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By:Sonam Agrawal, Yogita Daulatani, Sheena Kapoor, Nandita Sebastian, and Saumya Srivastava


Naxalism: Meaning and Rise


Naxalism Naxalism refers to the ultra left movement that took birth from the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian Communist Movement, the porotagonists of this movement deniednaxalism to follow parliamentary democracy and believe in the tenet that “Power flows from the barrel of the gun”. The word Naxalism comes from Naxalbari , a small village in West Bengal , where a leftist section of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) directed by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a militant peasant uprising in 1967, trying to develop a "revolutionary opposition" in order to establish "revolutionary rule" in India. Naxalist Movement is also referred to as Left Wing Extremism.


 The 1st wave of Naxal movement started in May 1967 in Naxalbari area of West Bengal when local landlords bashed a peasant over a land dispute. The Naxalites made a conspiracy against the landlords for the upliftment of the poor farmers and escalated the violence. It quickly spread into parts of Bihar, Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh, Koraput in Orissa and some other areas where the peasants were tortured by landlords. Majumdar was greatly inspired by Mao Zedong, a Chinese Communist Revolutionary. He encouraged the Indian peasants and lower classes to follow their path and put an end to the government and upper classes that he believed that present structure of state in India has the hegemony of the rich section of the society thus it perpetuates the opression. In 1967, ‘Naxalites’ organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later separated from CPI (M). Violent ‘uprisings’ were structured in various parts of India. In 1969, AICCCR gave birth to Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) marking the start of a movement called Naxalism.

Marxism, Maoism and Naxalism: The difference

Marxism emerged as a strong ideology in the reaction against the capitalism and the onlaughts of the Industrial Revolution. As a result of the Industrial Revolution the society in Europe got divided into two class i.e. the Capitalist and the workers (also called proletariats). After the Industrial Revolution the Capitalist class had acess to all resources while the condition of working class became vulnerable and marginalized. The working class was severely exploited by the Capitalist Class during that time, as there were no labor laws or institutions for the advocay of the working class Marxism as an ideology envisage a classless society in which the political power is hijacked by the working class or in the words of Marx dictatorship of the Proletariats. Marxism as an idology does not hesitate the use force and/or other voilent methods to grab the political power by the working class.

Maoism is the Asian or Chinese version of the Marxism. Asian societies did not witness the Industrial Revolution similar to the extent and effect as in the case of Europe. Thus, in Asia the Capitalist Class and Working Class were not so prominient as in the case of Europe. The major difference in the demography between Asia and Europe was that majority of population in Asia was rural and had an agrarian base. Thus while Marxism is applicable in the case of urban working class, the Maoism talks about the peasants and landless agriculture labours. While the Marxism envisages dictatorship of Working Class the Maoism envisions the dictatorship of rural peasants and agriculture labour. The common features between both of them is that their goal is same i.e. a classless society and no hesitation for the use of voilent methods to grab political power.

Naxalism is the Indian version of Maoism. Since it started from the Naxalbari district of West Bengal, thus it has been named so.

Demands: The Red Corridor

Naxalism became a full blown movement since 1967, carving out a separate zone altogether called the Red Corridor or the Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ), stretching from Andhra Pradesh to Nepal covering states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar . A lot of demands have been put forth by the extremists, including demands of separate states, disintegration of many boundaries, lifting up bans and implementation of acts. All these demands are an effect of discontent that this section of the society has with the current system and polity. According to the report of an expert group on Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas, it has been observed that there are a lot of similarities in these affected districts. These include substantial tribal population, a significant area under good quality forest cover, rich mineral reserves like coal, bauxite and iron ore. Also, all these districts have large administrative units and are located at tri-junction areas of different states. On the basis of these similarities the report suggested the problem in the following context

Condition of adivasis, dalits and women: The dalits and the adivasis form majority of the supporters of the movement. Their unrest and rebellious instincts have surfaced due to years of inequality, lack of opportunities, low education, and political marginalisation. In case of dalits the list of grievances go further with absence of self governance, forest policy, excise policy, land related issues, multifaceted forms of exploitation, cultural humiliation, political marginalisation, land alienation, forced evictions from land, and displacement. Subjugation of women is also one of the reasons behind popular unrest in the rural hinterlands. These disparities have led to many demands like waiving off all private loans taken by the community, reservation for women in the private sector, equal property right act for women, stringent punishment to those who exploit or try to hurt tribal sentiments.

Access to basic resources (forest land, SEZ): Forest areas which have been their dwellings for centuries have been declared as reserved to cater to the various industrial needs. This has led to popular unrest. Land acquired for SEZ etc. had similar impact leading to demands like autonomy for tribes, implementation of 1/70 Act etc, revision of Land ceiling Act.

Labour, Wages and unemployment: Unemployment and insecure livelihood have also caused dissatisfaction and rage among the youth making them demand reservation in private sector, scrapping deals with World Bank and MNCs to protect small and medium size industries.

Displacement and rehabilitation: Displacement caused by development projects like large irrigation, mining projects without any arrangements for replacement is another problem faced by this section. This requires proper implementation of Rehabilitation and Resettlements policy(R&R)

The process of adjudication: Justice delayed is justice denied. The statement fits in context of disputes and cases that are never settled on time which compels them to continue their faith in illegal people’s court of the extremists. This has resulted in demands like lifting ban on CPI(M), also many undue demands like lifting up cases against leaders of mass organisations and revolutionary parties.

Environmental degradation: Mining activities prevalent in these states have led to complete disruption of their lives due to destroyed land and water resources. Degradation also includes adverse effect of tourism industry and other types of intrusion in the tribal lands. This compels them to demand autonomy, demand for integrated plans etc.

Political marginalisation of SC and ST: SC and ST confront different problems with regard to exercising political rights and entitlements. Discrimination and dominance by the so-called ‘upper’ class makes it difficult to caste or contest. For ST lack of financial resources inter alia other reasons is a hindrance.

Infected States and Districts

The Naxalite movement in 1967, started from a small village on the tri-junction of India, Nepal and what was then East Pakistan. It spread like a wildfire to different parts of the country. The movement had a dramatic phase for about two years from the formation of the CPI (ML) in 1969 till the end of 1971. These early attempts were however easily crushed by the Government of India through police action. Following Charu Mazumdar’s death in 1972, there were divisions and fragmentations in the movement which were followed by various ups and downs.

Tracking the current phase, starting from 2001, has been marked by a conscious attempt to militarize the armed component of the party - the People’s Guerrilla Army with a view to launch attacks on the state apparatus. After this, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, classified thirteen states of the Union, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Haryana and Tamil Nadu as being infected by the Naxalite Movement.

In 2009, Naxalites were active approximately across 180 districts in ten states of India. In August 2010, after a full year implementation of the National IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of Naxal affected states. In July 2011, the number of Naxal affected areas was reduced to 83 districts across nine states however this included a proposed addition of 20 districts made by other state governments.

Although by December 2011, the National Government reported that the number of Naxalite related deaths and injuries nationwide had gone down by nearly 50% from 2010 levels but still under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, the state governments continue to demand an increase in the number of districts affected by Naxal violence. The Indian government has been struggling to curb the whole Naxal Movement.

Salwa Judum

Salwa Judum, a local militia, was born in Bastar, Chattisgarh, in the year 2005 with an objective to crush the menace of Maoism. Ironically, what it ended up crushing was the socio-economic aspirations of the villagers. Local tribes were mobilised to be up in arms against the atrocities of the Naxal movement. Villagers were forced to relocate from their places of stay to the so-called relief camps. The living conditions and crimes were so fierce that these camps could have been easily regarded as concentration camps for refugees. The tribes that were displaced were appointed as Special Police Officers with an honorarium of Rs 1500 to combat Naxalism. In this context of Naxal insurgency, complete lawlessness and violence had occurred. Refusal to relocate had drastically grave consequences like on-the- spot killing or even burnt alive as those individuals were assumed to be Naxals. Having been uprooted from their houses in such a terrible manner, the relief camps had no relief to offer. Women were molested and incidents of gang rapes had become more frequent than ever in the worst affected regions of Dantewada and Bastar. In many villages, any resistance to associate with Salwa Judum was dealt by burning of house and property and extensive use of arson. In other words, institution of Salwa Judum had resulted in widening the gap between democratically exercising authority and infringement of human rights on a huge scale.

A PIL was filed by Professor Nandini Sundar, former bureaucrat EAS Sarma and historian Ramachandra Guha against the Salwa Judum where it holds it responsible for 537 murders, 99 rapes, 103 cases of arson and burning 644 villages.  On 5 July 2011, Justice Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar delivered a land mark order. SC announced a ban on Salwa Judum and declared illegal and unconstitutional, the appointment of tribal youth as Special Police Officers by the Chhattisgarh Government to counter Maoist violence. According to the SC, there was violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution that guarantee equality before the law and protection of life and liberty. It has directed the Chhattisgarh government to “immediately cease and desist from using SPOs”, in any direct or indirect counter-insurgency activities, to recall all firearms issued to them, and provide protection to SPOs who have made themselves Naxal targets by assisting the forces.

Strategy to combat Naxal menance

The government is faced with a huge challenge of combating Naxalism and to ensure that the infected areas come back to normal conditions. The government has took to a stern attitude towards the Naxalists, where no talks with them will be facilitated until the Naxalists call quits on the trail of violent activities they have been plunging in for years.  Initially, when the resistance started, in various parts of the country, the government ignored the gravity of the issue rendering it as a mere law and order problem. But as the movement strengthened and showed its ugly face, it was very late. The government realised that simultaneous actions needed to be taken on a lot of fronts from then on. The government has launched the Police Modernisation Scheme under which it has been trying to ensure that modern arms and ammunition is made available to the CRPF as numerous instances have been registered where the Naxalites were found better equipped with light machine guns and Improved Explosive Devices (IEDs) while our policemen were reportedly having old and outdated ammunition.  Central Para Military Forces have been deployed by the centre to states combating the Naxalite Insurgency. Another major step is the training of the soldiers and policemen with Guerrilla warfare, a technique Naxalites adopt and are adept at.

While strengthening the police on one side, the government has been focussed on bringing about socio-economic development in the Naxal infested areas in order to provide proper employment opportunities to the locals so that lesser number of people resort to violent means. In fact Andhra Pradesh government came out with the surrender and rehabilitation policy for the Naxalites which is doing fairly well. West Bengal has also announced a Naxal surrender program similar to the one in Andhra. The revision of the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme in 2005 covers the budget for all these policies. Presently 76 districts in 9 states which are badly affected by Naxal activities are covered under this scheme.

Efforts are being made to form local resistance groups against Naxal violence by training the individuals to fight against Naxalites. Provisional Armed Constabulary in Uttar Pradesh, Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh and COBRA are some Special Task Forces constituted to deal with the issue. Recruitment of more than 14,000 personnel has been done for the special task force. Salwa Judum was one such movement initiated by the Chattisgarh Government where local tribal people were involved, but was eventually banned by the Supreme Court of India owing to numerous defects of the program. This growing trouble of Naxal insurgency, which has spread its tentacles to a lot of states, needs to be addressed collectively by all the state governments in tandem with each other. Plans for Anti Maoist Centres, equipped with helicopters and guarded by CRPF officials, at the borders of states affected by it are already in motion. The government has also constituted an 'Empowered Group of Ministers' to counter the problem of Naxalism headed by the Home Minister and select Chief Ministers. The Communist party of India has also been banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Institution of Indian Reserve Battalions is being done in order to enhance the security network of the states.

The institution of all these committees and acts is a fairly simple task as compared to effective implementation of the same and bringing about the required change in the prevailing scenario


It’s a fact that the Government of India has off late realized that problem of Naxalism is not just a law and order problem. The causes and root of this problem is complexly interwoven with the dimensions like socio-economic development, inequalities, unbalanced regional development and policies which encourage exclusion and marginalisation. It’s also ironical that that some of the fundamental principles of Indian constitution and Naxalite movement coincide which each other like equality and socialism. It’s also a fact that fruits of socio-development and globalisation in India have been distributed in an uneven fashion. Moreover there are examples wherein the developmental projects like mega infrastructure projects and setting up of industries particularly in tribal hinterlands have further marginalized the local population. In such scenario the one of spontaneous reaction could be feeling of alienation from the mainstream. However the violence component and the tendencies to destabilize the settled democracy as a result of this alienation cannot be justified at any cost.

 The government has to adopt a multi prong strategy for the solution to this problem. The use of force in the affected areas cannot achieve this alone; it also requires a synergy between various agencies of the central and state governments. Nepal is the good example for Indian government as well as Naxalites where the Maoisst have agreed to be a part of parliamentary democracy. This should happen in India but for that the democracy in affected areas has to be made more engaging by strengthening the institutions like Panchayati Raj and making development schemes more inclusive. 

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