Author : Niranjan Sahoo

Occasional PapersPublished on Jun 13, 2019 PDF Download
ballistic missiles,Defense,Doctrine,North Korea,Nuclear,PLA,SLBM,Submarines

Half a century of India’s Maoist insurgency: An appraisal of state response


Niranjan Sahoo, “Half a Century of India’s Maoist Insurgency: An Appraisal of State Response”, ORF Occasional Paper No. 198, June 2019, Observer Research Foundation.

In 2006, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh named  Maoist insurgency as “the single biggest internal-security challenge”[i] the country has ever faced. He would repeat the same warning in the succeeding four years.[ii] This paper argues  that today, the insurgency no longer poses the same degree of threat to the Indian state. It outlines the trajectory of the Maoist insurgency from its roots in the late 1960s, to credible domination over large swathes of territory across 12 states in the mid-2000s, and to its eventual decline beginning some years ago. The paper examines the Indian state’s counterinsurgency (COIN)[iii] strategy that has brought down Maoist violence significantly, eliminated many  key leaders of the movement, and restricted their dominance to a few  districts of the bordering states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar. The paper navigates both the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government and that of the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leadership.


The Maoist movement in India is among the longest and most lethal homegrown insurgencies that the world has seen. While the origin of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country goes back to the Telangana peasant rebellion (1946-51),[iv] the movement took the young republic by storm in 1967. On 25 May that year, peasants, landless labourers, and adivasis with their lathis, arrows and bows undertook daring raids of the granaries of a landlord at the Naxalbari village of West Bengal. The rebellion, quelled by the police in a matter of a few days, gave birth to what would be called the Naxalite movement (named after the hamlet) led by the charismatic Charu Majumdar and his close associates, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. The rebels quickly found support not only amongst the nearby villages, but also from the People’s Republic of China. The Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, not only called the event “Spring Thunder”, it also devoted an entire editorial page highlighting the importance of the Naxalbari incident.[v]  Majumdar and Sanyal took initial inspiration from China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and his tactics to capture political power; the Naxalite movement eventually became radically different from what  Maoism stood for.[vi]

The arrest of Charu Majumdar in 16 July 1972 and his subsequent death in police custody some days later prompted analysts to pen obituaries for the Naxalite movement. Within a decade, however, the movement made its presence known in other regions of the country.  Notably, the early 1980s saw the revival of the armed militancy when Andhra Pradesh-based Kondapalli Seetharamaiah formed the People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980. Formed to fight for the cause of peasants and the landless, the armed militia launched a series of daring attacks, assassinations and bombings targeting landlords, upper-caste leaders and politicians in Andhra Pradesh. In the late 1990s, when the Andhra Pradesh police forces decimated the PWG, many thought the end of the insurgency.

Yet again the insurgency will prove those analysts wrong, as it spread into Central India in the early 2000s, particularly the mountainous Dandakaranya and the adjoining regions covering Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and parts of Maharashtra. The merging of the Communist Party of India (Maoist-Leninist), the PWG, Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) and 40 other armed factions into the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004 turned the tide in favour of the insurgents. Prior to 2004, the Maoists were not only a relatively a minor force loosely operating in four states (i.e., Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh)—but were also highly fragmented[vii] to the point that they killed each other’s cadres and followers. The 2004 truce between two major Maoist factions that decided to merge proved strategic, allowing the insurgents to enhance their strengths in spatial spread and firepower.

The movement would eventually spread across such a vast geography that it surpassed all other insurgent activity including those in the J&K and the Northeast. At their peak, the Naxalites were dominating in more than 200 districts across the country, prompting then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April 2006 to call the Maoist movement “the single biggest internal-security challenge ever faced by our country.”[viii]

The insurgents also rapidly enhanced their firepower in terms of regular fighters, arms and ammunition, resources and insurgent expertise. Within a short period of times, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PGLA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist) nurtured 20,000 regular cadre of which nearly 10,000 are hardcore fighters.[ix] These cadre were armed with automatic weapons, shoulder rocket launchers, mines and other explosive devices, light machine guns, mortars, self-loading guns, AK-47s, and grenades.  They also acquired know-how in making and deploying increasingly sophisticated bombs,[x] and according to some reports, set up manufacturing centres for weapons including rocket launchers.[xi]  By mid-2000s, the Maoists had managed to create full-fledged administrative and military infrastructure in states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal.

A key to the Maoist movement’s growth was the expansion of its financial base. By the late 2000s, coinciding with the spread of their geographical influence, the amount of financing in the hands of the Naxalites had reached some INR 1,500 crore (approximately US$ 350 million).[xii],[xiii] This rise in financial resources dramatically improved their ability to buy weapons, attract recruits, and modernise their communication warfare systems including the use of information and communication technology.

The high points of the Maoist insurgency were the Chintalnar massacre of 76 soldiers in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district in April 2010, and the killings of top leaders of the Congress Party in Chhattisgarh’s Jeeram Ghati area in Sukma district in May 2013. These two incidents, amongst many other daring attacks on security forces, sounded the alarm for the country’s policymakers that the rebels were posing a serious threat.

State Response: An Analysis of Seven States

State response to the Maoist insurgency has evolved over the years, influenced by both the intensity of threat and the nature of political dispensation at the Centre and the affected states. While the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government laid the foundation for the country’s Counter-Insurgency (COIN) strategy,[xiv] the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has accelerated the pace and enhanced the effectiveness.  Various COIN initiatives have been an amalgamation of both population-centric and enemy-centric approaches, combining law-and-order mechanisms and development instruments.

Map 1. Current spread of CPI-Maoist

Source: SATP (2018)

Given that law and order is under the purview of the states or provinces, the most crucial counterinsurgency efforts are in the hands of state-level leadership. The federal government supported these efforts with joint strategies, resources, intelligence and coordination. The following paragraphs analyse the provincial responses to Maoist insurgency: they are varied, high- and low-level responses, and multi-layer approaches adopted by the affected states.

Andhra Pradesh 

Andhra Pradesh (undivided[xv]), which witnessed the rise of the Maoist insurgency in the early 1990s, is often showcased as a success story in counter-insurgency. The PWG faction had dominated 20 districts of the State, more visibly in the North Telangana districts of Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam. The insurgency movement in AP was so strong that the rebels succeeded in eliminating a number of top political leaders (including the Home Minister of Andhra Pradesh)[xvi] and senior police officials. The insurgents in 2003 also attempted to kill the then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who narrowly escaped.[xvii]

Following the attack on the chief minister, AP embarked on a rapid modernisation of its police force while ramping up its technical and operational capabilities. The state then launched full-scale counter-insurgency operations, effectively wielding its intelligence arm to conduct a massive crackdown that killed key Maoist leaders in the state. The insurgents were forced to move back to the “strategic defensive” stage.[xviii]  In 2004, the state scaled back on its operations and engaged the insurgents’ leaders in talks. Those talks failed, and the state soon relaunched offensives.[xix] Between 2004 and 2007, with the same strategy and using its elite combat force named Greyhounds,[xx] the state police managed to pin down and eliminate most of the top Maoist leaders in AP.  The state also quashed mass organisation activities through the use of civilian “vigilante” groups that it had carefully encouraged through an attractive Surrender and Rehabilitation package.[xxi]

The other core component of the counter-insurgency strategy was what is called “winning hearts and minds”: cutting down the influence of the Maoists by undertaking development and good-governance measures to address the grievances of the civilian population sympathetic to the insurgent cause, including the tribal communities. Then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, for example, began a series of developmental schemes.[xxii] YSR Reddy, who became chief minister in 2004, then introduced various socio-economic programmes. For one, his scheme Indiramma (Mother Indira) introduced in 2006, considered as novel by analysts, sought to cover every village panchayat in three years and provide what the state has not in decades, including healthcare, education, clean drinking water, pucca houses with sanitation facilities, electricity connection, and roads, amongst others. (In 2009 after Reddy’s comfortable win in the Assembly elections, analysts attributed the victory to Indiramma as well as the implementation of the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in rural Andhra Pradesh, including in areas affected by the Maoist insurgency.[xxiii])

In summary, the Andhra Pradesh state succeeded in stamping out left-wing extremism by combining police action with socio-economic programmes implemented by an effective service delivery mechanism. (See Table 2 for the patterns in the incidence of Maoist violence in Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2018.)


Chhattisgarh is today considered the epicentre of Maoist insurgency in India. At their pinnacle, the Naxalites had influence over as many as 18 districts in the state, out of a total 27. Indeed, beginning in the late 1980s, the 40,000-sq-km Bastar region—made up of the Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar and Kanker districts—became the nerve centre of Maoist militancy in India. Nearly 25,000 sq km of Bastar (including Abujmar,[xxiv] the Maoist citadel of the so-called Red-Corridor[xxv]) are believed to be intensively mined by Maoists. The insurgents in Chhattisgarh executed some of the most daring attacks in all of the country, such as the Chintalnar massacre of 76 CRPF soldiers in 2010, and the killings of  top leaders of the Indian National Congress, including the party head for Chhattisgarh Nanda Kumar Patel in 2013.[xxvi]

The state response has evolved over different phases and with varied trajectories, although similarly reactive in nature. In the initial years since the creation of Chhattisgarh as a separate state, the government under the leadership of Ajit Jogi of the Congress Party reportedly often fiddled with the Maoists for electoral gains and other benefits,[xxvii] in the process allowing the insurgents enough room to expand their base and firepower. In 2003, under Chief Minister Raman Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the state government began a more serious counter-insurgency offensive against the Maoists.

Such counter-insurgency strategy involved the nurturing and strengthening of a vigilante group, popularly called Salwa Judum (or Purification Hunt).[xxviii] The state government supported the Salwa Judum movement by creating a local militia called Special Police Officers (SPOs) comprising former rebels and local youth. The activities of the vigilantes, however, resulted in the mass displacement and killing of adivasis (tribal communities) caught between the two forces. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the vigilante group was illegal and ordered the state government to disband it.[xxix]

Following the Salwa Judum episode and the Supreme Court’s judgment, the government of Raman Singh sought to fight the Naxalites by strengthening security and combat infrastructure particularly by establishing an anti-insurgency training school for police personnel at Kanker, in north Bastar. The state government also adopted a Surrender and Rehabilitation policy[xxx] and passed the Chhattisgarh Special Public Securities Act, 2006, which dramatically expanded the ambit of “unlawful” activities including verbal or oral communications.[xxxi] Most importantly, the Singh state government appointed K.P.S. Gill, former police chief of Punjab as adviser for counter-insurgency.

Further, the state took modernisation of its police force more seriously[xxxii] by creating  a new battalion of special forces (which they called the CoBRA schools modelled after AP’s  Greyhounds),  and upgraded intelligence. They built road and telephone networks in the most challenging terrains of Dantewada, and launched pioneering socio-economic schemes for the poorest of the poor including one on food security.[xxxiii] While Maoist-led violence remains a major concern in Bastar division especially the northern parts, significant progress has been made in restricting Maoists to the state’s southern districts. (See Table 2.)

The game-changer seems to have been the improved road connectivity: 11 key road projects were finished by 2018, connecting the Sukma, Bijapur and Jagdalpur districts. In addition, enhanced combat capability of local police through modernisation and fortified police stations and improved coordination between Centre and state in intelligence and paramilitary support are resulting in palpable decrease in Maoist threat. [xxxiv] To be sure, however, the Maoist threat remains a serious concern for the state. As a sort of warning,  as recently as  April this year, the insurgents conducted an attack in Dantewada[xxxv] that killed the incumbent BJP MLA and his four security personnel.


Jharkhand is second only to Chhattisgarh among the states of India that are worst affected by left-wing extremism.  Since its carving out from Bihar in 2000, the mineral-rich state with substantial adivasi populations has remained a laboratory for the parallel system of government that the Maoists are attempting to establish in their strongholds.[xxxvi] At their height in Jharkand in the late 2000s,  the rebels had a sway in as many as 20 districts across the state. Jharkhand has closely competed with its neighbour, Chhattisgarh, in terms of violent activities and casualties, and over the years, there has been an increase in the attacks on economic infrastructure and state symbols such as police stations and jails.[xxxvii]

Then Chief Minister Shibu Soren was of the view that the insurgents were “misguided” youth who can be persuaded to re-join society, and initiated a peace dialogue.[xxxviii] The talks collapsed, however, in 2010[xxxix]  and then Home Minister P. Chidambaram issued orders to Soren to step up on state response.[xl]  That same year the Jharkhand government formed a special force (the Jharkhand Jaguar modeled after the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh) to lead the anti-Naxal operations. The state government also framed a unique surrender policy[xli] for Naxalites.

The most crucial operation for Jharkhand’s state forces was the ambitious plan to recapture the forested region of Saranda,[xlii] which has been a Maoist stronghold since the early 2000s. Together with central forces, the state launched Operation Anaconda to weed out Maoists from Saranda and succeeded in 2011. The Central government immediately framed the Saranda Development Plan in 2012.[xliii] The success of the Saranda strategy prompted the state leadership to expand the focus area approach, to free more such Maoist locations and undertake development projects. The state has so far mounted 40 security camps to free 13 focus areas from Maoist influence.[xliv] The government is investing heavily in the construction of infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, panchayat buildings and block offices.

After the BJP won the state elections in December 2014, the new Chief Minister Raghubar Das began various counter-insurgency initiatives.[xlv] In the last few years, the number of Maoist-related violence—reaching its peak in 2013 with 480  incidents—has declined to 53 in 2018.  The year 2018 recorded the lowest number of Maoist violence-related fatalities (See Table 2). Out of 53 deaths, 10 were security forces and 26 were insurgents. It was in 2017 when the Maoists saw the highest  number of deaths in their ranks: that year, 25 of them were killed in encounters with security forces (who lost two of their own.)[xlvi]

There has also been a high number of rebels who surrendered—as many as 108 in 2018 alone.[xlvii]   Indeed, while at their strongest, the Naxalites in Jharkhand lorded over as many as 13 districts across the state, the number is now down to four (i.e., Hazaribagh, Palamu, Latehar and Ranchi).[xlviii]  Analysts attribute the decline in Maoist threat to the counter-insurgency efforts of the current state leadership, as well as the factionalism within the Maoists’ ranks. This is not to say that left-wing extremism has been completely eliminated in Jharkhand. There remain several active rebel hotspots across the state’s vast terrain.

West Bengal

West Bengal, the birthplace of the 1967 Naxalite uprisings, witnessed an unprecedented rise in Maoist insurgency a decade ago. It may be recalled that Bengal undertook decisive military actions and a series of bold reforms including the Operation Barga in the late 1960s and early 1970s to deal a blow to the movement. In the late 1990s, however, the Maoists managed to revive their hold and spread across the state once again. By early 2000s, the CPI-Maoists had spread over as many as 18 districts of the state. Areas under 20 police stations in Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts witnessed intense Maoist activities.[xlix] There was, for instance, the Lalgarh episode in 2009 where the rebels engaged the state forces in an open battle. Beyond Lalgarh, the Naxals played a critical role in fueling agitations in Nandigram and Singur, which would subsequently lead to the defeat in the 2011 polls of the then three-decade Left government in the hands of Mamata Benerjee’s Trinamool Congress party.[l]

The initial responses of the West Bengal administration were inconsistent and reluctant.  The Left party government showed little resolve to join the anti-Naxal drives of the Centre and the other states.[li] It was the violent Lalgarh incident which finally persuaded the state leadership to launch a more serious counter-insurgency campaign.

In 2009 the Budhadeb Bhattacharya government imposed a ban on various Left-wing extremist organisations and created a Special Battalion, raising the state’s counter-insurgency response a notch higher. The most critical response emerged after Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011. While in the opposition, Banerjee and her party allegedly built a tacit understanding with underground Maoists;[lii] once in power, she changed her approach especially as the insurgents began targeting her supporters and key party leaders in their stronghold, the Jangalmahal region. In November 2011 the rebels lost their key leader Kishenji alias Koteshwar Rao, who had played an instrumental role in the Lalgarh incident that helped expand the movement into Jangalmahal. Banerjee’s government then arrested Chatradhar Mahato of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) which the state forces had identified as a front organisation for CPI-Maoist.

The government under Mamata Banerjee changed the piecemeal approach of the Left government and adopted a three-pronged counter-insurgency strategy.  First, the government overhauled the security strategy by setting up an elite police team to pursue the rebel leaders. Second, they offered a surrender and rehabilitation package to the rebels, promising jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities to those who would surrender. The third and perhaps most critical element of the campaign was in the form of comprehensive confidence-building measures with the people living in the Maoist-infested Jangalmahal region comprising the districts of Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura.[liii]

Banerjee’s government sought to combine two components in its efforts to quash the left extremists: political outreach—such as visiting poor hamlets and meeting ordinary people in Jangalmahal, and taking up aggressive welfare measures such as the free rice scheme for the poorest—and a host of development schemes. To strengthen intelligence and police combing operations, the government actively incentivised local youth to serve as informers and so-called Special Police Officers (like the vigilante groups created in other Naxal-affected states). Importantly, the government’s  Jangalmahal outreach[liv] strengthened state presence in the neglected regions with high populations of adivasis and other marginalised communities.

From a peak of 425 Maoist-related violent incidents in 2010 (which killed 328 civilians and 36 security forces), the number came down to zero by the end of 2018.[lv]  The state government has also been able to convince a significant number of rebels, including some top leaders, to surrender before the police in the last few years. According to a report issued by the state government,  more than 250 Maoists have surrendered before the state police between 2014 and 2018.[lvi] There is one district, Jhargram, that remains categorised as “highly affected” by the insurgency.[lvii]


While the Naxalites in Odisha[lviii] met with similar consequences like the  Naxalbari movement in bordering West Bengal,  beginning in the late 1990s this sleepy and relatively peaceful State  witnessed a rapid spurt in Left-wing extremism particularly in its most backward regions that are home to large adivasi populations. At one point in the late 2000s, the Maoist influence stretched over 22 of the 30 districts of Odisha.  The hotspots of Maoist activities were the most backward and forested, mineral-rich districts with huge adivasi populations—i.e., Koraput, Malkanagiri, Nabarangapur, Rayagada, Gajapati, Kandhmal and Ganjam and Keonjhar. Odisha witnessed an unprecedented level of violence and loss of lives and property as the Maoists launched attacks to paralyse governance systems and disrupt economic activities. The insurgents also fuelled protests against several mega projects on the issues of land acquisition and mining rights, particularly in the recent Niyamgiri and POSCO projects.[lix] Indeed, the movement made Odisha a prime target for their expansion in the country’s eastern region.

State response to left-wing extremism in Odisha was not very different from that of other Maoist-affected states: from loud denial to grudging acceptance. Proof of the state leadership’s failure to recognise the Maoist threat was then chief minister Biju Patnaik’s claim in 1995 that he himself was a Naxalite.[lx] In 2004, the Odisha state government under then chief minister Naveen Patnaik undertook what can be considered the first concrete step to find an end to the Maoist insurgency. In September that year Patnaik initiated talks with the leaders of the front organisation, the People’s War Group (PWG) and even allowed a rally in the capital. The talks did not lead to any concrete result.

The Nayagarh incident in 2008[lxi] jolted the lackadaisical state administration to the Maoist threat. The same year, the insurgents launched a brazen attack in Balimela near AP-Odisha border, killing 37 Greyhounds soldiers. These two incidents left Odisha’s leaders with no illusion about the expanding Maoist footprint in the state.  They immediately fortified the police stations, gave police officers rigorous training, and announced a suitable incentive package to police personnel involved in anti-Maoist operations. Importantly, to supplement existing police action, thousands of tribal youth from the insurgency-affected areas were recruited as Special Police Officers (SPOs). The State also opened a training school in each of the seven police ranges, supplemented by 17 battalions of Central forces stationed in key Naxal-affected districts.[lxii]

Beyond taking some hard steps to restore law and order in the state, the Naveen Patnaik government implemented various development and good-governance initiatives to win over the local population, especially the adivasi populations, which had become disenchanted with the government and amongst whom the insurgents were winning sympathy.  One of these measures was the allotment of patta (land entitlements) to adivasis across several Naxal-infested districts. The government saw this as a way to cut down the influence of organisations such as Chasi Mulia Samiti and Kui Lewang Sangh, which were mobilising adivasis on the issue of land alienation but were identified by the state security establishment as fronts for left-wing extremism.[lxiii] The State also came out with a model Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy to address some of the core issues related to land acquisition and displacement. There were also efforts to conduct food rationing, implement a job scheme, construct roads, and undertake livelihood and entitlements-based programmes.[lxiv]

Over time, Odisha achieved significant progress in managing left-wing extremism especially in the mineral-rich regions. To be sure, there have remained the occasional, audacious attacks such as the kidnapping of Malkanagiri District Collector V.K. Krishan in 2011[lxv] and of two Italian tourists in 2012.[lxvi] However, the state has mostly gained the upper hand: State police, in collaboration with the AP Greyhounds, scored big when they eliminated as many as 30 rebels in two successive encounters in the Begangi forest area in the Malkangiri district in October 2016. The dreaded Maoist leader, Sabhyasachi Panda, also surrendered to the police in 2014; it had a huge demoralising effect on the cadres. The Chasi Mulia Sangh leader, Nachika Linga, also surrendered in the same year.

Statistics show that there has been a steady decline in the number of Maoist-related incidents in Odisha (See Table 2). Maoist-related fatalities dropped from 42 reported in 2016 to nine in 2017, when security forces killed several key Maoist leaders.[lxvii] Between 2015 and 2016, more than 1,000 underground Maoists surrendered to the police.[lxviii] The exodus began, in fact, a year later when top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda surrendered in July 2014.[lxix] Today, eight districts remain “worst-affected”—i.e., Malkangiri, Koraput, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Bolangir, Bargarh and Angul. State officials, however, declare that rebel influence is restricted to only some pockets of the bordering districts of Malkanagiri and Koraput.


Bihar was amongst the handful of states where India’s left-wing extremist movement took a deep root in the 1970s. At their peak in 1980s, the Maoists in Bihar enjoyed widespread support among the poor and oppressed classes and carried out their agenda through various means.[lxx] What sustained the insurgency was Bihar’s failed land reform—which left much of the land in the hands of the upper-castes, fueling caste feuds where the rich employed the services of private militia like the dreaded Ranvir Sena and took advantage of a weak state that failed to provide order.[lxxi]  After the strategic merger in 2004 of the dominant MCC, the Communist Party of India (ML) Liberation and other splinter rebel groups, Maoist domination in Bihar became much more pronounced. The consolidation of Maoist forces helped the CPI-Maoist to expand to new areas as well.[lxxii] Beyond their traditional strongholds in Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Arwal Bhabhua, Rohtas and Jehanabad in southwestern Bihar, the rebels spread their base to North Bihar, bordering Nepal, in the early 2000s.

It was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, assuming power in 2005, who took credible steps to restore law and order in Bihar. His government worked to improve governance and initiated a number of socio-economic and development initiatives to bring the state—long regarded as the poorest across India—back to its feet.[lxxiii] Like his predecessors, CM Kumar initially had adopted a lackadaisical approach to the Naxal insurgency. Indeed, on several occasions, the chief minister expressed his reservations on the military-centric operations initiated by the Centre.[lxxiv] The real wakeup call came in late 2005, when Naxalites launched a jail break in Jehanabad and released some 364 of their comrades. The state then slowly began mounting a more purposeful anti-Naxal campaign, placing emphasis on development and good governance.

On the security front, the Kumar government initiated a number of steps including the creation of a 400-member Special Task Force as well as a Special Auxiliary Police for counter-insurgency. Further, the state set up specialised counter-insurgency training schools to enhance the combat operations skills of its security personnel. It also fortified the long and porous border with Nepal by putting up infrastructure and improving surveillance to check problems of fake currency, smuggling of narcotics and criminal activities that have been identified as being run by Maoists.  More importantly, the state government revamped its surrender and rehabilitation policy to make it more attractive for insurgents to lay down their arms. As part of its overall thrust of improving the conviction rate, Bihar has implemented speedier trials for captured Maoists.[lxxv]

What has perhaps yielded the most significant results in Bihar’s fight against the Maoist insurgency was a series of development and good-governance measures adopted by the Kumar government. The leadership took cognisance of the fact that, like elsewhere, Maoists in Bihar flourished in lawlessness.[lxxvi] CM Kumar’s most notable efforts were in improving law and order. To restore the public’s faith, the government put a premium on speedy trials for criminals including Maoists (eventually achieving 1,000 convictions in a month). Simultaneously, the government undertook development programmes including the provision of free bicycles for schoolgirls; the scheme, ‘Apki Sarkar Apke Dwar’ (Your Government, Your Doorstep) that reached out to the most inaccessible panchayats in Naxal-affected districts; revamping public distribution systems (PDS); and building infrastructure like schools and hospitals.

CM Kumar’s efforts have been branded as “effective politics”. He worked to create a platform for the lowest and most marginalised Dalits (scheduled castes), calling them Mahadalits and providing them with generous benefits.[lxxvii] Both, counterinsurgency and development policies created dramatic results in winning over the marginalised populations whose support the Maoists had been courting. Naxal-related fatalities that reached their peak in 2011 came down to more manageable levels (see Table 2), prompting the Home Minister to laud CM Kumar for his leadership in finding solutions to the insurgency.[lxxviii]  While the state saw as many as 22 of its 38 districts fall under Naxal influence, the count has since gone down to four—i.e., Gaya, Jamui, Lakhisarai and Aurangabad.

It remains to be seen whether the left-wing extremists would find a revival in a state that remains impoverished and deeply unequal. The Maoists in fact continue to be active in a couple of districts such as Gaya and Jamui. Last year, the insurgents killed 10 CoBRA commandos and injured an equal number in an attack in Aurangabad district.[lxxix].


Maoists currently hold influence, in varying degrees, in Maharashtra’s districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia, which have areas contiguous with the Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh. Between 2007-2010, Maoists made massive inroads into  this strategic belt and in recent times launched daring assaults against security forces.[lxxx] The Gadchiroli[lxxxi] district which borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh has emerged as a hotspot of Maoist activities in the state.

Compared to several other Maoist-affected states, Maharashtra has responded rather seriously with a slew of measures comprising both security and developmental components. For example, the State has launched major offensive operations against the Maoists in the Gadchiroli-Chhattisgarh-Andhra border.  Further, the state administration is working to strengthen the police machinery in Gadchiroli and other Naxal-affected areas in terms of providing specialised training, as well as more funds for modern weaponry and equipment. The state has also created a district-level force, the C-60 commando, which has recently received appreciation from top officials of the Centre.[lxxxii]

Similarly, the government has put in place a Surrender and Rehabilitation Policy to encourage Maoist cadres to re-join society. The state government has also taken some controversial decisions in its effort to break the back of the Maoist movement. For example, state forces have arrested and prosecuted individuals that they have identified as Maoist “sympathisers”, giving them the pejorative name, “urban Naxals”.[lxxxiii]  These individuals, according to civil liberties activists who are critical of the state government’s moves, are mostly academic scholars and NGO workers.

Running alongside the security measures, the current state government has also taken various development initiatives particularly in the Gadchiroli district to address long-standing issues such as lack of irrigation, and poor healthcare and education.  The state is making the most of the different development schemes of the Centre.

The state police along with Central paramilitary forces have succeeded in killing scores of rebels and arresting hundreds of them in the last few years. There was a single instance of security forces killing 39 rebels. In short, the Maoists in Maharashtra are on the run (See Table 2). The surrender policy is also showing positive results. In the last 12 years, more than 500 rebels including several prominent leaders such as spouses Rammana and Padma Kodape have surrendered to the state police.[lxxxiv] The Maoists remain visible, however, in adivasi-dominated districts, particularly Gadchiroli.  They are still able to launch attacks in their stronghold; amongst them was the recent violence in Gadchiroli where 15 security forces were killed.[lxxxv]

The Centre’s Response

The Centre’s response to Maoist insurgency has followed a similar pattern as those of the different states. Yet, given that India is a federal country and the subject of law and order is vested in the states, the Union government has largely led the COIN efforts from behind. Successive governments at the Centre have provided the resources—security and financial, paramilitary, intelligence and strategic direction—to find sustainable solutions to the Maoist insurgency.

While the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments between 2004 and 2014 laid down the building blocks for India’s anti-Maoist response, the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has accelerated its  pace.[lxxxvi] On the whole, UPA and NDA  governments at the Centre have adopted a mix of methods—population-centric and enemy-centric—to quell the Maoist movement. The overall aim has been to complement state initiatives.

The Law and Order Approach

The law and order approach continues to be the key pillar of the Centre’s counterinsurgency strategy. This is best exemplified by the deployment of some 532 companies of central paramilitary forces in the affected states.[lxxxvii]  The 2004 merger of Maoist factions served as a wakeup call for the Central government. After insurgents launched the most brazen attacks against security forces, causing high numbers of causalities and stalling many industrial projects especially in the mining states, the Union government in the mid-2000s began taking a more proactive stance against left-wing extremism across India.[lxxxviii]

In 2006 the Central government under then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the first time issued a security blueprint to tackle the Maoist threat. The blueprint was prominently featured in the government’s 14-Point Policy[lxxxix] and subsequently took the form of a series of security-centric measures to address the growing Maoist movement.

a. Modernisation of Police Forces

The Centre soon realised that the Maoist insurgents were able to work vast swathes of territories largely because of lack of strong and effective policing. The government then sought to strengthen and improve the quality of policing in the Maoist-affected states, and in the mid-2000s implemented a Police Modernization Scheme. The Centre channeled substantial sums of funds to aid states in modernising and upgrading their police forces in terms of acquiring modern weaponry, communication equipment, mobility, and infrastructure.[xc] Recent studies have found that the tack of police modernisation and improvement in intelligence-gathering indeed brought dividends for Indian states in their anti-Maoists campaigns.[xci]

b. Strengthening Intelligence Networks

For a long time, poor intelligence infrastructure especially at the state level was a major bane in counterinsurgency. The Centre, in close consultation with states, then took certain critical steps to strengthen and upgrade the capabilities of intelligence agencies. This includes round-the-clock intelligence-sharing through Multi Agency Centre (MAC) at the Central level and through State Multi Agency Centre (SMAC) at the State level. Other noteworthy steps include the setting up of Joint Command and Control Centre at Maoist hotbeds such as Jagdalpur and Gaya, strengthening of technical and human intelligence, ensuring  cooperation amongst the security forces, district police and intelligence agencies, providing thrust on generation of real-time intelligence and creation/ strengthening of State Intelligence Bureaus (SIBs) in the LWE affected States for which Central assistance is provided through the Special Infrastructure Scheme.

c. Aiding States in Security-Related Infrastructure

One of the most critical components of the Centre’s anti-Maoist strategy was the launching of the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme. A brainchild of the UPA government, this scheme allowed state governments to reimburse 50 percent of their expenses on provisions like insurance scheme for police personnel, community policing, rehabilitation of surrendered Maoists, other security-related items not covered under the Police Modernization Scheme. Recently, the NDA raised the SRE reimbursement to up to 100 percent. SRE also now allows the advance release of funds to the Naxal-affected States.

d. Deployment of Central Paramilitary Forces

Perhaps amongst the most critical counterinsurgency initiatives from the Centre has been the creation of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to assist the Naxal-affected states. The Centre has extended the deployment of CAPFs on a long-term basis—this is a replication of its approach in the case of both, Northeast and Kashmir. At present, more than 70,000 CAPFs have been deployed across Maoist-affected states. In addition, the Centre has helped states to raise 14 Specialized Commando Battalion (CoBRA) that are equipped and trained in guerilla and jungle warfare techniques and deployed to the worst-affected districts. Further, the Centre has assisted in creating a number of Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorist (CIAT) Schools for long-term sustainability of counter-offensives.

e. Special Infrastructure Scheme

To fill the critical infrastructure gaps that are not covered under existing government schemes, the Centre created the Special Infrastructure Scheme. These include requirements of mobility for the police and security forces by upgrading existing roads and rail tracks in inaccessible areas, and providing secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations in remote and interior areas. Under the scheme, some 250 Fortified Police Stations were opened in LWE-affected states. The current central government has increased the number of stations to 400. In addition, in December 2016, the Union government approved road connectivity projects in 44 of the worst-affected districts and allocated a substantial sum of resources (INR 14025 crore) for setting up telephone infrastructure in those areas.[xcii] Further, the scheme provides funds for the creation of training infrastructure, weaponry, vehicles, and other related items for upgrade in LWE-affected states.


The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched other initiatives, amongst them the SAMADHAN which was announced by the minister of Home Affairs in May 2017. The acronym stands for the following: S – Smart Leadership, A – Aggressive Strategy, M – Motivation and Training, A – Actionable Intelligence, D -Dashboard Based KPIs (Key Performance ​​​Indicators), and KRAs (Key Result Areas), H- Harnessing Technology, A – Action plan for each theatre and N- No access to Financing. This policy aims to re-energise the government’s anti-Maoist initiatives, even as the elements are indeed the basic components of any effective counterinsurgency campaign.[xciii] The current government has also brought in systems and processes to enforce the use of unique identification numbers (Aadhaar) in smart guns, gelatine and other explosive materials. It has also expanded the ambits of existing provisions under the Explosives Act as well as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2017 to monitor the transportation of explosive substances and create obstacles for the flow of finances of the insurgents.

Further, the government has introduced the use of UAV or Mini UAV for each of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) battalions deployed in the Maoist hotbeds. This was a long-pending demand of the paramilitary forces. The Centre is also fast-tracking infrastructure, with a focus on solar lights, mobile towers with 3G connectivity, and road-rail connectivity in inaccessible areas of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand that remain the strongholds of the Naxals. The Centre has also announced the setting up of a Bastariya battalion in Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from Schedule Tribes candidates belonging to four districts viz. Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Sukma of Chhattisgarh to carry out combats.

g. Ban on the CPI (Maoist) and the UAPA Act, 2009

To step up the pressure on rebels, the Central government in 2009 put a country-wide ban on CPI (Maoist). This apart, the government enacted  the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act[xciv] in June 2009 to put a check on their activities apart from providing police and paramilitary autonomy and sweeping powers to go after the banned organisation and their activities.

h. Strengthening Monitoring and Coordination Mechanisms

A series of steps including the creation of a Unified Command have come up over the last decade or so. The following is a list of measures taken so far.

  • The Centre set up a high-level Task Force under Cabinet Secretary for promoting coordinated efforts across a range of security and development measures.
  • A Coordination Centre chaired by the Union Home Secretary was set up to review and coordinate the efforts of the concerned State governments in close consultation with Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of respective states.
  • A Task Force headed by a Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs with senior officers from Intelligence agencies, Central paramilitary forces and State police forces was set up to deliberate upon the operational strategies.
  • An Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG), headed by Additional Secretary (Naxal Management) was set up to oversee effective implementation of development schemes in the LWE-affected areas.
  • A dedicated Naxal Management Division[xcv] headed by an Additional Secretary was brought in within Home Ministry to oversee and provide actionable inputs.
  • The UPA-2 also brought in a Unified Command to further strengthen the ongoing anti-Maoist operations among four worst affected states- Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal.[xcvi] This was unofficially called Operation Green Hunt.[xcvii] The Unified Command is meant to strengthen intelligence and operational coordination, and launch coordinated attacks on the Maoists.[xcviii]
Development Programmes

The population-centric COIN aimed at winning hearts and minds amongst the local populations in Maoist-affected states came as an afterthought for successive governments at the Centre. Starting with the suppression of Naxalite movement in 1967 to that of the Maoist movement in mid-1990, for a long time the Indian state relied on an enemy-centric law and order approach to counter Maoist insurgency. However, since this did not end the insurgency which took newer avatars and spread even farther, the Centre finally initiated a series of development and good-governance measures to deny the insurgents the support of the affected populations.

This approach was best illustrated in the Union government’s appointment of an expert committee (headed by D. Bandyopadhyay, the architect of “Operation Barga”)[xcix] to carry out a detailed study of socio-economic developments in the affected regions and suggest measures to address these deficits. Following the suggestions of the Expert Committee and the government’s own assessment of the situation, an unprecedented amount of resources were transferred to areas affected by the Maoist insurgency.[c]   One of them is the flagship Integrated Action Plan  (IAP) launched by the UPA government to implement a special scheme which addresses the development deficiencies in LWE-affected districts; the financial package was over INR 6,000 crore per annum. While the NDA government has disbanded IAP scheme, it has come out with its own scheme called Special Central Assistance (SCA) to cover 35 most LWE-affected districts.

The most significant steps taken by the Centre to address the longstanding grievances of adivasis are in terms of enacting few landmark legislations recognising the rights of adivasis to access forest resources and for self-governance.[ci] The passage of Forest Dwellers Act in 2006 despite stiff resistance from environmentalists and NGOs[cii] is a clear statement of the Centre’s resolve to address the grievances of tribal populations living in the Naxal-affected areas.

As a followup, the current NDA Government launched a new scheme Civic Action Program (CAP) providing financial grants for CAPFs to undertake various welfare activities in the LWE affected areas. This scheme aims to win the goodwill of the affected populations.

Another notable development scheme mainly to enhance connectivity in inaccessible Maoist affected regions is the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF). With a cost of INR 7330 crore, this novel scheme provides financial and administrative support to expand mobile services at 4072 tower locations identified by MHA in 96 districts in 10 states. Further, to address issues of education and employment in Maoist affect regions, the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) launched two new schemes, namely, ‘Skill Development in 47 LWE affected districts’ and ‘Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)’ for creating infrastructure and providing employment linked skill training to youth in affected areas.

Similarly, the NDA government has made major headway in providing electricity to villages in the LWE-affected districts under Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY). Out of 7164 un-electrified villages, electrification has been completed in 7065 villages so far.  Further, penetration of education has received a major boost. The Centre under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has upgraded 1590 schools and 350 girl’s hostels have been sanctioned in 35 most affected LWE districts. Besides, 08 Kendriya Vidyalayas and 05 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas have also been sanctioned in the most affected LWE districts.


The outcome of a coordinated COIN are telling (See Chart 1, Table 1).While there can be differing opinions in the nature and extent of their decline,[ciii] available evidence point to a convincing decline of an insurgency that was once considered as posing a credible threat to the Indian state. Coordinated and concerted efforts from the Centre and Maoist affected states have brought down Maoist sponsored violence to drastic levels, have resulted in elimination of many important leaders of the insurgent organisation, and reduced their dominance to a handful of tri-junction districts in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.[civ]  This is evident when MHA recently removed a record 44 districts from Naxal affected list, while the ‘worst-affected category’ was reduced from 36 to 30.[cv]

Chart 1 Rapid decline in Maoist-related fatalities

Perhaps what serves as a more serious threat to the movement is the growing internal fissures similar to those that wracked their unity before they embarked on a truce in 2004.[cvi] New evidence points that the Naxal organisation is increasingly getting thinner at the top, raising serious doubts about its enduring power as an armed movement. According to recent Telangana Today report, the once formidable movement has ageing leadership where seven of the 19 members of the Central Committee are above 60 and there are those among them who are facing serious health issues.

Yet, what is more noteworthy is that security forces in the recent years have achieved the seemingly impossible by eliminating many top leaders including Kishenji alias Koteswar Rao, Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and recently Serisha. The elimination of Appa Rao, Secretary of Eastern Division, his wife Aruna and Gajarala Ashok, the military head of Andhra-Odisha Border Zone by security forces in October last year has made the top leadership thinner. Security forces have also succeeded in neutralising as many as 26 prominent members of 39 Central Committee in the past two years. They have captured more than 7,000 active cadres in the last three years, while an equal number of Maoists have surrendered before authorities in various states. In 2016 alone, security forces arrested as many as 1844 CPI-Maoist cadres, while more than 1,442 members of the group chose to surrender before the state authorities.[cvii]

 Table-1 Fatalities in Incidents of Maoist Violence (2005-2018)

Years Civilians Security Force Personnel LWE/ CPI-Maoists Total
2005 281 150 286 717
2006 266 128 343 737
2007 240 218 192 650
2008 220 214 214 648
2009 391 312 294 997
2010 626 277 277 1180
2011 275 128 199 602
2012 146 104 117 367
2013 159 111 151 421
2014 128 87 99 314
2015 93 57 101 251
2016 120 66 244 430
2017 59 34 45 138
2018 109 73 231 413
Total 6279 1959 2793 7865

Source: Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI, 2016-18

Table-2 Naxal Violence by State: Incidents and Deaths (2011-2018)

State 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths Incidents Deaths
Andhra Pradesh 54 9 67 13 28 7 18 4 35 8 17 6 26 7  3  3
Bihar 316 63 166 44 177 69 163 32 110 17 129 28 99 22  14  5
Chhattisgarh 465 204 370 109 355 111 328 112 466 101 395 107 373 133  248  189
Jharkhand 517 182 480 163 387 152 384 103 310 56 323 85 251 56  53  36
M.P. 8 0 11 0 1 0 3 0 0 0 12 2 3 1  0  0
Maharashtra 109 54 134 41 71 19 70 28 55 18 73 23 69 16  58  52
Odisha 192 53 171 45 101 35 103 26 92 28 86 27 81 29  32  19
Telangana NA NA NA NA 8 4 14 5 11 2 7 0 5 2  5 3
Uttar Pradesh 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0  0
West Bengal 92 45 6 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0  0
Others 6 1 8 0 7 0 8 0 10 0 6 0 1 0  0 0
TOTAL 1760 611 1415 415 1136 397 1091 310 1089 230 1048 278 908 263  413  307

Source: Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI and SATP

Further, concerted state response based on close intelligence-led operations and growing disillusionment among ideologically committed cadres and its shrinking base have had a negative impact on CPI-Maoist’s finances. The 2004 merger between (PWG) and MCC controlling vast regions had helped Maoists to consolidate their financial reach as a rapid demand in natural resources and minerals in late 2000s had come as a big boon to the rebels’ extortion machine. Perhaps the most lethal blow came during the demonetisation drive.[cviii]  Thus, Maoist organisations face an uphill battle in terms of ready resources to lure new recruits and buy arms and critical equipment.

After more than 50 years of its existence and dominance in various stages, the left radical movement appears a spent force, restricted to a few  hilly districts of three bordering states.[cix] A combination of improved state actions, change in political economy and internal churns within the organisation have seriously hobbled the insurgency. Loss of strongholds, declining appeal of ideology and leadership crisis, along with improved performance from the affected states on socio-economic fronts, may make it difficult for the insurgency to regain the momentum it once had decades ago. The final death knell would come from significant improvements in security agencies, particularly the police forces, improved security and intelligence infrastructure, and better command and control system to keep track of the rebels and their movements.


After many years of indifference, half-steps and ad hoc measures, both India’s central and state governments have found their foothold against the Maoist insurgency that at its pinnacle may have seemed invincible. Once the insurgents began launching the most brazen attacks on the state (as illustrated in the Chhattisgarh killings of top political leaders of the Congress Party), the Centre and the affected states finally awoke to the challenge of putting an end to left-wing extremism. In a rare show of cooperative federalism—evident from institutional coordination and the implementation of joint mechanisms)—both Centre and states exhibited a clear common purpose in counterinsurgency. While there is no official COIN strategy adopted either by the Centre or the Maoist-affected states (indeed, ‘Operation Green Hunt’ has remained an unofficial doctrine)—there is undeniable footprint of clear counterinsurgency principles in place.

As illustrated in this analysis, the Indian state combined both population-centric and enemy-centric approaches in dealing with the Maoist insurgency. This is demonstrated in going after the Maoist rank and file by committing substantial state resources to strengthen the security-intelligence infrastructure, fortify police stations, and establish combat schools. The state has also devoted significant amounts of resources in building roads and telecommunication facilities in the affected regions and, importantly, delivering basic services such as education and healthcare, and improving public distribution systems.  Upon realising that the Maoist movement was thriving in the lack of state presence in large parts of central India mostly inhabited byadivasis in hilly and forested terrains, state agencies began to show alacrity and serious purpose in making up for such prolonged absence. The state restored the rights of indigenous communities, particularly the adivasis, over land (also ending an arbitrary land acquisition policy that rendered millions homeless in 2013 with a new legislation), forest and natural resources; distributed land records (pattas); reformed the justice delivery systems; and rolled up attractive surrender and rehabilitation schemes. The state aimed, and succeeded to a significant degree, to puncture the Maoist narrative of “an exploitative state run by the bourgeoisie”.

Is this then the end of a protracted insurgency that has been clouding the Indian state in some form or another since the Naxalbari rebellion? Some analysts argue the contrary—that despite losing vast territories, large cadres and several top leaders, the CPI (Maoist) remains a formidable force. They cite as proof the daring attacks by Maoists in recent times.

While it may be undeniable that the Maoists still have the strength to make their presence felt in certain regions, it would be grossly untenable to say that they continue to pose an existential threat to the Indian state as they did in the late 2000s.  This analysis shows that left-wing extremism in India is in terminal decline. Not only has the ideology of revolution lost its old appeal (evident in the lack of interest among locals to join the militia), an improved performance from the state on the development and governance fronts makes it difficult for the insurgents to grow in the same manner as they managed at their peak. The Maoists could continue as a fringe group with the ability to launch sporadic but violent attacks and disrupt governance in their areas of dominance.


[i] Find the details of PM Singh’s speech from The Rediff, 13 April 2006.

[ii] The Hindu, 24 May, 2010.

[iii] For a long time, India’s counterinsurgency strategy has wavered between “force and compromise”. India formally espouses population-centric strategy with emphasis on winning “hearts and minds”, although on numerous occasions it has followed ‘enemy-centric approach” that focuses mainly on combating or targeting the insurgent leadership and key members and their organisations.  In this, there is undeniable western influence in the manner in which Indian military and security establishments have conceptualised and operationalised COIN. India had retained most of British legal and police systems and the military ethos including its COIN strategies which the country employed during its campaigns against the rebellion by Nagas and Mizos. For further reading on India’s COIN,  see Rajesh Rajagopalan, Force and Compromise: India’s counterinsurgency grand strategy, Journal of South Asian Studies, No. 1, April 2007. Also Anit Mukherjee, India’s experiences with Insurgency and Counterinsurgency”, in Sumit Ganguly ed. Handbook of Asian Security Studies,  Routeldge: London, 2016.

[iv] The Telangana rebellion was carried out by a group of Communists who were fighting against landed and feudal aristocracy in five districts under the control of the Nizam of Hyderabad. This rebellion was suppressed by strong armed means. See an excellent article by Amit Kumar Gupta, ICHR paper, 2003.

[v] For more, see Niranjan Sahoo, “India, China and Ironies of Maoism”, ORF brief, 18 May, 2017.

[vi] For an excellent explanation, see Sumant Banerjee.

[vii] In the late 1990s, the Naxalite movement across India  was heavily factionalised. For instance in Bihar alone, there were approximately 17 Naxalite groups  dominated though by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and CPI(ML). Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, the original Naxal outfit People’s War Group (PWG) became so factionalised that some 15 splinter groups emerged from the parent body under different leaderships, often killing each other. Other Naxal affected states too had similar trends of factional feud among various LWE cadres. For details, see P Rajeev in Also see Manoranjan Mohanty,  “Challenges of Revolutionary Violence: The Naxalite Movement in Perspectives”, Economic and Political Weekly, July 22, 2006.

[viii] Rediff 2006, Ibid.op.cit.

[ix]  See  Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, 2008.

[x] See MHA Annual Report, 2009.

[xi] Ved Marwah, India in Turmoil, Rupa: Delhi, 2009.

[xii] G.K. Pillai, a former Union Home Secretary in his interview to NDTV on March 5, 2010  said that the current financial strength of Maoists would be around Rs. 1400 crores.

[xiii] According to an arrested Maoist leader  Misir Besra, a Central Committee member of CPI (Maoist), the outfits collected over 1,000 crores in 2007 and had set a target of Rs. 1,125 crore for 2008.For details, see A.J. Anoop, Maoist Funding: Dimensions, Sources and Implications, Vivekanand International Foundation brief, 05 January, 2011.

[xiv]  Ajay Sahni views year 2011-12 as a turning point in COIN against Maoist insurgency.

[xv] Andhra Pradesh was formally split into two separate states : Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in June 2014.  For  details, see

[xvi] India Today report, 20 March, 2000.

[xvii] BBC report, 01 October, 2003.

[xviii] K. Srinvas Reddy, The Maoist Challenge, Seminar, No. 569, 2007.

[xix] See a perceptive piece on collapse of peace process, Ajai Sahni, Frontline,

[xx] The formation of a specialised force Greyhounds in 1989 to counter the Naxalites was a critical step taken by the government. The Greyhounds unit numbering around 5,000 men, had a separate intelligence wing whose personnel keep tabs on the movement of Naxalite groups. Besides, the Greyhounds were told to  operate within the ‘enveloping environment’ of AP police (Manoharan 2009).

[xxi]The surrender and rehabilitation policy instituted by the Andhra Pradesh government in 1997  played a major role in drawing away recruits from Naxalite groups. According to a report,  over 7,000 Naxalites surrendered since the time the policy was initiated while 2,500 have been rehabilitated and assets worth Rs 20 crore have been distributed to them. The Surrender and rehabilitation policy of AP was applauded by the Union Home Ministry in its “Status Paper on the Naxal problem in 2006. See Kalyan Kumar’s exclusive report in Livemint, 02 July, 2009.

[xxii] For instance, Janma Bhoomi, a pet scheme of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, moved the administration to the villagers’ doorsteps; the Joint Forest Management (JFM) provided an opportunity for people to protect the forests and enjoy its benefits. See Reddy 2007, Ibid,

[xxiii] For a cogent analysis on AP’s experiment, see Sudeep Chakravarti, Seminar, No. 605, 2010. link:

[xxiv] See The Economic Times story on Abujmar.

[xxv] Red Corridor is the region in eastern, central and southern part of the country that experienced considerable Maoist insurgency between late 1990s until now. For latest trends on red corridor, see Rahul Tripathi, The Indian Express,  2018.

[xxvi] The Hindu report, 27 May, 2013,

[xxvii] Report from The Indian Express, 15 January, 2014.

[xxviii] Government sources claim that people in 200 villages in Dantewada who were upset  with the Maoist strike call on collecting Tendu leaves and opposition to development works like road construction and grain levies, began mobilising against the Maoists, going on processions and holding meetings and so forth. The movement was masterminded by Mahendra Karma, an ex-Congress leader to take on growing diktats of red rebels. The local volunteers were given military and weapons training by the security forces as part of an official plan to create a civil vigilante structure parallel to that of Naxalites.


[xxx]See details from Ministry of Home Affairs.

[xxxi] This bill provides definition of unlawful activities, declaring an organization unlawful, formation of an advisory board wherever the state government feels the need for its establishment, procedure of the formation of the advisory board, action of the advisory board, penalties viz; punishments even for not committing a crime, the power to notify a place being used for unlawful activities and taking occupation of such place thereof and revision/bar against intervention by the judiciary.

[xxxii] Currently, there are  40,000 troopers, with about 50 percent drawn from the central paramilitary forces, are fighting Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh.

[xxxiii] The Chhattisgarh government launched an innovative public distribution scheme  (PDS) for the poor. The scheme has shown remarkable progress by covering 3.7  million families (35 kg rice) by drastically reducing leakages. It seems to be working in Maoist hit Bastar region as well. This role model  development scheme has become so popular that the Planning Commission has  agreed in principle to adopt the Chhattisgarh model for its food security scheme for the entire country.

[xxxiv] See Chhattisgarh Assessment 2019, SATP.

[xxxv] The Hindu, 11 April, 2019.

[xxxvi] Alpa Shah argues that the Naxalites in Jharkhand have become very much like the state, selling protection in return for support. They call it ‘taxation’ and the income from their levies on the tendu leaf trade or on the construction of roads, bridges and dams, are a crucial source of income for their operations. AlpaShah, Markets for Protection: The ‘terrorist’ Maoist movement and the State in Jharkhand, India,  Critique of Anthropology, September 2006.

[xxxvii] According to the Government sources, 2635 Maoist-related incidents took place in Jharkhand from January 2001 to August 2008, wherein 286 policemen, 204 Naxalites and 731 civilians were lost their lives. The year 2009 was particularly bad in terms of casualties. There were nearly 500 attacks which led to 215 fatalities. Besides, the Maoists have carried out number of landmine attacks to hamper the movement of the security personnel.(See SATP Report, 2010.

[xxxviii] Shibu Soren had made his views public in numerous occasions. See The Economic Times, December 30, 2010,

[xxxix] NDTV report, 30 January, 2010.

[xl] The Hindu, 28 January, 2010,

[xli] Under th new surrender policy, the Jharkhand  Government will pay Rs 2.5 lakh to every Naxalite who surrenders herself/himself to police. Out of this, Rs 50,000 will be paid immediately on surrender while the remaining money will be given in two equal yearly installments after monitoring the activities of the surrendered Naxalite. Also, with an idea of successfully obtaining a large number of sophisticated weapons, the Government has announced additional rewards for every weapon that these Naxalites submit. A life insurance cover for the Naxalite and his family and legal assistance in fighting criminal cases in courts are among other offers in the policy.

[xlii] Saranda is a huge region with thick forest. It is situated in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand predominantly and covers area in both, Chhattisgarh and Odisha as well. Since the formation of the state, the 56 villages under six Panchayats of the Saranda Forest Region had been under the control of CPI (Maoist) and were called the Liberated Zone. This was hotbed of Naxalite training camps and served as headquarters of insurgent activities in the region. For more see Jacob Shapiro et al, ESOC Paper, Princeton University, 2017,

[xliii] Jairam Ramesh’s comments on Saranda plan, 2013.

[xliv] The Indian Express, January 10, 2018,

[xlv]Firstpost report, 15 September, 2017.

[xlvi] SATP report, 2018.

[xlvii] SATP report on surrendered Maoists, 2018,

[xlviii] SATP, Ibid 2018

[xlix] The Maoists were involved in the year-long bloody turf battle in Nandigram (Purba Medinapur district) in 2007 between the CPI (M) and the Trinamool Congress-led Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh (Land Eviction Resistance) Committee, a ragtag consortium of Maoists, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), the Jamait-i-Ulema-e-Hind and the Congress. They also participated in the violent agitation in Singur (Hooghly district) against Tata Motors small-car project. All this point to long-term plans, “Nandigram in 2007, Singur in 2008 and Lalgarh in 2009 clearly point to the increasing strength of the Maoists in West Bengal.

[l] The India Today, 15 April, 2011,

[li] Chief Minister Budhadeb Bhattacharjee dismissed Centre’s directives to join anti-Naxal operation by saying that the state is inclined to wage an “administrative and political campaign against the Maoists”. He was also vocal in his opposition to Centre’s ban to CPI (Maoists) organizations in September, 2010.

[lii] The India Today report, 06 January, 2011.

[liii] Snigdhendu Bhattacharya’s report, The Hindustan Times, May 10, 2017,

[liv]Bibhu Prasad Routray, Governance Promise and its anti-thesis: A case study of Jungalmahal, IPCS

[lv] SATP data, 2019,

[lvi] Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Ibid

[lvii] The Times of India report, 14 April, 2018,

[lviii] It was maverick Nagbhushan Pattnaik who established the Maoist influence (Spring Thunder) in different pockets of Orissa in the late 1960s. He had close contacts with the key leaders of Naxalbari movement in Bengal (for details read: Satya Prakash Dash, Naxal Movement and the State Power: With Special Reference of Orissa, Delhi- Sarups and Sons, 2006.

[lix] For details see The Indian Express, 28 June, 2011,

[lx] While countering the questions in Odisha Assembly about Naxals growing presence in several bordering districts, Biju Patnaik, one the tallest leaders of Odisha remarked “I am the first Naxalite in the state” (For details Satya Prakash  Das, 2006, Ibid).

[lxi] Nihar Nayak, Naxalite Mayhem in Nayagarh, IDSA brief, 2008,

[lxii] SATP, 2016,

[lxiii] See a detailed analysis on this development by Anshuman Behera, Maoist Conflict in Odisha, NIAS Backgrounder, 2016,

[lxiv] Other programmes announced by Naveen Patnaik include plans to open at least one Industrial Training Institute in each block to enhance employability of the youth; spending at least Rs.200,000 per District in tribal areas for sports activities; and filling up vacant paramedical staff posts in all schedule areas of Odisha. These apart, the government has taken some initiative to withdraw petty cases against tribals so as to prevent more and more tribal youths from getting recruited by the insurgents. As many as 9,000 minor forest offences and 3,000 other cases against tribals have reportedly been dropped. see SATP Orissa Update, 2009.

[lxv]The Hindu report, 17 February, 2011.

[lxvi] Deccan Herald report, 18 March, 2012.

[lxvii] Deepak Kumar Nayak, 28 January, 2018, SATP.

[lxviii] The Economic Times, 25 July, 2018.

[lxix]Livemint,  18 July, 2014.

[lxx] See an insightful piece by Bela Bhatia, “The Naxalite Movement in Central Bihar”, Economic and Political Weekly, April 15-21, 2005.

[lxxi] See an excellent analysis on social churning and absence of state by Rachel Kleinfeld and Rushda Majeed, Fighting Insurgency with Politics: The Case of Bihar, Carnegie Paper, 2016.

[lxxii] Rajat Kumar Kujur, Resurgent Naxal Movement in Bihar, IPCS Brief, 2005. Also Bela Bhatia, 2005, Ibid.

[lxxiii] Nitish Kumar’s political rivals have accused him of going soft on Naxals for political gains. Even the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on various occasions has expressed his dissatisfaction with Nitish Kumar for lack of clear commitment on tackling the insurgency. This is clearly indicated in his letter dated 21 February 2010 to Nitish Kumar and Shibu Soren (Jharkhand): “It is necessary to be assured that the state governments (Bihar and Jharkhand) and the Centre are on the same page before commencing the inter-state operations on Bihar-Jharkhand border.”

[lxxiv] Nitish Kumar on record has expressed his disagreement with the current central approach to address the Naxal insurgency. For instance on October 13, he stated, “Naxalism was not only the problem of a particular State, but also of society as a whole.” Police action, he said, “formed only a limited part” of society’s response to the menace: “Naxalism is a problem that has to be dealt with jointly by the community, the State and the Central Governments acting in coordination… We will saturate the Naxal-prone areas with development”. Read the entire report at: The Hindu, 14 October, 2009.

[lxxv] Police is treating Maoists as hardcore criminals and is pressing for speedy trials against them. Of 274 Maoists facing trials since 2007, 10 have been awarded death sentences and another 22 have received life sentences in the State.

[lxxvi] See Bela Bhatia, 2005, Ibid

[lxxvii] Rachel Kleinfeld, 2016, Ibid.

[lxxviii] Deccan Herald,

[lxxix] The India Today report,  19 July, 2016.

[lxxx] For instance, in 2009 the CPI (Maoist) cadre launched five assaults on security forces, killing 39 security personnel. The last attack, on October 8, near Lahiri police station in Gadchiroli, was the most lethal; 18 policemen were killed in the attack on a patrol party. Earlier attacks by Naxalites had targeted policemen in Karepalli, Markegaon, Mungner and Hattigota.

[lxxxi] The SATP 2010 database points to a total of 34 incidents in the Gadchiroli District alone, in which 52 Security Forces (SFs), 23 Maoists and 12 civilians were killed. Almost a five-fold increase in fatalities were recorded in Maoist violence in Maharashtra and, more alarmingly, an almost ten-fold increase in fatalities among the SFs and most of them are from Gadchiroli.

[lxxxii] The Times of India, 24 August 2018.

[lxxxiii] For more on Urban Naxals, see Niranjan Sahoo, Checking Urban Naxalism, ORF Analysis, 18 September 2018,

[lxxxiv] Deepak Kumar Nayak, India: Rebellion Halted in Maharashtra, February 5, 2019, Eurasia,

[lxxxv] See The Hindu, 01 May, 2019.

[lxxxvi] Ajay Sahni, a well-known security expert, says 2010-11 can be considered a turning point in COIN against Maoist insurgency. He says Maoist movement witnessed a rapid rise from 2004-2009, but a change in government strategy altered the dynamics. See Azan Javaid, Red Terror: The new strategy puts a leash on Maoist,   The Hindustan Times, 16 April, 2018.

[lxxxvii] See MHA Annual Report, 2017.

[lxxxviii] Ajay Sahni, 2017, Ibid

[lxxxix] See Vinay Kumar, 2006,

[xc] For instance, between the years 2002-03 to 2006-07, total Central assistance given to Naxal affected States for modernisation of the police was Rs.2,140.70 crore and in 2007-08, a provision of Rs.538.39 crore was made. In 2008-09, Rs.501.52 crore was allocated to nine Maoist affected States. This included Rs. 2 crore each to 32 of the 33 focus districts as 100 % Central grant for strengthening the police infrastructure.

[xci] The Economic Times, 12 July, 2018.


[xciii] The Economic Times report,

[xciv] See details here:


[xcvi] Vinay Kumar, The Hindu, 14 July 2010, link: ).

[xcvii] Aman Sethi’s report, The Hindu, 2010,

[xcviii] More information on this available at Business Standard,  21 January, 2013. :

[xcix] In 2006, the Planning Commission of India under the leadership of D. Bandyopadhyay set up the committee to look into this political phenomenon. The Expert Committee Report which came out very critical of government’s track records and approach (which it thought heavily security centric) traced the growing LWE phenomenon to land alienation, poverty amongst scheduled tribes and Dalits and lack of  access to basic forest resources.  Detailed report: htttp://>

[c] According to the Planning Commission (2012) estimates, more than Rs. 80,000 crore has been allocated to 100 odd districts affected by Maoist insurgency in the last 10 years. See Approach paper to 12th Five Year Plan, Government of India.

[ci] For a detailed study on this aspect, see Niranjan Sahoo, Dealing with Maoist Threats, Development and Governance Conundrum, ICSSR Journal, vol.2, 2013.

[cii] Many environmental activists and NGOs working around Adivasi rights believe that tribals know conservation the best and they should be left alone rather than getting them to act under a new law. For more see Indranil Bose, IIPG report, 2010.

[ciii] Some veteran analysts of LWE think the extremist movement is facing one of its low phase, but would likely gain back their supremacy any time soon. For more see, Sudeep Chakarvarti, Why Maoists will endure despite Chhattisgarh elections, Livemint, November 20, 2018, Ibid.

[civ] Naxal influence in India is now restricted to only three pockets : Bastar-Sukma (having an area of 1200 sq km), AOB (Andhra-Odisha Border 2000 sq km) and Abujmaad forest area (4500 sq km). See The Times of India report,

[cv] According to the latest MHA report, an overall 20-percent reduction in violent incidents (908 compared to 1136) and 33.8-percent decrease in LWE-related deaths (263 from 397) were reported in 2017 compared to 2013.

[cvi] According to confessions of arrested Naxalites, nearly four dozens Left-wing factions that had opportunistically merged in 2004 to form a coalition to fight the Indian state are now in open war against each other. For instance in Jharkhand alone, there are 16 breakaway groups mainly People’s Liberation Front of India or PLFI, Tritiya Prastuti Committee or TPC that challenge CPI (Maoist) leadership and compete in terms of resources and influence. There are similar trends in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Odisha as well.

[cvii] MHA Annual Report 2016-2017

[cviii] Report from The Economic Times, 13 July 2018,

[cix] See Alpha Shah, Foreign Policy, 2018,

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Niranjan Sahoo

Niranjan Sahoo

Niranjan Sahoo, PhD, is a Senior Fellow with ORF’s Governance and Politics Initiative. With years of expertise in governance and public policy, he now anchors ...

Read More +


Niranjan Sahoo

Niranjan Sahoo