This article deals with ‘Naxalism.’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Naxalism?

  • Naxalists are far-left-wing extremists adhering to the ideology of Mao Tse Tung (bringing revolution through the barrel of the gun) and aiming to overthrow the Indian state.
  • Naxalism derives its name from a village in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal called Naxalbari. 
  • Naxalism is the direct outcome of poverty and inequality in society. Naxalists claim to be fighting for equal division of resources (especially land).
  • During his tenure as PM, PM Manmohan Singh believed that Naxalism was the biggest threat India had ever faced.


Formation of CPI in 1925 In 1925, the Communist Party of India was formed by a group of young patriots drawing their inspiration from the Russian Revolution.
Telengana Movement (1945-51) The first instance of revolutionary communism in India was the agitation of Communists in the Telangana Movement (1946-1951).  
The movement’s objective was to establish its own state and get rid of Zamindars.
Peasants organized and armed themselves to fight against the Razakars (army of Nizam) and the Police.
Eventually, this conflict was ended by the security forces of the newly independent India.
Communist Party of India splits in 1964 – Communist Party of India (Marxist) [which was in favour of democracy] split from the Communist Party of India in 1964, influenced by the Sino-Indian War of 1962 & also by the differences of opinion on revolution 
CPI (M) was led by P. Sundarayya, Jyoti Basu, M.S. Namboodiripad and Harkishan Singh Surjeet.  

Naxalbari Phase

Naxalbari  Incident, 1967 Congress formed the United Front government alongside CPI (Marxist) on 3rd March 1967, in West Bengal. The day when new CM Ajoy Mukherjee was sworn in, an incident happened in the Naxalbari village of Darjeeling district in West Bengal. 
In the incident, tribal youth Bimal Kesan obtained a judicial order permitting him to plough his land. The incident began when Kesan went to his land and was attacked by the landlord (named Iswar Tirkey) and his goons. Bimal Kesan approached Krishak Sabha, whose leader was Kanu Sanyal, who offered to help him get his land. With this support, Tribal people attacked the landlord and started the rebellion.  

The state responded by speeding up the land reforms, setting up distribution committees and tackling the violence with police response.
1969 Another defection happened in CPI(M), and a new party named CPI (Marxist-Leninist) was formed aimed at becoming a truly revolutionary party under Charu Mazumdar (as General Secretary).
They indulged in armed violence in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh with an agenda to annihilate class enemies.  
1970 – Kanhai Chatterjee formed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and launched violent campaigns. 
Naxalites started to spread their ideology in universities and radicalized students. As a result, a group of students stormed the State’s Legislative Assembly. 
In February 1970, the main ideologue, Charu Mazumdar, detailed his plans, later titled as “murder manual“, essentially directions for how the movement could eliminate class enemies (mainly landlords) among the peasantry.  
1970-1972 The government started an operation named “Steeplechase“, in which Military, paramilitary, and state forces participated jointly to end Naxalism. The extremist movement was crushed, and Charu Mazumdar was arrested in 1972. He later died in police custody.
But the movement spread to the southern state of Kerala and the Srikakulam district of Andra Pradesh.

During this phase, the movement struggled to gain the support of the working class, sharecroppers, agricultural labourers, urban middle class, and poor peasants because they did not see it as a fight for their own interests. Additionally, the general populace was not mentally prepared to engage in an “armed conflict.” The movements’ excessive affiliation with China robbed them of a nationalistic image, and this element was mainly responsible for their exclusion from the general populace.

Post Charu Phase: Early 1970s-2000

1975 There is a consensus that the movement ceased most activities when PM Indira Gandhi imposed a state of Emergency on the whole nation in 1975 after her iron hand movement.  
1977 Post Emergency, CPI (ML) was divided into two factions  
1. CPI (Marxist Leninist) Liberation: It was in favour of fighting elections. 
2. People’s War Group (PWG): It favoured armed struggle against the state.  
1982-89 Through a front group named the Indian People’s Front (IPF), CPI (ML) “Liberation” entered electoral politics in 1982.
The first Naxalite MP was elected to the Indian Parliament in 1989 after the IPF gained a seat in the legislative elections.

During this period, counterforces of upper caste landlords also started to come up in places like Bihar. One such organization called ‘Ranvir Sena’ ruthlessly massacred Naxalites and their suspected sympathizers.

The emergence of the CPI (Maoist): 2004-Present

2004 – Communist Party of India (Maoist) came into existence in September 2004 following the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), which was strong in the Central Indian States and the People’s War Group (PWG), which was influential in the Andhra region. Presently, it is considered a terrorist organization under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. 
Its goal remained the same – agrarian revolution through people’s war for the seizure of power from the state.

Recent Naxal Attacks

The Dantewada-Sukma-Bijapur axis (in Chhattisgarh) has remained the last bastion of Maoists in India.

2010 In a joint operation carried out by 1000 Naxalites, 76 security personnel were killed in Dantewara (Chhattisgarh), which was the worst attack ever.
2013 Naxalites attacked Congress workers in the Dharba Valley of Odisha, killing 30.
2017-18-19 Naxalists frequently killed CRPF personnel in the Sukma district of Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh.
2022 Naxals killed 22 Security personnel in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

Naxal Ideology and Strategy

  • They don’t believe in Parliamentary democracy and talk about building up an army to inflict a decisive defeat on the enemy’s armies. The immediate dream of the party is to accomplish a new democratic revolution in India by overthrowing imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism through protracted people’s war to establish people’s democratic dictatorship. 2009 document released by the CPI (Maoist) Politburo extensively speaks about how the Parliamentary System has been compromised in the hands of the “imperialists”. 
  • Naxalites followed the strategy propounded by Mao Tse Tung in his book Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla warfare). The Naxalites indulge in guerrilla warfare against the Indian Forces. 

The strategy of Naxalists / Maoists

  • Their strategy of expansion is three-fold as propounded by Mao. 
Naxalite cadres begin their work in remote 
hilly, tribal and rural areas to indoctrinate and 
recruit more fighters . 
Armed guerrilla warfare with aim of lowering 
morale of the Indian forces => high-profile 
individuals like police chiefs, political leaders 
are assassinated in low intensity battles. 
Stage 1 
Stage 2 
Conventional war is fought by establishing Stage 3 
regular army to get territorial control. Class 
enemies are annihilated & new order ruled 
by the working class is established.

Modus Operandi

  • They kill the ‘class enemies’ (landlords) and those who do not subscribe to their ideology in areas under their domination, branding them as ‘police informers.
  • They destroy schools and other infrastructure like roads and telecom networks to cut-off the population in their strongholds from the mainstream milieu.
  • They forcefully recruit the cadre from the local young population and brainwash and indoctrinate them.
  • Maoist/ Naxal Organisations have so-called ‘Front Organizations’, which are the off-shoots of the parent Maoist party and profess a separate existence to escape legal liability. Front organizations (1) carry out propaganda/disinformation for the party, (2) recruit ‘professional revolutionaries’ for the underground movement, (3) raise funds for the insurgency, (4) assist the cadres in legal matters and (5) also provide safe houses and shelters to underground cadres.
  • CPI (Maoist) have close ties with many North-East insurgent groups and have frequently expressed their solidarity with the J&K terrorist groups. Apart from that, CPI (Maoist) also have close links with foreign Maoist organizations in the Philippines, Turkey, Nepal etc.

Urban Naxals

  • Urban Naxals are educated people in academia, media, NGOs and urban civil society in India who are attracted to the violent left ideology and support the violent insurrection against the State.
  • While the Naxalite movement is often associated with remote tribal areas, Urban Naxalism is a phenomenon in cities and urban centres.
  • The term has largely been used as a political tool. The Left Wing Division of the Union Home Ministry, in response to an RTI, has denied the usage of the term for official purposes. 

Incidents of Urban Naxalism

  • In 2004, a CPI (Maoist) document titled ‘Urban Perspective: Our Work in Urban Areas’ elaborated on Urban Naxalism. It emphasized mobilizing industrial workers and urban poor and building ‘tactical united fronts’ of like-minded organizations, including students, middle-class employees, intellectuals etc.
  • Later, in 2013, the arrest of a suspected Naxal militant working as a carpenter in Nagpur shocked police authorities, and authorities came to realize that Naxalite groups were gaining traction in urban areas.
  • In 2017, life Imprisonment was awarded to Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba (by a local court), arguing that literature seized from the accused proved that he was a member of CPI (Maoist). (But Supreme Court had earlier held in Arup Bhuyan vs State of Assam that ‘A person’s membership with a banned group by itself will not implicate him until he uses violence or incites others to use violence.’)
  • In August 2018, 10 prominent individuals working for the human rights of Adivasis (including Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha and Stan Swamy) were arrested for being Urban Naxals and members of CPI (Maoist). (but this action goes against the SC Judgement in the case titled Arup Bhuyan vs the State of Assam).

What do Urban Naxals do?

  • According to the authorities, Urban Naxals, through their active propaganda, try to (1) romanticize Naxal attacks, (2) raise funds, (3)create safe houses for militants, (4) provide legal assistance to arrested cadres and (5) conduct mass agitations against government moves that curb the spread of Naxalism, while their rural comrades keep destabilizing governance in villages.


  • Extortion: According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, they are able to gather at least ₹ 2000 crore annually by extortion. Their main targets include road construction contractors, contractors of forest produce like Tendu leaf etc. 
  • Mining companies also give them protection money. The illegal mining industry in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand is also the source of finance for the Naxalites.
  • Naxalists also indulge in the poppy and opium cultivation trade. 
  • They also indulge in robbery and dacoity to fund themselves.
  • Agencies of foreign enemy nations like the ISI of Pakistan also fund them overtly or covertly.
  • Their supporters and sympathizers also fund them.

Cadre Recruitment

  • Naxalite cadres begin their work in remote hilly, tribal and rural areas, which governments usually ignore. It is easy to indoctrinate these people and recruit them. Naxal cadres live and work among the locals and socialize with them, gradually gaining their trust. Later, they slowly work their way into recruiting them into the Naxal Movement by appealing to their local problems, which are mostly related to their rights of Jal, Jangal and Jamin, social, caste and class issues. 
  • Coerced Naxal Recruitment, i.e. forceful recruitment from each Adivasi family. Sometimes, it leads to conflict between Naxals and Adivasis. In 1992–93, one such conflict in Chhattisgarh ended with the Naxalites killing 70 Adivasis.
  • Recruitment is also targeted at educated and university students affiliated with student organizations. They seek to attract professionals to defend & propagate their agenda among the educated classes. 
  • By giving incentives to recruits: These incentives needn’t be monetary but food ration to family, the position of authority etc.
  • Genuinely exploited tribals by mining companies and other contractors join the Naxalites on their own to settle their scores.

Naxal recruiters also perform a background check on every potential recruit before initiating the training process. Later, Naxalites are trained on the lines of professional armed forces, due to which they have now evolved into an efficient guerrilla force. Like a conventional army, the Naxal army is divided into squads, platoons, companies and battalions with strict discipline, a unidirectional chain of command, rigid hierarchy and leadership.

How is Naxalism the biggest threat??

  • The Maoist movement highlights India’s internal weakness, and this makes India vulnerable to external threats as well. A nation can’t effectively withstand threats coming from outside if it is unstable from the inside. 
  • Former Pakistani Director General of ISI equated India being busy with internal security problems to having two extra divisions in Pakistan Army for free. 
  • It affects India’s economic development as internal order & stability are necessary for the nation’s economic development. MNCs don’t invest in these regions because of the threat of extortion. 
  • To contain Naxalism, India has to spend a huge sum on the Military, and as a result, the social sector suffers.
  • It also affects democracy & the rule of law in disturbed areas.

Reasons for the growth of Naxalism

1. Slow implementation of land reforms in India

  • Land being the state subject, the Union had little to do with land reforms. On the other hand, the states had made only half-hearted land reforms. The speed of the land reforms was very slow, and Zamindars were able to use loopholes in the laws to dodge the transfer of land. It disillusioned the peasants and forced them to take their lands at gunpoint. 
  • Powerful sections of society have encroached on and occupied the government and community lands (even the water bodies). It has forced the oppressed to rise in the form of Naxalists. 

2. Displacement and forced eviction

  • Alienation of the tribals’ forest land due to the tribals’ inability to show ownership documents
  • Large-scale land acquisition and displacement for ‘public purposes’ without appropriate compensation or rehabilitation. E.g., Samantha Tribe from Odisha was evicted from their lands due to dam construction.

3. Economic situation in Red Corridor

  • There is a lack of employment opportunities even though MNCs are using their land & resources.  
  • The conflict between economic process & aboriginal land rights also fuels Naxalite activities. 
  • There is a deprivation of traditional rights in common property resources.

4. Governance Issues

  • There is a lack of basic amenities like health and education.
  • Unsatisfactory working of local government institutions: Earlier, PESA renewed some hope, but State governments have not devolved powers properly. 
  • Justice System in India is expensive and painfully slow. On the other hand, Naxals deliver quick and cheap justice through Jan Adalats. Hence, people look forward to the Naxals for justice instead of the State.
  • Lack of food security due to factors such as corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS).

5. Social Situation

  • Stratified societies with caste & feudal divisions and significant inequalities in land holdings are the main reason for the growth of Naxalism in Andhra and Telangana.
  • High indigenous tribal populations, which MNCs exploit, are the main reason for their rise in  Odisha & Chhattisgarh.
  • Social indicators such as literacy, employment, etc., of the Naxal-affected areas are the worst among all the states.

6. Method of warfare

  • The Naxalite movement engages in guerrilla warfare. Hence, it is tough to contain them
  • Regions that have remained the showpiece of the Maoist ideology are the forests of Dandakaranya, which lie between the borders of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. Hence, it is difficult for the Police to coordinate their activities.

7. Problem with our forces

  • There is no unity of command. Forces in each state work in silos.
  • Intelligence is also of poor quality. 
  • State Police has not risen to the situation and left it to Central Forces to deal with the problem of Naxalism.


Earlier, the government was using a narrow perspective by crushing the movement but was not addressing structural problems in society, which led to this situation. But now the government has decided to use a combination of

  1. Development in these areas 
  2. Opportunity for Naxalites to come back to mainstream 
  3. Using the might of the state to crush those who challenge the Authority of the state even after that
  4. Fighting them on the ideological level
  5. Provide good governance
  6. Public perception management

The government fully understands that Naxalites are India’s citizens and should be given a chance to return on the right path. Andhra Pradesh Model, the only state to contain the problem of Naxalism in large pockets, also used the above approach. 

Nepal, which was facing the Naxalism problem of a much larger scale, has successfully contained that problem by integrating Naxalists into society and giving them a lucrative offer to fight via ‘Ballot’ instead of ‘Bullet’. India can also learn from Nepali Experience. 

1. Development

  • Government should devote a larger budget allocation to health, education and social welfare.
  • Government must ensure that statutory minimum wages are given in these areas.

Measures already taken

  • 35 most affected LWE districts have been chosen in Aspirational District Scheme. 
  • Additional Central Assistance to LWE-affected districts covering 88 affected districts to build infrastructure has been running since 2016
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and Roshni Scheme have been successfully running for skill development.
  • Road building under Road Requirement Plan (RRP) is running in 34 LWE-affected districts. 
  • MNREGA is running in Naxal Affected Areas. 
  • Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) will be used to install 175 additional mobile towers in the LWE districts. 

2. Dialogue, Reconciliation and Reintegration 

  • The state should continue to make dialogue with Naxals. 
  • Some reward and opportunity to start new life should be given to those who surrender. The States have brought out surrender policies for those Naxals willing to lay down their arms.
    • The Jharkhand government is providing Rs. 50,000 to surrendered Naxalites along with Rs. 2000 monthly payment, one acre of agricultural land, and free health and education to their children. 
    • Chhattisgarh government offered up to Rs. 3 lakhs for weapon surrender.

3. The union should help the state maintain law and order

Although Police & Public order are state subjects, the problem of Naxalism is of such a huge proportion that State can’t tackle it alone. The central government should help states by 

  • Providing CAPF, Cobra and Reserve Police. 
  • Helping to upgrade and modernize State police.
  • Providing helicopters in anti-Naxal operations.
  • Setting up of a Unified Command in Naxal-affected areas.
  • Reimbursing security-related expenditure under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme.
  • Filling up critical infrastructure gaps under the Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS).

4. Strengthen State Police

  • According to Prakash Singh, State police forces are heavily dependent on the Central government. The mindset seems to be that Maoism is the government of India’s problem and, therefore, the Central forces should bear the brunt. The great lesson we learnt in Punjab was that until the State Police makes a frontal attack on the terrorists/Maoists, the battle will never be won.  
  • Reason: Although Central Forces are well trained and equipped with the latest arms, they don’t know the local terrain, language and society. This is why the role of the State Police becomes crucial in such operations.
  • Earlier, the Greyhounds of Andhra played a vital role in uprooting Naxalism from the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state.
  • Chhattisgarh has also set up Black Panther Combat Force  (modelled on Greyhounds) to combat Naxalism.
  • Similarly, Jharkhand has constituted ‘Jharkhand Jaguars‘.
  • Union government is running the Construction of Fortified Police Stations Scheme, under which 400 police stations in 10 LWE affected States were to be built. 399 Police Stations have been constructed.
Combating Naxalism

5. Unity in Command

  • Our forces work in silos, and the Naxals exploit this lacuna to dodge the police forces in various states. 
  • Veerappan also used such guerrilla tactics. Finally, the Special Task Force (STF), specially formed with unity of command and consisting of Police from all three states, i.e. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, neutralized Veerappan.
  • Keeping this in mind, a Unified Command has been set up in the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
Naxalism for UPSC

6. Use modern tech

  • The state should utilize modern technologies such as drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to contain the LWE.

7. Ideological

  • Government has to accept that Naxal Problem is being fought at two levels. 
    • Physical fight with guns & bullets on the ground 
    • Ideological fight. 
  • Mere defeating them on the ground will not end this problem. The government will have to defeat them ideologically too.

8. Stopping access to finances 

  • The government should cut their funding and freeze the accounts of organizations dealing with them.
  • Demonetization was a step in this direction.

9. Governance

  • States should effectively implement provisions of PESA, 1996 in letter and spirit on a priority basis. It would bridge the trust deficit between locals and the state.
  • Government should implement the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, in LWE-affected states. 

Side Topic: SAMADHAN

In 2017, the Home Minister and CMs of Naxal-affected areas met and made a program to tackle Naxalism named SAMADHAN with the following components

  1. S = Smart leadership
  2. A = Aggressive strategy
  3. M = Motivation and training
  4. A = Actionable intelligence
  5. D = dashboard-based key performance indicators and key result areas
  6. H = harnessing technology
  7. A = action plan for each theatre
  8. N = no access to financing. 

Steps taken by the States

1. Andhra Pradesh Model

Andhra Pradesh is the state which has successfully contained Naxalism. Maoist violence started in the 1980s in Andhra and reached its maximum height in the late 1990s. Andhra government took the following steps to uproot Naxalism from the state t

  1. Grey Hound, an elite commando force to deal with Naxals, was raised in 1989. 
  2. The state gave complete freedom to Police and Grey Hounds to kill or arrest all the leaders.
  3. Police Stations were fortified.
  4. Naxals who were willing to surrender were allowed to do so.
  5. Development schemes like Janma Bhoomi and Joint Forest Management were launched. 
  6. The State Government set up the Department of Remote and Interior Area Development to look into the development of remote areas which were heavily hit by the Naxal violence.

2. Chattisgarh

Chhattisgarh, too has taken steps such as

  • Improved road connectivity by building road infrastructure on a massive scale 
  • The ‘Bultoo’ radio initiative enables the rural public to use their ordinary mobile handsets to record their points and songs in their language. These are then converted to Internet-based radio programs.
  • Chhattisgarh government offered up to Rs. 3 lakhs for weapon surrender.

But it must be noted that the Dantewada-Sukma-Bastar axis (in Chhattisgarh) has remained the last bastion of Maoists in India. Maoists in these regions indulge in frequent attacks on security personnel. From 2018 to 2020, 70% of security personnel’s deaths in Naxalist attacks happened in Chhattisgarh. 

Reasons that Chhattisgarh has not been able to control Naxalism in the state are 

  • Excessive reliance on Salwa Judum, which was declared illegal by the Supreme Court.
  • Rugged terrain makes large areas in the forests inaccessible.
  • Maoists, especially those led by local charismatic leader Hidima, enjoy popularity in this area.

3. Jharkhand

  • Constituted a special force named ‘Jharkhand Jaguar‘ modelled after the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Launched special operations to weed out Maoists.
  • Tribal youth from the insurgency-affected areas were recruited as Special Police Officers (SPOs).
  • The Jharkhand government is providing Rs. 50,000 to surrendered Naxalites along with Rs. 2000 monthly payment, one acre of agricultural land, and free health and education to their children. 

4. Odisha

  • Odisha has fortified its Police Stations.
  • The state has given special training to police personnel.
  • A special force known as the ‘Special Operations Group’ was raised.
  • Infrastructure like roads was developed at a massive scale.

Present Situation

  • Presently, the spread of the Naxalist movement is as follows
Severely Affected Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Bihar
Partially Affected West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Slightly Affected Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) redrew the red corridor in 2019, and the number of districts affected by Naxal violence has been reduced from 106 to 64. MHA has reduced the ‘worst-affected category’ districts from 36 to 30.
  • Due to steps taken by the government, Left Wing Extremism has been in the fall.
Naxal Attacks in India

Side Topic: Salwa Judum

  • Under Salwa Judum, the state government of Chhattisgarh started using the tribal-private militia to fight against Maoist, which led to extra-judicial killings  
  • In 2011, Supreme Court said it to be illegal. 

Side Topic: Right-Wing Terrorism/Rightist Terrorism

  • Right Wing groups are conservative. These people either want the status quo or want to return to a specific time in the past that they feel should be conserved. Some of these groups also resort to violence as a means to achieve their aim and perpetrate what is known as Right Wing Terrorism.
  • Examples include the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of the USA, Green jackets of Denmark, ISIS of the Middle-East, Nazis of Germany and Fascism of Italy. Some of the Right Wing Terrorists also carry out terrorist activities on their own, like Christchurch Mosque Shooting in New Zealand. 
  • In India, Right Wing Terrorism is perpetrated by various hard-line religious extremist groups. Violence perpetrated against migrant communities citing the concept of “sons of the soil” also comes under this category.
Right-Wing Terrorism