomachs. The Maoists killed the Salwa Judum founder, Congressman Mahendra Karma, when they attacked his convoy while he was campaigning in rural communities. Prime Minister Singh called for a two prong approach to dismantle the Maoist network, combining sustained and proactive military operations with efforts to build governance and development in areas with strong Maoist support. The approach was hindered by a lack of support on the ground, as many soldiers continued to commit serious human rights violations. The Central Reserve Police Force successfully launched a five day interstate offensive operation in late December to dismantle core Maoist groups. This shut down a gun manufacturing factory and recovered numerous weapons and explosives. Remote triggering devices also were found, indicating that the insurgency is using more advanced weaponry. Overall, Naxalites-related conflict this year has resulted in 421 fatalities: 159 civilian, 111 security forces, and 151 militant deaths.

2012 The Maoist insurgency continued to cool in 2012. Police clashed with insurgents, with both sides sustaining losses. However, the number of attacks and deaths declined from previous years, in line with the trend over the past decade. Top leaders in the Maoist insurgency were arrested or killed in action. Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their land following the banning of the Salwa Judum. The use of children in conflict was documented by the UN.

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.

Type of Conflict

State control

Parties to the Conflict

1. Government of India: led by President Pranab Mukherjee, who was elected to office July 22, 2012, during the general elections, and was sworn in on July 25. He is the first Bengali to become President. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was re-elected to office during the 2009 general elections but plans to step down following the 2014 general elections.

India has the third largest military in the world. Modernization has been delayed by an inefficient domestic arms industry. According to Military Balance Indian armed forces personnel numbers are:

  • Army: 1,129,900
  • Air Force: 127,200
  • Navy: 58,350
  • Coast Guard: 9,550
  • Paramilitary: 1,300,586

2. Governments of affected Indian states: Jharkand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Andra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

Allied with:

3. The Salwa Judum Movement: Formed in 2005 by Mahendra Karma, 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 people. 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. In 2013 Mahendra Karma, while campaigning in Maoist dominated territory, was killed when his convoy was attacked by insurgents.

Versus

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.

Status of Fighting

2013 The Maoist insurgency continued to operate in 223 districts due, in part, to the protection provided by indigenous groups and rural communities. The insurgents became more aggressive despite a decline in incidents from 1,415 in 2012 to 1,129 in 2013. They used new combat tactics, such as planting Improvised Explosive Devices in the bodies of dead soldiers to create booby traps. Government officials claimed that these tactics demonstrate the insurgents have little regard for human dignity and life. In response to talks among states aimed at intensifying efforts against them, in June the insurgents looted weapons from Railway Protection Forces by attacking a train in Jamui district. When 100 Maoists fired upon the train and threw crude bombs, passengers became collateral damage. Four days later 70 Maoists attacked the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Gaya district.

The Indian government weakened the Maoist network by arresting leader Umesh Yadav, and Yasin Bhatkal, leader of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The IM and Maoists were assumed to be cooperating with each other. In December the CRPF conducted a five day interstate offensive operation to dismantle core Maoist groups, followed by a raid on a camp in Simdega district in Jharkhand to shut down a gun manufacturing factory. The raid seized 1,900 items for gun production, 72 kilograms worth of explosives, and remote triggering devices, suggesting the Maoists have acquired more advanced weaponry.

2012 Fatalities in 2012 were the lowest recorded since 2005. State forces were engaged in operations against the Naxalites in the eastern part of the country. There was no army presence in the Naxalite region of West Bengal, although other central and state forces (e.g., police) were deployed. The operations resulted in 1,882 Naxalite insurgents reported arrested and 440 surrendered. Despite accusations of human rights violations by both sides, no prosecutions had commenced by the end of the year. Kidnappings of government officials, civilians, and foreign tourists occurred in 2012. An administrative services officer and two security officers were abducted, but later released, even after the government refused to agree to the Maoists’ demands. All civilians and tourists were eventually released. The Maoists achieved some of their objectives, including the prison release of one of their top leaders and the temporary suspension of armed activities. In June insurgents beheaded three kidnap victims.

Top Maoist leader ‘Anandji’, zonal commander of Latehar, Garwah, and Palamau districts of Jharkhand, was arrested on December 6. Police also believe that a top cadre member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Narmada Akka, was killed December 4.

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.

Number of Dead and Displaced 

Total: At least 9,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the conflict in the last 20 years.

2013 According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database there were 421 fatalities that were related to the Maoist conflict: 159 civilians, 111 security forces and 151 militants. Most deaths were centered in two states Jharkhand (131) and Chhattisgarh (128). Although other states in the Red Corridor had relatively high death rates, Odisha (54), Bihar (48), Maharashtra (45) and Andhra Pradesh (13) with the exception of West Bengal which only had two.

Times of India has slightly different statistics, reporting 1,129 Naxalite related incidents resulting in 394 deaths. Of these, 115 were security forces and 279 were civilians, with no mention of the number of militant deaths.

Refugees: There are three ongoing conflicts in India, and the UNHCR does not disaggregate the number of refugees arising from each one. In total, there were 11,784 refugees and 6,193 asylum seekers originating in India as of mid-2013.

2012 The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database reports 368 deaths: 118 militants, 104 security force personnel, and 146 civilians. These figures compare to reports of 602 deaths in 2011: 199 militants, 128 security force personnel, and 275 civilians.
Other sources suggest the following ranges of mortality figures for 2012:

  • Deaths (Direct and Indirect) – 354-522
  • Civilian Deaths – 146-300
  • Combatant Deaths – 188-222

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.”

Political Developments

2013 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pronounced the ongoing conflict with the Naxalites to be the “greatest internal security threat that India faces.” The insurgency has severely damaged economic structures in Central and Eastern India. In June Singh called for a two prong strategy to dismantle the Maoist network, combining sustained and proactive military operations with efforts to build governance and development in areas with strong Maoist support. These government efforts led to attacks against political officials. In May, the convoy of Congressman Mahendra Karma, founder of the Salwa Judum movement, was attacked by hundreds of Maoists and 24 people were killed, including Karma. The insurgents also claimed that they would incite violence during the 2013 Chhattisgarh elections. Extra security measures were added before the elections and security forces recovered 52 Improvised Explosive Devices and 400 wooden spikes. The election was relatively peaceful, although it was suspected that the Maoists influenced the vote.

2012 Strong criticisms were levelled at the government’s approach to counterinsurgency operations. Weak intelligence frequently undermined the operations of Special Forces units.

Maoist violence and operations declined following the loss of several senior leaders. The losses may have resulted from an overly ambitious plan to operate in urban areas. Insurgents subsequently retreated to areas of traditional strength, the ‘Red Corridor’ states. There was evidence that the number of Maoist insurgents increased from 7,200 in 2011 to approximately 8,600 this year. By July 2012, following the 2011 Supreme Court decision ruling the Salwa Judum unconstitutional, most of the approximately 50,000 tribal persons displaced by the Salwa Judum had returned to their villages.

According to the 2012 UN report on children and armed conflict, Maoist insurgents have recruited and indoctrinated children, as well as formed children’s squads. In June 2012 there was one report of children being used as human shields. Three children were killed by the Central Reserve Police Force during a clash with Maoist insurgents. The CRPF later admitted that the children may not have been operatives, but human shields used against their will.

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.

Background

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 in 1967 which began in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari. Though eventually quelled, the revolt became the impetus for an insurgency that effectively controls vast swathes of land in Central and Eastern India, the so-called Red Corridor. The 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.

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.

Arms Sources

Although India has a significant domestic arms industry; it imports a large volume of arms, mainly from Russia, but also from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and others. Deliveries in 2011 included 37 combat aircraft, 10 of 80 ordered helicopters and 100 tanks. In 2012 India commissioned a nuclear submarine from Russia.

In 2013, India received shipments of weapons from Canada, Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States, which has identified India as a long-term strategic partner.

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.

Maoists have admitted that between 2009 and 2012 the Indian state severely damaged their political and military intelligence units, central magazine department, central weapon manufacturing and supply departments and international departments
India’s defense budget continues to increase, rising from $36.1 billion (US) in 2011 to $38.5 billion (US) in 2012.

Economic Factors

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. The conflict has spread to 20 of India’s 28 states. Some human rights observers claim that government action has gone beyond the suppression of Maoist elements to include the forceful displacement of tribal people from their land, to allow commercial development.

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.

Naxalite activity is hampering economic growth in the Red Corridor. As long as rebels continue to destroy infrastructure and attacking facilities, the mineral-rich forests of Eastern India will remain closed to business.

map: CIA Factbook