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Naxalism Problem in India

The problem of Naxalism is more dangerous than any other form of violence in India, either terrorism or religion or caste related violence. The number of people died in Naxalite violence is more than the deaths caused by insurgents in Kashmir and north-eastern states. Naxalism is an informal name given to communist groups that were born out of the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian communist movement. Ideologically they belong to various trends of Maoism. Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal.

In recent years, Naxalites have spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). They are conducting an insurgency, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. They now have a presence in 40% of India’s geographical area, and are especially concentrated in an area known as the ‘Naxal Belt,’ comprising 92,000 square kilometers. According to India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, 20,000 insurgents are currently in operation, and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them as the most serious threat to India’s national security.

The term comes from Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal, where a section of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967, trying to develop a ‘revolutionary opposition’ in opposition to the CPI(M) leadership. The insurrection started on May 25, 1967 in Naxalbari village when a peasant was attacked by hired hands over a land dispute. Local peasants retaliated by attacking the local landlords and the violence escalated. Majumdar greatly admired Mao Zedong of China and advocated that Indian peasants and lower classes must follow in his footsteps and overthrow the government and upper classes whom he held responsible for their plight. He engendered the Naxalite movement through his writings, the most famous being the ‘Historic Eight Documents’ which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology. In 1967 ‘Naxalites’ organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later broke away from CPI (M). Uprisings were organized in several parts of the country. In 1969 AICCCR gave birth to Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

During the 1970s, the movement was fragmented into several disputing factions. By 1980, it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30 000. A 2004 Home Ministry estimate puts numbers at that time as ‘9,300 hardcore underground cadre…( holding) around 6,500 regular weapons beside a large number of unlicensed country-made arms’. More recent figures put the strength of the movement at 15,000, and claim the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India’s forests, as well as being active in 160 of the country’s 604 administrative districts.’ India’s Research and Analysis Wing believed in 2006 that 20,000 Naxals are currently involved in the growing insurgency.

Today some groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. Others, such as Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti are engaged in armed guerrilla struggles.

Naxalite-Maoist insurgency
The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is a low-level war of maoists against the Indian government. The insurgency started as a peasant rebellion in the eastern Indian village of Naxalbari in 1967 and has now spread to a large swath in the central and eastern parts of the country. In 2004 the Maoist rebel organisation People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre of India merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites “The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.” In 2009 Manmohan Singh said the country was “losing the battle against Maoist rebels”.

Naxalites claim to be supported by poorest rural population, especially Dalits and Adivasis. They have frequently targeted tribals, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural labourers and the poor and follow a strategy of rural rebellion similar to that of protracted people’s war against the government.

Region affected
The rebels claim to operate in 182 districts in India, mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The area affected by Naxalism stretches from the border with Nepal to Karnataka in the South (2006). In West Bengal areas west of Howrah are affected by the insurgency. Chhattisgarh is the epicenter of the conflict (2007).

The Red Corridor is a term used to describe an impoverished region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite maoist militant activity. These are also areas that suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation in modern India, and span parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states.

According to Judith Vidal-Hall (2006), “More recent figures put the strength of the movement at 15,000, and claim the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India’s forests, as well as being active in 180 of the country’s 630 administrative districts.

There exists the pro-democratic and anti-Maoist Salwa Judum, which is a government sponsored self defense force which was constituted after the maoists unleashed a campaign of violence against the tribals of Chhattisgarh.The Ranvir Sena, a caste-supremacist paramilitary of the upper-caste landlords and proscribed terrorist organisation by the Indian government, is anti-communist and has been known to kill Dalit civilians in retaliation to Naxalite activity.

Similar self-defense groups have emerged in Andhra Pradesh during the last decade. Some of these groups are Fear Vikas, Green Tigers, Nalladandu, Red Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, Kakatiya Cobras, Narsa Cobras, Nallamalla Nallatrachu (Cobras) and Kranthi Sena. Over ground activists of maoists were axed to death by the Nayeem gang in 1998 and 2000. On 24 August 2005, alleged members of the self-styled Narsi Cobras killed a maoist activist in Mahbubnagar district.


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