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Left-Wing Extremism in India

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.


  • Maoism 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.
  • The Maoists also use propaganda and disinformation against State institutions as other components of their insurgency doctrine.
  • Mao called this process, the ‘Protracted Peoples War’, where the emphasis is on the ‘military line’ to capture power.

Indian Maoist

  • The largest and the most violent Maoist formation in India is the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
  • The CPI (Maoist) is an amalgamation of many splinter groups, which culminated in the merger of the two largest Maoist groups in 2004; the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), People War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.
  • The CPI (Maoist) and all its front organization formations have been included in the list of banned terrorist organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, of 1967.

Maoism and Naxalism: Difference

  • Naxalism originated as a rebellion against the lack of development and poverty at the local level in the rural parts of eastern India.
  • The term ‘Naxal’ derives its name from a village called Naxalbari in the State of West Bengal where the movement had its origin.
  • The Naxals are considered far-left radical communists who support Maoist political ideology.
  • Their origin can be traced to the split that took place in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1967.
  • It led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist and Leninist).
  • Initially, the movement had its centre in West Bengal. Thereafter, it spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
  • On the other hand, the term Maoist refers exclusively to cadres and leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
  • All Maoists are Naxalites, but all Naxalites are not Maoists.

Evolution of Left-Wing Extremism

  • It was in 1967 when a small group of Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders decided to break away and launch their own armed struggle against big landowners.
  • These leaders were Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal.
  • Their objective was to snatch the lands from the big zamindars and redistribute the same among the tilling farmers and landless labourers.
  • The then president of the Siliguri Kisan Sabha Jangal Santhal started organising people for the same.
  • But, within a week of the call for armed struggle, a sharecropper was attacked and killed at a village near Naxalbari by the armed band of the local zamindar.
  • This incident took place on May 24, 1967. The next day, Jangal Santhal led a group of tribals to ambush a police team which had come to investigate the killing of the farmer.
  • A sub-inspector was killed as the Naxalbari team attacked the police convoy with bows and arrows.
  • The incident took place at Naxalbari, which gave the armed movement its name.

Factors Responsible for the Rise of Naxalism

  • A variety of factors have been responsible for the emergence of Naxalism in India.
  • While analysing the motivational aspects, some contend that it is the result of the attempts to end injustice, deprivations, and oppression suffered by the Adivasis, Dalits, and other traditionally discriminated groups.
  • Others observe that the conflict may have started for these reasons, but continued because extremists are quasi-mafias, selfishly motivated by money and individual benefits derived from the conflict.


  • In areas under Maoist domination, the absence of governance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since the delivery systems are extinguished through killings and intimidation.
  • This is the first step in the strategy of the Maoists to seek to control the countryside.
  • The emergence of LWE of such huge proportions could be directly attributed to the failure of successive governments to address the aspirations of the common masses in the most deprived regions of the country.
  • The mass mobilisation and support that the left extremists have been able to gather have only been possible due to the inherent disenchantment with the prevalent system.
  • They thrive upon the continuing grievances of the people. Governance, particularly in remote areas, is poor or non-existent.
  • In the meanwhile, many Front Organisations are created to facilitate mass mobilisation in semi-urban and urban areas through ostensibly democratic means.
  • Most of the Front Organisations are led by well-educated intellectuals with a firm belief in the Maoist insurgency doctrine.
  • These ideologues function as masks to cover the violent nature of the CPI (Maoist) ideology.
  • They also form the propaganda/ disinformation machinery of the party.

Socio-Economic and Cultural

  • Many observers have found the incomplete agrarian reforms as the reason behind the Naxal movement.
  • Extreme poverty, exploitation of landless tillers – often from Dalit and tribal communities – and denial of social justice by the administration gave birth to extreme discontent among the masses and left-wing leaders.
  • After Independence, the government abolished the zamindari system as part of agrarian reform but redistribution of land was not undertaken amid protests by some groups.
  • Meanwhile, attempts were made to improve agriculture, which led to better returns from farms.
  • The combined effect of the abolition of zamindari and improved practices in agriculture produced many neo rich farmers, who were not ready to share their profit with the tillers and labourers, who put real hard work in the fields.
  • While the landowners prospered fast, the landless continued to struggle for food.
  • In several agriculture-dependent areas, the poverty levels were reportedly as high as over 95 per cent.
  • Discontent was simmering. Naxalbari only gave vent to socioeconomic anger.

Land Related

Alienation of tribal land was a major issue that crippled their economic welfare. This was evident in good measure in the Srikakulam Naxal movement. Alienation happened largely because of the money-lenders’ trap but also because of the government’s restrictions of access to forest land, traditionally the exclusive domain of the tribals. Displacement due to mining and land alienation causes anguish among the tribal people which becomes a handy tool for naxals to recruit them.


Under Forest Rights Act 2006, forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, make claims for forest rights to get the title of land so that they can cultivate it without fear of displacement. Tribals are poor, they are not capable of making an appeal against the rejections. Rejection of claims of tribals and lack of proper grievance redressal lead them to fall under the influence of Naxals. Proper implementation of The Act will give tribals residing in the 106 Left Wing Extremism affected districts the legal rights to the forest land and resources and prevent them from getting into Maoist activities.

Objectives of Naxalites

Naxalism is considered to be one of the biggest internal security threats India faces. The Naxalites consider the state power as a weapon in the hands of the rich and the ruling classes which are against their movement.

The prime objectives of Naxalism are to destroy the state power in all its forms and create a new one of their choice and act merrily in the domain they have established for themselves. The main cause of the rise of the Naxal movement was a revolt against the government and the land ceiling acts that were implemented and practiced at that time.

The peasants were ignored predominantly by the government which lead to an uprising with armed rebellion during that time. The main ideology of the Naxals was to take over the government and establish their own government in the state because after years of neglect they lost every faith that they used to have on the political system of the country.

The aim of the naxalites is to destroy the State legitimacy, and to create a mass base, with certain degree of acceptability, with the ultimate object of attaining political power by violent means. The naxalites predominantly attack the police and the police establishments. The Naxallites target the people’s representative of the state assembly and the parliament. They kill democratically elected leaders and also the common people to create fear and panic among the public so that they remain docile to their rule.

They also attack certain types of infrastructure, like rail and road transport and power transmission, and also forcibly oppose execution of development works, like critical road construction.

  • Radicalising Industrial Workers: In recent years there has been a clear indication that the Naxalites are trying to penetrate the urban cities. Their main motive is to gain substantive control over the deprived working-class people and use their deprivation and anger as a tool to spread Naxalism ideology. Their immediate short-term objective is to gain substantive control over the trade unions in the cities and make them aligned with Naxal ideology. Prominent Naxal leaders have been arrested from urban centres like Asansol, Jamshedpur, Surat, Kolkata and Raipur.
  • Radicalising Youth: Many youths are attracted due to the romantic illusion of Maoism, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. The Front Organization deals with the recruitment of ‘professional revolutionaries’, raising funds for the insurgency, creating urban shelters for underground cadres, providing legal assistance to arrested cadres and mass- mobilisation by agitating over issues of relevance/ convenience. The Front Organisations aim to provide short-term democratic subterfuge to cover-up the totalitarian and oppressive nature of the Maoist ideology.

Government’s Approach to Counter Naxalism

Government is committed to deal strongly with naxalites indulging in crime and violence. The overall objective being to uphold the law of the land, provide security of life and property and provide a secure environment for development and economic growth.

Police Modernisation

Under scheme of “Modernization of Police Forces(MPF)” for 3 years’ from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the total outlay of Rs 26,061 crore is to be shared between Center and States in 75:25 ratio. Scheme of Special Central Assistance (SCA) for 35 worst LWE affected districts has been introduced with an outlay of Rs. 3,000 crore to tackle the issue of underdevelopment in these district. It is expected that the umbrella scheme, “Modernization of Police Forces (MPF)” will go a long way to boost the capability and efficiency of Central and State Police Forces by modernizing them. Scheme of Fortified Police stations: The Ministry had sanctioned 400 police stations in 10 LWE affected States. Of these 393 of police stations have been completed.

Security Related Expenditure Scheme

It is a sub scheme under MPF scheme. Security Related Expenditure Funds are provided for meeting the recurring expenditure relating to insurance, training and operational needs of the security forces, rehabilitation of Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrender in accordance with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the State Government concerned, community policing, security etc.


Development is the only approach that can eliminate any discontent in the long term. Areas affected by naxalism are mostly some of the backward regions of India. These include Telangana, Andhra Pradesh ,
Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh etc. It is due to lack of basic infrastructure and poor governance which made life miserable for tribals and other poor residing in these regions that this movement grew in monster proportion.

Constructing national and state highways through these regions for better connectivity of inaccessible areas leading to movement of people to access services like healthcare and markets. Establishment of schools, Anganawadis and primary health centres in these remote areas; supply of electricity to these remote area; efficient PDS for all inhabitants; importantly, implementation of MGNREGA, NRLM etc.

Strengthening panchayats, forest committees and bringing land reforms – are some of the measure that needed urgent effective implementation to stop the spread of naxalism. Finally, government has put some mechanism in place for carrying out these measures.

Aspirational District Programme in 35 LWE Affected Districts

  • Transformation of Aspirational Districts programme aims to quickly and effectively transform these districts. The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a mass Movement. With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify lowhanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.

Integrated Action Plan

  • The Government approved an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for Selected Tribal and Backward Districts in 2010. The funds are to be placed at the disposal the District Collector and consisting of the Superintendent of Police of the District and the District Forest Officer.

Scheme of Special Infrastructure

  • Critical infrastructure gaps could not be covered under the existing schemes. These relate to requirements of mobility for the police/security forces by upgrading existing roads/tracks in inaccessible areas, providing secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations in remote and interior areas, measures to enhance security in respect of police stations/outposts located in vulnerable areas etc.

Ensuring Rights and Entitlements of Local Communities

Harassment by moneylenders, human rights violations by local police and siphoning of the money intended for local area development by the politicians and officials has made matters worse.

Perception Management

The government has decided to change its strategy and adopt a “more localised approach” to deal with Left Wing Extremism (LWE). “New counter LWE strategy” of the government is based on elements of security-related measures, development-based approach, rights and entitlementbased measures and public perception management.

According to the policy, the approach in the worst LWE affected areas will focus on security interventions, in moderately affected areas it will witness security and development initiatives going hand in hand, while in less affected areas, development interventions will take precedence.

Government’s Response Against Naxalism

Anti-Naxal Operation

  • In dealing with this decades-old problem, it has been felt appropriate, after various high-level deliberations and interactions with the State Governments concerned, that an integrated approach aimed at the relatively more affected areas would deliver results. However, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ being State subjects, action on maintenance of law and order lies primarily in the domain of the State Governments.
  • The Central Government endeavours by providing Central Armed Police Forces and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA), sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools.
  • The modernisation and up gradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus under the Scheme for Modernization of State Police Forces.

Creation of Left Wing Extremism Division

This Division was created in 2006 in the Ministry of Home Affair to effectively address the Left Wing Extremist insurgency in a holistic manner. The LWE Division implements security related schemes aimed at capacity building in the LWE affected States. The Division also monitors the LWE situation and countermeasures being taken by the affected States. The LWE Division coordinates the implementation of various development schemes of the Ministries/ Departments of Govt, of India in LWE affected States.

The States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are considered LWE affected, although in varying degrees.

Role and Functions of the Division

  • Deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in LWE affected States.
  • Reimbursing security related expenditure incurred by the LWE affected States under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme.
  • Providing assistance to the State Governments for construction/strengthening of fortified police stations under the Scheme for Construction/ Strengthening of Fortified Police Stations in LWE affected districts.
  • Providing funds to the CAPFs for Civic Action Programme in LWE affected areas.
  • Reviewing the security situation in the LWE affected States and issuing advisories to the State Governments concerned.
  • Providing assistance to State Governments towards capacity building to combat LWE.
  • Coordinating implementation of LWE related Schemes of other Central Ministries for LWE affected Districts.

Surrender Policies

Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation policy is part of the overall policy to build consensus and evolve an acceptable and peaceful solution to violence perpetrated by extremist groups, to usher in peace and development, especially in the disturbed regions. The objectives of surrender-cum-rehabilitation of naxalites in the naxal affected States are:

  • To wean away the misguided youth and hardcore Naxalites who have strayed into the fold of the Naxal movement and now find themselves trapped in that net.
  • To ensure that the Naxalites who surrender do not find it attractive to join the Naxal movement again.
  • Tactical surrenders by those elements who try to make use of the benefits extended by the Government to further their vested interests should not be encouraged under the Scheme.

Samadhan Doctrine 2017

The Union Home Minister enunciated a strategy through which the LWE can be countered with full force and competence. The new strategy is called Samadhan, which is a compilation of short term and long term policies formulated at different levels. The meaning was well defined by the Home Minister as:

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
N- No access to Financing

Challenges in Dealing With Naxalism

The Government’s approach is to deal with Naxalism in a holistic manner , in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management.

Naxalism is no longer perceived as a law and order problem rather it is perceived as a socio-economic problem. However we still witness incidents like Dantewada ambush, where 75 paramilitary personnel and one state police constable were killed in 2010.

Economic Efficiency

The failure of “economic growth trickle down model” has left the remote tribal society downtrodden. The dense forest region of Chhattisgarh -Telangana is rich in minerals, hence, exploited by the capitalist class, this exploitation percolates even to procurement of tribal goods. It was perceived that economic growth in these regions would ensure development of the tribal people.. Inclusive growth is the only solution to the economic concern of tribal people. This would facilitate a feeling of belonging towards the government and would create a gulf between the tribes and Naxals.

Social Justice

The whole debate of social justice is an oscillation between class conflict and class cooperation. Mahatma Gandhi, a firm believer in class cooperation talked about “Haves as trustee to the society”, this principle if followed will ensure due course of justice without class struggle. However if neglected would lead to strengthening of the armed rebellion and there support base. Land ownership, lack of Minimum support prices for tribal produce creates a sense of alienation towards the government.


The problem is compounded by the fact that the LWE/ Maoists corridor spreads across several States and the perceived lack of a common plan has left each State government combating the Naxals as per their own strategy.

Schemes for Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) Affected States

In order to holistically address the LWE problem in an effective manner, Government has formulated National Policy and Action Plan adopting multi pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlement of local communities etc.

Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme

Under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme assistance is provided to 90 LWE affected districts in 11 States for recurring expenditure relating to operational needs of security forces, training and insurance and also for compensation to Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrender in accordance with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the concerned State Government, community policing, security related infrastructure by village defence committees and publicity material.

Installation of Mobile Towers

The Government has approved for the Installation of Mobile Towers in Left-Wing Extremist area. Under this scheme, in Phase-I, 2329 Mobile Towers in 10 LWE affected States have been operationalized. Phase-ll of Mobile Tower Project in LWE affected areas is under consideration.

Scheme for Fortification of Police Station

The Ministry has sanctioned 400 police stations in 10 LWE affected States at a unit cost Rs. 2 crores under this scheme. A total of 393 of PSs have been completed, work at 7 PSs is under progress.

Special Infrastructure Scheme

The earlier Special Infrastructure Scheme which was under implementation from 2008-09 to 2014-15, has now been revived for a period of 3 years from 2017-18 to 2019-20 for strengthening of the intelligence mechanism and Special Forces of the States and for fortification of Police Stations.

Road Connectivity Project Plan for Left Wing Extremism Areas

The Road Requirement Plan (RRP) Phase-I was approved in 2009 for improvement of road connectivity in LWE affected districts in 8 States viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand , Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. The RRP-I envisages development of National Highways and State Roads.

The Government approved this RRP-II in 2016 to further improve road connectivity in 44 districts of 9 LWE affected States. This Scheme envisages 5412km roads and 126 bridges at an estimated cost of Rs. 11,725 Crores. Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this project. The roads included under the scheme have been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the State Governments and the security agencies.

Civic Action Programme

This scheme is meant for financial grants allocated to Central Armed Police Force to perform civic action in the Naxal affected states. The main motive behind the scheme is to win the hearts and minds of local communities and provide them with positive attitude through small development schemes, which will mitigate the problems of people living in insurgency hit areas and also bring confidence to security forces.

Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996

The Left Wing Extremism affected States have been asked to effectively implement the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) on priority, which categorically assigns rights over minor forest produce to the Gram Sabhas.

Unified Command

The Government established a Unified Command for inter-state coordination in 2010, (in intelligence gathering, information sharing and police responses) between Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

Evaluation of Government’s Action to Control Naxalism

The Government of India has adopted a holistic approach to address the LWE insurgency. This approach is built around simultaneous implementation a security agenda, developmental activities and promotion of good governance.

  • The National Policy and Action Plan to address LWE problem, by the MHA in 2014, essentially incorporates four elements – an integrated multipronged strategy comprising security related measures; development related initiatives, ensuring rights and entitlement related measures, and management of public perception plan.
  • The Central Government has been implementing various flagship developmental schemes in coordination with the affected state governments. Some of the prominent schemes are: The ‘Integrated Action Plan’ (IAP) or ‘Additional Central Assistance’ (ACA) for LWE affected districts public infrastructures and services in affected areas.
  • The Naxal issue is complex, widespread and rooted in local factors. A report on Naxalism, published by the Planning Commission , made this accurate observation: “Mobilising the support of the people is also absolutely essential to weaken the support base of the Naxals. The political parties are not playing their role in this regard. The representatives of major political parties have virtually abdicated their responsibility.

Future Strategy to Eliminate Left-Wing Extremism

In order to comprehensively deal with Naxalite threat, the government has to address its root causes. Socioeconomic alienation and the dissatisfaction with the widening economic and political inequality will not be solved by military force alone, which seems to be the main instrument employed by the government.

Socio-Economic Development

  • Government ’s service delivery should be improved in these tribal areas. Both State and Center must ensure that things such as statutory minimum wages, access to land and water sources initiatives are implemented.


  • By opening dialogue, the government can give opportunity for the rebels to join the mainstream by showing them that solutions can be created together with the government, by being part of the political system in a legitimate way. For example, the former Director-General of Andhra Pradesh concluded that as a result of the ceasefire and dialogue with Maoists in 2004, the violence in the state decreased by 80-90 percent in the region.


  • Government at State and Center needs to coordinate efforts for proper implementation of development schemes. Grievance redressal, access to formal source of credit and mass awareness about rights of tribals are keys to better governance.

Psychological Initiatives

Development practice has a critical role in providing the foundation for preventing violent extremism. UNDP’s conceptual framework proposes eleven interlinked building blocks for explaining how development can help prevent violent extremism. These building blocks, which will inform global, regional and national strategies for Left Wing Extremism will include:

  • Promoting a rule of law and human rights-based approach to Left Wing Extremism.
  • Enhancing the fight against corruption.
  • Enhancing participatory decision-making and increasing civic space at national and local levels.
  • Providing effective socio-economic alternatives to violence for groups at risk.
  • Strengthening the capacity of local governments for service delivery and security.
  • Supporting credible internal intermediaries to promote dialogue with alienated groups and reintegration of former extremists.
  • Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • Engaging youth in building social cohesion.
  • Working with faith-based organizations and religious leaders to counter the abuse of religion by violent extremists.
  • Working with the media to promote human rights and tolerance;
  • Promoting respect for human rights, diversity and a culture of global citizenship in schools and universities.


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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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