Areas with Naxalite activity in 2007 (left) and in 2013 (right).
A Naxal or Naxalite (/ˈnʌksəlaɪt/) is a member of any political organisation that claims the legacy of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), founded in Calcutta in 1969. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the largest existing political group in that lineage today in India.
The term Naxal derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the Naxalite peasant revolt took place in 1967. Naxalites are considered far-left radical communists, supportive of Mao Zedong's political ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) following the Naxalbari peasant uprising, leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) two years later. Initially, the movement had its epicentre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread into less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Some Naxalite groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti.
As of April 2018, the areas where Naxalites are most visible are:
The term Naxalites comes from Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal, where a section of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) led by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal, and Jangal Santhal initiated an uprising in 1967. On 18 May 1967, the Siliguri Kishan Sabha, of which Jangal was the president, declared their support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal, and their readiness to adopt armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless. The following week, a sharecropper near Naxalbari village was attacked by the landlord's men over a land dispute. On 24 May, when a police team arrived to arrest the peasant leaders, it was ambushed by a group of tribals led by Jangal Santhal, and a police inspector was killed in a hail of arrows. This event encouraged many Santhal tribals and other poor people to join the movement and to start attacking local landlords.
These conflicts go back to the failure to implement the 5th and 6th Schedules of the Constitution of India. In theory these Schedules provide for a limited form of tribal autonomy with regard to exploiting natural resources on their lands, e.g. pharmaceutical and mining, and 'land ceiling laws', limiting the land to be possessed by landlords and distribution of excess land to landless farmers and labourers.
Mao Zedong provided ideological leadership for the Naxalbari movement, advocating that Indian peasants and lower class tribals overthrow the government of the upper classes by force. A large number of urban elites were also attracted to the ideology, which spread through Charu Majumdar's writings, particularly the 'Historic Eight Documents' which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology. Using People's courts, similar to those established by Mao, Naxalites try opponents and execute with axes or knives, beat, or permanently exile them.
At the time, the leaders of this revolt were members of the CPI (M), which joined a coalition government in West Bengal just a few months back. Leaders like land minister Hare Krishna Konar had been until recently "trumpeting revolutionary rhetoric, suggesting that militant confiscation of land was integral to the party's programme." However, now that they were in power, CPI (M) did not approve of the armed uprising, and all the leaders and a number of Calcutta sympathisers were expelled from the party.
Subsequently, In November 1967, this group, led by Sushital Ray Chowdhury, organised the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). Violent uprisings were organised in several parts of the country. On 22 April 1969 (Lenin's birthday), the AICCCR gave birth to the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI (ML)).
Practically all Naxalite groups trace their origin to the CPI (ML). A separate offshoot from the beginning was the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh group. The MCC later fused with the People's War Group to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). A third offshoot was that of the Andhra revolutionary communists, mainly represented by the UCCRI(ML), following the mass line legacy of T. Nagi Reddy, which broke with the AICCCR at an early stage.
The early 1970s saw the spread of Naxalism to almost every state in India, barring Western India. During the 1970s, the movement was fragmented into disputing factions. By 1980, it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30,000.
Around 1971 the Naxalites gained a strong presence among the radical sections of the student movement in Calcutta. Students left school to join the Naxalites. Majumdar, to entice more students into his organisation, declared that revolutionary warfare was to take place not only in the rural areas as before, but now everywhere and spontaneously. Thus Majumdar declared an "annihilation line", a dictum that Naxalites should assassinate individual "class enemies" (such as landlords, businessmen, university teachers, police officers, politicians of the right and left) and others.
The chief minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray of the Congress Party, instituted strong counter-measures against the Naxalites. The West Bengal police fought back to stop the Naxalites. The house of Somen Mitra, the Congress MLA of Sealdah, was allegedly turned into a torture chamber where Naxals were incarcerated illegally by police and the Congress cadres. CPI-M cadres were also involved in the "state terror". After suffering losses and facing the public rejection of Majumdar's "annihilation line", the Naxalites alleged human rights violations by the West Bengal police, who responded that the state was effectively fighting a civil war and that democratic pleasantries had no place in a war, especially when the opponent did not fight within the norms of democracy and civility.
Large sections of the Naxal movement began to question Majumdar's leadership. In 1971 the CPI(ML) was split, as Satyanarayan Singh revolted against Majumdar's leadership. In 1972 Majumdar was arrested by the police and died in Alipore Jail presumably as a result of torture. His death accelerated the fragmentation of the movement.
In July 1971, Indira Gandhi took advantage of President's rule to mobilise the Indian Army against the Naxalites and launched a colossal combined army and police counter-insurgency operation, termed "Operation Steeplechase," killing hundreds of Naxalites and imprisoning more than 20,000 suspects and cadres, including senior leaders. The paramilitary forces and a brigade of para commandos also participated in Operation Steeplechase. The operation was choreographed in October 1969, and Lt. General J.F.R. Jacob was enjoined by Govind Narain, the Home Secretary of India, that "there should be no publicity and no records" and Jacob's request to receive the orders in writing was also denied by Sam Manekshaw.
Between 2002 and 2006, over three thousand people had been killed in Naxalite-Government conflicts, and by 2009, the conflict had displaced 350,000 members of tribal groups from their ancestral lands.
In 2006 India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, estimated that 20,000 armed-cadre Naxalites were operating in addition to 50,000 regular cadres. Their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them to be the most serious internal threat to India's national security. Naxalites, and other anti-government militants, are often referred to as "ultras".
In February 2009, the Indian Central government announced a new nationwide initiative, to be called the "Integrated Action Plan" (IAP) for broad, co-ordinated operations aimed at dealing with the Naxalite problem in all affected states (namely Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal). Importantly, this plan included funding for grass-roots economic development projects in Naxalite-affected areas, as well as increased special police funding for better containment and reduction of Naxalite influence in these areas.
In 2009, Naxalites were active across approximately 180 districts in ten states of India. In August 2010, after the first full year of implementation of the national IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of Naxalite-affected states. In July 2011, the number of Naxalite-affected areas was reduced to 83 districts in nine states (including 20 additional districts). In 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. Maoist communist groups claimed responsibility for 123 deaths in 2013, which was nearly half of all deaths from terrorism in India. The movement is described as "terrorist" by the Indian authorities but it is however popular in the regions where it is present. According to a study of the newspaper The Times of India 58% of people surveyed in the state of Andhra Pradesh, had a positive perception of the guerrillas, 19% against them.
In a 2004 Indian Home Ministry estimate, their numbers were placed at that time at "9,300 hardcore underground cadre ... [holding] around 6,500 regular weapons beside a large number of unlicensed country-made arms". In 2006, according to Judith Vidal-Hall, "Figures (in that year) 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 were involved in the growing insurgency.
Despite the 2010 Chhattisgarh ambushes, the most recent central government campaign to contain and reduce the militant Naxalite presence appears to be having some success. States such as Madhya Pradesh have reported significant reduction in Naxalite activities as a result of their use of IAP funds for rural development within their states. The recent success in containing violence may be due to a combination of more state presence, but also due to the recent introduction of social security schemes, such as NREGA.
According to Maoist sympathisers, the Indian Constitution "ratified colonial policy and made the state custodian of tribal homelands", turning tribal populations into squatters on their own land and denied them their traditional rights to forest produce. These Naxalite conflicts began in the late 1960s with the prolonged failure of the Indian government to implement constitutional reforms to provide for limited tribal autonomy with respect to natural resources on their lands, e.g. pharmaceutical and mining, as well as pass 'land ceiling laws', limiting the land to be possessed by landlords and distribution of excess land to landless farmers and labourers. In Scheduled Tribes [ST] areas, disputes related to illegal alienation of ST land to non-tribal people, still common, gave rise to the Naxalite movement.
The second turning point came in the wake of the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence which India supported with armed troops. With large contingents of Indian Army troops amassed in the West Bengal border with what was then East Pakistan, the Government of Indira Gandhi used the opening provided by President's Rule to divert sections of the army to assist the police in decisive counter–insurgency drives across Naxal–impacted areas. "Operation Steeplechase," a police and army joint anti–Naxalite undertaking, was launched in July–August 1971. By the end of "Operation Steeplechase" over 20,000 suspected Naxalites were imprisoned and including senior leaders and cadre, and hundreds had been killed in police encounters. It was a massive counter–insurgency undertaking by any standards.
Meanwhile, the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi decided to send in the army and tackle the problem militarily. A combined operation called Operation Steeplechase was launched jointly by military, paramilitary and state police forces in West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
In Kolkata, Lt General J.F.R. Jacob of the Indian Army's Eastern Command received two very important visitors in his office in October 1969. One was the army chief General Sam Manekshaw and the other was the home secretary Govind Narain. Jacob was told of the Centre's plan to send in the army to break the Naxal. More than 40 years later, Jacob would recall how he had asked for more troops, some of which he got along with a brigade of para commandos. When he asked his boss to give him something in writing, Manekshaw declined, saying, 'Nothing in writing.' while secretary Narain added that there should be no publicity and no records.
In India today there are many Maoist parties and organisations that either predate the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or emerged from factions when the CPI-ML split after the death of Charu Majumdar.
The 2010 Dantewada bus bombing occurred on 17 May 2010 when a bus hit a landmine 50 km away from Dantewada, in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Fatalities reports range from 31 to 44, including several Special Police Officers (SPOs) and civilians.It was the first Naxal attack to target a civilian bus. The attack occurred one month after Dantewada witnessed the worst-ever massacre of CRPF jawans, when 76 troops were killed in the April 2010 Maoist attack in Dantewada.2014 Chhattisgarh attack
On 11 March 2014, 15 Indian security personnel and one civilian were shot dead in an attack engineered by Naxals.2017 Sukma attack
The Sukma attack was an ambush carried out by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) against Indian paramilitary forces on 24 April 2017, during the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. It was the largest ambush since a similar attack in 2010, in the neighbouring district of Dantewada.The ambush took place between Burkapal and Chintagufa in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, India. A group of 300 Maoists attacked a 99-member troop of the Central Reserve Police Force. Three Maoists and 25 police personnel were killed in the ensuing firefight.2018 Sukma attack
On 13 March 2018, at least nine Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and six others were injured when Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle with an IED in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh, India.April 2010 Maoist attack in Dantewada
The April 2010 Dantewada Maoist attack was an 6 April 2010 ambush by Naxalite-Maoist insurgents from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) near Chintalnar village in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh, India, leading to the killing of 76 CRPF policemen and 8 Maoists — the deadliest attack by the Maoists on Indian security forces.The attack occurred when over 80 officers from the central paramilitary force Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a local police group were conducting an area domination exercise in the Bastar tribal region of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.Chhattisgarh Police
The Chhattisgarh Police is the law enforcement agency for the state of Chhattisgarh in India. The agency is administered by the Department of Home Affairs of the Government of Chhattisgarh. The force has specialized units to fight the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in some districts of the state.Commando Battalion for Resolute Action
COBRA (backronym for COmmando Battalion for Resolute Action) is a specialised unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) of India proficient in guerrilla tactics and jungle warfare. Originally established to counter the Naxalite problem, CoBRA is deployed to address any insurgent group engaging in asymmetrical warfare. Currently numbering ten battalions, CoBRA is ranked among one of India's most experienced and successful law enforcement units.Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist)
The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI(ML)) was an Indian communist party formed by the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) at a congress in Calcutta in 1969. The foundation of the party was declared by Kanu Sanyal at a mass meeting in Calcutta on 22 April, Vladimir Lenin's birth anniversary. Later the party splintered into several minor Naxal/Maoist groups.Ganapathy (Maoist)
Muppala Lakshmana Rao, commonly known by his nom de guerre Ganapathy or Ganapathi is the leader of the Indian Maoist movement and former General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned Maoist insurgent communist party in India. He resigned from the post in November 2018.Gondi people
The Gondi (Gōndi) or Gond people are Adivasi (indigenous people) of India that speak Gondi language which is a Dravidian language and are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's system of positive discrimination. They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha), Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.
The Gond are also known as the Raj Gond. The term was widely used in 1950s, but has now become almost obsolete, probably because of the political eclipse of the Gond Rajas. The Gondi language is closely related to the Telugu, belonging to the Dravidian family of languages. The 2011 Census of India recorded about 2.98 million Gondi speakers.According to the 1971 census, their population was 5.01 million. By the 1991 census, this had increased to 9.3 million and by the 2001 census the figure was nearly 11 million. For the past few decades they have been witnesses to the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in the central part of India. Gondi people, at the behest of the Chhattisgarh government, formed the Salwa Judum, an armed militant group to fight the Naxalite insurgency.Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa
Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998) (Hindi: हज़ार चौरासी की माँ; English: The Mother of 1084) is an Indian feature film that deals with the life of a woman who loses her son, a Naxalite, to the violence that is a result of his adopted ideology.
The film is directed by Govind Nihalani and is based on Magsaysay and Jnanpith award recipient Mahasweta Devi's Bengali 1974 novel Hajar Churashir Maa (হাজার চুরাশির মা). The screenplay is written by Nihalani and the dialogues by Tripurari Sharma. The film stars Jaya Bachchan as Sujata Chatterjee, Anupam Kher as Dibyanath Chatterjee, Milind Gunaji as Inspector Saroj Pal, Seema Biswas as Somu's mother, Joy Sengupta as Brati Chatterjee and Nandita Das as Nandini Mitra. It marks Jaya Bachchan's return to acting after a gap of 18 years.
In 1998, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.Historic Eight Documents
The Historic Eight Documents are a set of eight monographs authored by the Indian Maoist revolutionary Charu Majumdar that outline the ideological principles on which the Naxalite militant communist movement in India was based. They laid down the idea that the Indian State was a bourgeois institution and that the main Indian communist parties had embraced revisionism by agreeing to operate within the framework of the Constitution of India. They urged a Maoist protracted people's war to overthrow the Indian State. They denounced the Soviet Union both for being revisionist, as well as for supporting the Indian State.Kondapalli Seetharamaiah
Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (? - 12 April 2002) was a senior communist leader and Maoist organizer in India.Naxalbari
Naxalbari is the name of a village and a community development block in northern part of the state of West Bengal, India. Naxalbari block comes under the jurisdiction of Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district. Naxalbari became famous for the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency, which started in the late 1960s.Naxalbari uprising
Naxalbari uprising was an armed peasant revolt in 1967 in the Naxalbari block of Siliguri subdivision in Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India. It was mainly led by local tribals and the radical communist leaders of Bengal and further developed into Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) in 1969. The event became an inspiration to the naxalite movement which rapidly spread from West Bengal to other states of India creating division within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) party.Naxalite–Maoist insurgency
The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups known as Naxalites or Naxals and the Indian government. The conflict in its present form began after the 2004 formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI-Maoists), a rebel group composed of the People's War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). In January 2005, talks between the Andhra Pradesh state government and the CPI-Maoists broke down and the rebels accused authorities of not addressing their demands for a written truce, release of prisoners and redistribution of land. The ongoing conflict had taken place over a vast territory (around half of India's 29 states) with hundreds of people being killed annually in clashes between the CPI-Maoists and the government every year since 2005.
However, it is now confined to only few districts of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.
The armed wing of the Naxalite–Maoists is called the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and is estimated to have between 6,500 and 9,500 cadres, mostly armed with small arms. According to a study of the newspaper The Times of India, 58% of people surveyed in the state of Andhra Pradesh have a positive perception of the guerrilla, against only 19% against it. The Naxalites have frequently targeted tribal, 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. The Naxalites claim that they are following a strategy of rural rebellion similar to a protracted people's war against the government.In February 2009, the Indian central government announced a new nationwide initiative to be called the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for broad co-ordinated operations aimed at dealing with the Naxalite problem in all affected states, namely Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. This plan included funding for grass-roots economic development projects in Naxalite-affected areas as well as increased special police funding for better containment and reduction of Naxalite influence. After the first full year of implementation of the national IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of Naxal-affected states in August 2010. In July 2011, the number of Naxal-affected areas was reduced to (figure includes proposed addition of 20 districts) 83 districts across nine states. In 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.
The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency gained international media attention after the 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley resulted in the deaths of around 24 Indian National Congress leaders, including the former state minister Mahendra Karma and the Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.Rafiganj train wreck
The Rafiganj rail disaster was the derailment of a train on a bridge over the Dhave River in North-Central India, on 10 September 2002. At least 130 people were killed in the accident, which was reportedly due to sabotage by a local Maoist terrorist group, the Naxalites.Red corridor
The Red Corridor is the region in the eastern, central and the southern parts of India that experience considerable Naxalite–Maoist insurgency.The Naxalite group mainly consists of the armed cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). These are also areas that suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation in modern India, and span parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, and West Bengal and eastern Uttar Pradesh states. As per Ministry of Home Affairs, altogether 1,048 incidents of Left-wing extremism (LWE) violence took place in these 10 states in 2016.All forms of naxalite organisations have been declared as terrorist organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967).
According to the Government of India, as of July 2011, 83 districts (this figure includes a proposed addition of 20 districts) across 10 states are affected by left-wing extremism down from 180 districts in 2009.
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