Left-wing Extremism (LWE) in India and its challenges – Explained, pointwise

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Left-wing Extremism (LWE), also known as Naxalism or Maoism, is a significant security threat in India, particularly in regions like Chhattisgarh. It is an armed movement rooted in political ideologies that seek to bring about socio-economic changes through violent means. The recent attack in Dantewada, which claimed the lives of ten police personnel and a civilian driver, highlights the ongoing challenges that India faces in countering LWE and underscores the need for comprehensive strategies to address LWE in India.  

What is Left Wing Extremism?

Read here: Left Wing Extremism in India – Explained, Pointwise

About the prevalence of Left-wing extremism (LWE) in India

LWE in Inida
Source: Aljazeera

The prevalence of LWE in India, often referred to as the “Red Corridor,” remains a significant security challenge. This region stretches across several states, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra.  

Read here: Why have Maoists killed again — and why do they repeatedly attack in Chhattisgarh?

What are the challenges posed by Left-wing extremism (LWE) in India?

Internal Security Threats: Left-wing extremism poses significant internal security threats to India, leading to violent clashes and loss of lives among security forces and civilians. For example, Maoist rebels often engage in deadly attacks on security forces in remote areas.  

Social and Economic Disruption: LWE in India disrupts social and economic development in affected regions, hindering infrastructure and welfare projects. For instance, the Maoists may target roads, schools, and other vital infrastructure to maintain control over their territories.  

Forced Recruitment and Child Soldiers: Maoist groups have been known to force vulnerable individuals, including children, to join their ranks, exploiting them for their cause. This practice violates human rights and disrupts the lives of countless innocent people.  

Extortion and Illegal Activities: LWE groups often engage in extortion and other illegal activities to fund their operations. For example, they may demand “protection money” from local businesses, leading to economic stagnation in affected areas.  

Political Instability: LWE contributes to political instability in India, as the affected regions struggle with governance issues and weakened trust in democratic institutions. This can undermine the overall stability of the country.  

Human Rights Violations: LWE groups have been known to commit human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, abductions, and torture. These actions not only harm innocent civilians but also tarnish India’s international reputation.  

Alienation of Tribal Populations: LWE often exploits and alienates tribal populations in their strongholds, creating a cycle of violence and mistrust between the communities and the government. This makes it difficult to address the root causes of extremism and to foster long-term peace and stability.  

What are the various government approaches to control LWE in India?  

The Indian government has employed various approaches to control Left-wing extremism (LWE), focusing on a combination of security, development, and political initiatives. Some of these approaches include:  

Security Operations: The government deploys paramilitary forces, state police, and specialized anti-Naxalite units to combat LWE groups. These forces engage in intelligence-based operations, targeting Maoist leadership and dismantling their organizational structure.  

Infrastructure Development: The government focuses on improving infrastructure in LWE-affected areas, including building roads, schools, hospitals, and communication networks. Improved infrastructure helps establish the government’s presence in remote areas and fosters economic development.  

Social and Economic Development: The government implements various welfare and development schemes to address the root causes of LWE, such as poverty, unemployment, and social inequality. These initiatives aim to uplift marginalized communities and provide them with better opportunities.  

Strengthening Local Governance: The government works to strengthen local governance in LWE-affected areas by promoting democratic participation and empowering local institutions. This helps build trust between the government and the affected communities.  

Capacity Building of Security Forces: The government invests in training and capacity building for security forces to enhance their effectiveness in tackling LWE. This includes providing specialized training, equipment, and intelligence support.  

Inter-State Coordination: The government promotes coordination among states affected by LWE to ensure a unified response. This involves sharing intelligence, resources, and best practices to combat LWE more effectively.  

Dialogue and Negotiation: The government remains open to dialogue and negotiation with LWE groups who are willing to renounce violence and engage in the democratic process. This approach aims to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. For example, the government has introduced surrender and rehabilitation policies for LWE cadres willing to renounce violence and join mainstream society. These policies offer financial incentives, vocational training, and support for reintegration into society. 

Read more: Government of India’s approach to counter the challenges posed by LWE

What are issues associated with government measures to control Left-wing extremism (LWE)?

Human Rights Violations: Security operations against LWE have sometimes led to human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and harassment of civilians. These actions can alienate local communities and create resentment against the government.  

Inadequate Implementation of Development Schemes: Despite numerous welfare and development programs, their implementation in LWE-affected areas is often hampered by corruption, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and a lack of coordination between various agencies. As a result, the intended benefits may not reach the affected communities.  

Insufficient Capacity Building of Security Forces: The security forces may lack specialized training, equipment, and intelligence support to effectively tackle LWE. This can lead to operational failures and increased casualties among security personnel.  

Reliance on Force: Excessive focus on security operations may overshadow the need for political engagement and dialogue with LWE groups. A purely militaristic approach could prolong the conflict and hinder efforts to find a peaceful resolution.  

Incomplete Rehabilitation Programs: While surrender and rehabilitation policies exist, they may not be comprehensive or effectively implemented. Inadequate support for reintegration, such as insufficient vocational training or financial assistance, can limit the success of these programs.  

Lack of Trust and Cooperation: Mistrust between the government and affected communities can hinder the implementation of development initiatives and security operations. Building trust is crucial for fostering cooperation and addressing the root causes of LWE.  

Political Instability and Opportunism: Political instability and opportunism can undermine efforts to address LWE. Politicians may exploit the issue for electoral gains, which can further complicate the government’s response to the problem.  

What should be done to effectively control LWE in India?

Focus on Development: The government should prioritize improving infrastructure, education, and healthcare in LWE-affected areas, like the successful implementation of development projects in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which reduced Maoist influence.  

Strengthen Local Governance: Empowering local governments to address grievances and deliver public services effectively, as seen in the Panchayati Raj system’s success in reducing Naxalism in West Bengal, can help build trust between communities and authorities.  

Enhance Security Forces’ Capabilities: Provide specialized training and better equipment to security personnel, similar to the Greyhounds force in Andhra Pradesh, which proved effective in countering LWE due to their specialized training and local knowledge.  

Encourage Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution: Engage in meaningful dialogue with Maoist groups to address their grievances, similar to the peace talks between the Indian government and Naga insurgents, which led to a ceasefire and reduced violence in the region.  

Foster Community Engagement: Involve local communities in decision-making processes and development projects, as seen in the success of the Janmabhoomi program in Andhra Pradesh, where community participation helped build trust and reduce Maoist influence.  

Ensure Accountability and Transparency: Strengthen measures to prevent corruption and human rights abuses, as demonstrated by the National Human Rights Commission’s interventions in cases of alleged human rights violations by security forces, which can help restore public trust in government institutions. 

Read more: Tackling the Maoists: On left-wing extremism

Sources: The Hindu (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3 and Article 4), Indian Express (Article 1 and Article 2), TOI and Livemint (Article 1 and Article 2)

Syllabus: GS 3: Security Issues – Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

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