Left Wing Extremism in India – Explained, Pointwise


Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is one of the biggest security challenges for India for almost 5 decades. Many measures on twin fronts of development and security have been taken that reduced the spread of LWE. However, measures are not yet successful to completely eliminate this menace. 

Recently, security forces again faced one of the biggest Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh. This calls for strict government measures towards the total elimination of Left Wing Extremism in India.   

Current Scenario:
  • Around 22 Jawans of Security forces Martyred and 31 injured in a deadly encounter with Naxals on sukma-bijapur border on 3rd April 2021. 
  • The attack involved the use of modern weapons like Lightweight machine guns and Rocket launchers that enhanced the casualties.
  • The Maoist PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) Battalion led the attack under the leadership of Maoist Madvi Hidma.  
Prevalence of Maoism in India
  • Left wing extremism (LWE) or Naxal Attacks or Maoist attacks have been present in India for 5 decades. According to a conservative estimate, about 15,000 lives have been lost in Naxal-led violence during the last 25 years. 
  • It began around the naxalbari area of West Bengal in the 1960s. The movement was led by Charu Mazumdar. 
  • The death of Charu Mazumdar in 1972 followed a split in the movement and gave an impression that it was about to end. However, the People’s War group was formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1980 and sustained the movement.
  • Some setbacks were received in the 1990s and early 2000s but the movement revived again in 2004. This happened as the People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) merged to form CPI (Maoist).
  • Since then it is present in some states of central, eastern, and southern India as shown by the Red Corridor (region having high LWE).
  • As of February 2019, 90 districts across 11 states are affected by extremism.
About Maoism
  • It is a form of communism developed by Mao Tse Tung. 
  • It is a doctrine to capture State power through a combination of an armed insurgency, mass mobilization, and strategic alliances. 
  • Maoists want to bring about a New Democratic Revolution in India as part of the world proletarian revolution.
  • They use violence and believe in adopting the military line to capture power.
  • These extremists attack the symbols of the country’s power such as the police, schools, and other government institutions.
Causes behind sustenance of Left Wing Extremism in India:
  • Tribal discontent: The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 deprives tribals of the authority to use forest produce.
    • Further, there has been a huge displacement of the tribal population in the Naxalism-affected states due to development projects, mining operations, and other reasons. 
    • It is apprehended that the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Bill,2021 will bring more misery to the tribals.
  • Gullible Targets: A huge chunk of the tribal population lives below the poverty line. They are also devoid of basic education and health facilities. Thus, Maoists are easily able to persuade them by offering to take up monetary incentives and a better future.
  • Absence of strong technical intelligence: There is poor technical intelligence when it comes to tackling Naxalism. For instance, some villages are not yet connected properly with any communication network which hinders action against Naxalites.
    • According to some reports, the recent attack on security forces was also a result of wrong intelligence. The source of Intelligence is still the method of phone tapping the conversation of Maoists. They are aware of the tapping and sometimes lure security forces into a trap by providing wrong information.
  • No Follow-Up from the administration: It is seen that even after the police take hold of a region, the administration fails to provide essential services to the people of that region.
  • Police Atrocities: The tribals are sometimes harassed by the security forces in the mistaken belief that they may be Maoists. Such instances create hatred against security forces and boost recruitment in Maoist camps.
  • Ideological Boost: Mao was able to oust the Chinese government and establish communism in China. To date, Communists are ruling the country, it gives a strong ideological boost to Maoist movements across the world.
  • Support from other actors: They are connected to various internal and external insurgent groups that provide them weapons, shelter, and finance. For instance, as per few reports, CPI Maoists may have links with foreign Maoist organizations in the Philippines, Turkey, etc.
Impacts of rising Left-Wing Extremism in India:
  • Hampering Democracy: They threaten the locals before the conduct of elections and prevent them from voting. It violates the principle of participative democracy.
    • They resort to violence through their guerrilla tactics and attempt to set up their own government in the local villages.
  • Infrastructural Damage: They destroy the roads, transport system, and government resources. Thereby they create hindrance in governance and last mile connectivity.
  • Illegal Activities: They resort to extortion, abduction of important personalities like Politicians, bureaucrats, police, etc. They are also engaged in drug trafficking cartels.
  • Undermines Credibility of Government: The survival of LWE shows a failure of governance thereby eroding the faith of masses in governance set up and impacting the unity of the nation.
  • Isolating Tribal Villages: These extremist movements have disconnected several tribal villages from the national mainstream. 
  • Security threats: Extremism causes threats to the security of the nation and assets of the country. It threatens the unity and diversity of the nation. Radicalization of youth poses a threat to internal security. It has impacted the development of the affected region leading to many people still living in poverty.
Steps taken to contain Left Wing Extremism in India
  • A dedicated left-wing extremism division was established in 2006 under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It aimed to effectively address the LWE insurgency in a holistic manner.
  • CPI (Maoist) Party is designated as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. This gives the forces greater power and autonomy to deal with Maoists.
  • A National Policy and Action Plan to address LWE problem has been put in place that envisages a multi-pronged strategy involving
    • Security-related measures –  Providing Central Armed Police Forces battalions, training, funds for modernization of State police forces, equipment & arms, sharing of intelligence, etc. 
    • Developmental interventions – construction of roads, strengthening of communications network, installation of mobile towers, improving the network of banks, post offices, health and education facilities, etc.
  • Operation ‘SAMADHAN’ is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s initiative to deal with the Naxal problem. The acronym SAMADHAN stands for Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and training, Actionable Intelligence, Dashboard Based KPIs (key performance indicators) and KRAs (key result areas), harnessing technology, action plan for each theater, and No access to financing.
Issues in Government Measures: 
  • Intelligence inputs: The traditional method of gathering intelligence through police receivers placed on hills is not delivering optimum results. The recent April attack exposed this lacuna as maoists deliberately gave false information over it.
  • Large troop operations: It is believed that larger forces give better protection but the recent attack exposed their vulnerability. The 1000 personnel movement wasn’t able to maneuver secretly and hence exposed themselves to the maoist. 
  • Existence of Trust Deficit: The common masses don’t trust the forces/administrative authorities due to varied cultures and external appearance. This automatically reduces the impact of tribal friendly measures.  
  • Lacunas in protecting state informers: The people who give information to security forces are often tortured and killed by maoists. The state has not done enough to protect them.
  • Approach in Tackling: More emphasis is placed on looking at LWE as a security problem. However, in reality, it is more of a socio-economic and political issue.
  • Lack of Conviction: Some local politicians covertly support the conduct of naxals that impairs the intensity of anti LWE operations. 
Suggestions to tackle Left Wing Extremism
  • Firstly, the government of India and the Maoists should try to sign Peace agreements that would be a win-win situation for all. In this regard, learnings from Mizo Accord can be taken that have delivered desired results.
  • Secondly, Ensure all-round development of the Naxal-affected areas. It would involve strengthening the rights of local communities, improving governance, and augmenting public perception management.
  • Thirdly, employ more local people in the administrative process which can act as a bridge to curtail the trust deficit. Further support of civil society can be taken for awaring tribals. 
    • Eg- A peace march was organised in March 2021 where about 150 tribals from Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Telangana participated under the slogan of ‘Bastar maange hinsa se azadi’.
  • Fourthly, the forces should be used in small groups for maintaining greater efficiency. For instance, one of the most successful operations (the Greyhounds) involved the use of small teams that operate on solid human intelligence.
  • Fifthly, policy measures that provide indirect benefits should be implemented with due care. For instance, effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act can ensure better control of local communities over Minor Forest Produce. This can reduce their attraction towards LWE.  

Through a holistic approach focusing on development and security-related interventions, the LWE problem can be successfully tackled. Civil society and the media should build pressure on the Maoists to give up on violence and join the mainstream. 

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