Naxalite is an informal name given to radical, often violent, revolutionary communist groups that were born out of Sino-soviet split in the Indian communist movement. Ideologically they belong to various trends of Maoism, Naxal, Naxalite and Naksalvadi are generic terms used to refer to various militant communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizational envelopes. In the eastern states of the mainland India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal & Odisha), they are usually known as or refer to themselves as Maoists, while in southern states like Andhra Pradesh they are know under other titles. They have been declared as a terrorist organization under the unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967)1.
The term ‘Naxal’ derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal where the movement has its origin. The Naxals are considered far- left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the communist party of India (Marxist), leading to the formation of the communist party of India (Marxist-Leninist: ML) leaders of the movement have been found to have hideouts Located in China.2 Initially the movements had its centre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread its less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the communist party of India (Maoist).3 In last 10 years, it has grown mostly from displaced tribal’s and Natives who are fighting against exploitation from major India corporations and local officials whom they believe to be corrupt.
In 2006 India’s intelligence agency, the RAW estimated that 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operated in addition to 50,000 regular cadres4 and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them to be the most serious internal threat to Indian’s national security, ever faced by our country.5
In February 2009, the Indian central government announced a new nationwide initiative, to be called the “Integrated Action Plan” (IAP) for broad, coordinated 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). 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.6
In 2009, Naxalites were active across approximately 180 districts in ten states of India.7 In august 2010, after the first full year of implementation of the national IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of naxal affected states.8 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.9
In Naxalibari village a section of communist party of India (marxist-CPI(M)) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967, trying to develop a “revolutionary opposition” in opposition to the official CPI(M) leadership. Majumdar greatly admired Mao Zedong of China and Advocated that Indian peasants and lower classes must follow in his footsteps and overthrow the government and upper classes by force, which he held responsible for their plight.10
Mao Zedong provided ideological leadership for the Naxalbari Movement. A large number of urban elites were also attracted to ideology, which spread through Charu Majumdar’s writings, particularly the ‘Historic Eight Documents’ which formed the basis of Naxalite Ideology. In 1967, Naxalites organized the All India Coordination Committee of communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later broke away from CPM. Violent uprising were organized in several parts of the country. In 1969, the AICCCR gave birth to the communist party of India (Marxist-Leninist) CPI (ML).11
These conflicts go back to the failure of implementing the 5th and 9th schedules of the constitution of India. In theory these schedules provide for a limited tribal autonomy with regard to exploitation 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 laborers’. The cast system is another important social aspect of this conflicts.12
Large section of the Naxal movement began to question Majumdar’s leadership. In 1971 the CPI (ML) was split, as the Satyanarayan Singh revolted against Majumdar leadership. In 1972 Majumdar was arrested by the police and dies in Alipore Jail. His death accelerated the fragmentation of the movement.13
In a Methodical study, Sailen Debnath has surmised the consequences and reasons of failures of the Naxalite movement organized by kanu Sanyal and Charu majumdar. He writes – “the Naxlite movement, though continued intensively from 1967 to the middle of the 1970 and resurfaced after some years.
Today, some Naxalite groups have become legal organizations participating in parliamentary elections, such as the communist party of India (ML) Liberation, the communist party of India (Maoist) and the communist party of India (ML) Janashakti.14
Recent Activity : In 2007, naxal violence has been reported form 509 police station’s in 11 states which works out to 5.8% of the total number of police Stations in these states. Available reports however, suggest that CPI (Maoists) have been trying to increase their influence and act in parts of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand and also in new areas in some of the already affected states.17
on April 6, 2010 Naxalites launched the most deadly assault in the history of the Naxalite movement by killing 76 security personnel. The attack was launched by up to 1000 Naxalites in a well-planned attack, killing an estimated 76 CRPF policemen in two separate ambushes and wounding 50 others, in the remote Jungles of Chhattisgarh’s Dentewads district. On 17 may, Naxals blew up a bus on Dantewada – Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh, killing 15 policemen and 20 civilians.15
In late 2011, Kishenji, the military leader of communist party of India (Maoist), was killed in an encounter with the joint operation forces, which was a huge blow to the Naxalite movement in eastern India.
In March 2012 Maoist rebels kidnapped two Italians in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, the first time westerners were abducted there. Most recently on 25 May 2013, Naxalites attacked a rally led by the Indian National Congress in Sukma village in Bastar Chhattisgarh, killing about 29 people. They killed senior party leader vidya Charan Shukla in the attack.16
Cultural References :
In the novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, there is a reference to a character joining the Naxalites. In 1974 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Mahasweta Devi worte Hajar Churashir Maa giving a ideological and sympathetic support to the Naxalites. The British musical group Asian Dub Foundation has a song called “Naxalite”. A 2005 movie called Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Directed by Sudhir Mishra, was set against the backdrop of the naxalite movement. Chakravuyah, a film by Prakash Jha, was released in 2012. It revolves around the theme of Naxalites, but received critical feedback for allegedly showing sympathy for Maoists.
The naxalite movement continues to persist in terms of spread, intensity of violence, militarization and consolidation, ominous linkages with subversive/secessionist groups and increased efforts to elicit mass support. The naxalites operate in vacuum created by the absence of administrative and political institutions, espouse the local demands and take advantage of the disenchantment prevalent among the exploited segments of the population and seek to offer an alternative system of governance which promises emancipation of these segments from the clutches of ‘exploiter’ classes through the barrel of gun.
After the merger of communist party of India (ML), Peoples war Group and Maoist communist centre of India (CPML-PWG and MCC-I) into CPI (Maoist) in sept. 2004, they are reported to be trying to woo other splinter groups and have also consolidated their front organization into “Revolutionary Democratic front” (RDF) to intensity their mass contact program. Fresh recruitment of cadres is also reported. And now schools are being the latest focus of attention. Their aim here is to create ‘Bal-Dasta’, or child squads. Indian Naxalite groups continues to sustain their fraternal and logistic links with Nepalese Maoists.18
In the recent past, naxalite groups seem to lay greater focus on organizing along military lines. They are also acquiring contemporary weapons. Their constant effort is to upgrade technology and sophistications of their weaponry and techniques. The latest tactic adopted by naxal outfits are to engage in simultaneous multiple attacks in large numbers particularly against police forces and police establishments. This has led to increased casualties of Police personnel.
Policy to deal with the Naxalite Menace:
1. Naxalism being an inter-state problem, the states should adopt a collective approach and pursue a coordinated response to counter it.
2. Keeping in view that naxalism is not merely a low and order problem, the policy of the government should adopt such a policy which addresses this menace simultaneously on political security, development and public perception management fronts in a holistic manner.
3. The state will need to further improve police response and pursue effective and sustained police action against naxalites and their infrastructure individually and jointly.
4. The state govt. will need to accord a higher priority in their annual plans to ensure faster socio-economic development of the naxal affected areas.
5. Mass media should also be extensively used to highlight the futility of naxal violence and loss of life and property caused by it and developmental schemes of the Govt. in the affected areas so as to restore people faith and confidence in the Govt. machinery.
6. Involvement of NGO’s is also required.
Counter Measures :
There is an urgent need to further improve and strengthen police response by improving actionable intelligence collection and sharing mechanisms.
The govt. should take some measures to control the naxal problem - i.e.
i. Revision of security related expenditure.
ii. Modernization of state Police.
iii. Supply of mine protected vehicles and helicopter.
iv. Effective implementation of Land reforms and creation of employment opportunities in the naxal areas and strengthen it.
v. Monitoring mechanisms and implementation of National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).
1. Unlawful Activity Prevention Act. 1967.
2. The Times of India, 8 October, 2011.
3. Panday, Snehil Birth and Growth of Naxalism, Feb, 29, 2012, P.1.
4. “Maoist who menace India”. International Herald Tribune.
5. “Ending the Red Terror.” Economist, 25 Feb, 2010,
6. Coordinated operations to flush out Naxalites soon, the Economic Times. 6 Feb 2009.
7. Handoo, Ashok, “Naxal Problem needs a holistic approach.” Press Information Bureau, Retrieved, 08.08.2009.
8. Karnataka no longer Naxal infested.” The times of India, 26 August 2010.
9. ‘Historic low’ in terror, Naxal Violence, Times of India. 31 Dec. 2012.
10. Kapoor, Bishan, Naxalism : Ideology of violence.
11. Hindustan times.com, PTI : Dec, 15, 2005.
12. Rammohan, E.N. ‘Unleash the Good Force’, outlook India, edition July 16, 2012.
13. Singh, Prakash. The Naxalite Movement in India, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 1999, P.-101.
14. Ramakrishnan, Venkitesh, The Naxalite challenge. Frontine Magazine, 21.09. 2005
15. Districts affected by Naxalite violence – South Asia Politics Magazine.
16. Newindianexpresse.com, 31-05-2013.
17. Naxal conflict Monitor, April – June, 2007, P. no.-2.
18. Nayak, Nihar, Society for the study of peace and conflict, Dec. 2, 2004.
Lecturer (Political Science)
Govt. of NCT. Delhi
E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org