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Left Wing Extremism in India

Context: Recent reports have noted that the government has been successful in controlling the Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)/Naxalism in the country.

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Key Observations of the Study:

  • Reduction in LWE Incidents: The number of LWE-related incidents in India decreased significantly from 1,136 incidents in 2013 to 531 incidents in the previous year (2022). Up to July 2023 there were 336 LWE-related incidents.
  • Decrease in Deaths: There has been a decrease of over 75% in deaths related to LWE violence, from 397 deaths in 2014 to 98 deaths in the previous year (2022).
  • Geographical Spread: The geographical spread of LWE violence has reduced significantly. In 2013, 330 police stations in 76 districts across 10 states were impacted by LWE violence. By 2022, this had reduced to 176 police stations in 45 districts across eight states.
  • Decline in Maoist Attacks on Infrastructure: The number of Maoist attacks on economic infrastructure decreased from 169 in 2013 to 42 in the previous year (2022), representing a decline of over 75%.
  • Surrender of LWE Militants: The number of LWE militants who surrendered increased from 2,428 between 2006 and 2014 to 5,816 between 2014 and 2022.
  • CPI (Maoist) Dominance: The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is highlighted as the most formidable among various LWE groups in India, responsible for over 90% of all LWE-related violent incidents and 95% of associated fatalities.
  • Government Efforts: The government has implemented various measures to combat LWE, including security-related initiatives, development projects, and efforts to dismantle the financial networks supporting LWE activities.
  • Government’s Goal: The government aims to eliminate the Naxal problem by 2024.

Understanding Left Wing Extremism

  • Left Wing Extremism is an umbrella term referring to violence committed by extremist groups that follow the ideology that the solution to social and economic discrimination is to overthrow the existing political system.
  • Their ideology is based on the belief of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong.

Evolution of LWE in India

  • The LWE movement originated in West Bengal’s Naxalbari in 1967. It is also known as Naxal movement or Maoists movement.
  • The initial revolt was in form of a peasant revolt against local zamindars. It was led by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal, who were members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) was formed in 1969. The movement later spread to states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

Reasons for the Rise of LWE

  • Historical injustice: Tribals have faced historical injustices from landlords as well as successive governments. This created anti-establishment sentiments among them, leading to modern-day LWE.
  • Displacement of locals: Projects such as mining and industries in tribal areas led to widespread displacement of locals. The fear of losing their lands was misused by LWE leaders to derive support from tribals.
  • Inaccessibility: LWE areas are located in thick forests and mountainous regions that are not properly accessible. This acted as an impediment for security forces in policing these areas.
  • Lack of development: LWE areas are historically under-developed. They do not have proper connectivity and their residents are deprived of schools, hospitals and other important infrastructure. This created anti-establishment sentiments among the locals.
  • Marginalization of tribals: The settling of outsiders in tribal areas led to marginalization of locals. The fear of displacement prompted local tribals to support LWE movement.
  • Gaps in local administration: In many states, the local government did not take concrete steps to overcome extremism; instead they passed the onus on the central government. This lack of coordination gave time for the movement to sustain and become as a major internal security challenge for the country.

Threats posed by LWE

  • Disrupt democratic process: Naxals prevent locals from contesting elections or vote. They try to create negative opinions about participatory democracy.
  • Disrupting law and order: Naxals are involved in kidnapping, killing as well as destroying roads and buildings. This creates a bad law and order situation in the area.
  • Rebellion against elected government: Naxalites promote uneducated tribals to pick arms and rebel against elected governments. This is a serious threat to internal security.
  • Alienate tribals: Activities of Naxals further alienate the tribals from mainstream. This strengthens anti-establishment sentiments.
  • Smuggling arms and narcotics: LWE cadres are involved in smuggling of arms and narcotics to fund their activities.

Tackling LWE

  • Strengthening police force: The extremists have access to sophisticated weapons and technology. The police force should be equally equipped in order for them to successfully defeat LWE.
  • Integration of locals: Hard approach must be complemented with a soft approach, which involves integration of locals into the mainstream. They must be made to feel that the government and administration belongs to them. Their concerns must be properly addressed.
  • Creation of infrastructure: Infrastructure in form of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, banks, administrative offices will all act as fuel for development. This can neutralize anti-establishment sentiments prevalent among locals.
  • Providing traditional rights: Government has taken measures such as giving them access to forest produce and traditional tilling rights. This has helped contain dissent up to certain extent.
  • Financial deprivation: Extremists raise finances mainly through extortion and illegal activities. By reducing such incidents, the movement can be overcome.

Government measures to tackle LWE:

  • SAMADHAN doctrine: It is an amalgamation of eight short-term to long-term policies formulated at different levels.
    • S- Smart Leadership
    • Aggressive Strategy
    • M- Motivation and Training
    • Actionable Intelligence
    • D- Dashboard Based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and KRAs (Key Result Areas)
    • H- Harnessing Technology
    • Action plan for each Theatre
    • N- No access to Financing
  • Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA): PESA Act gave self-rule for people living in scheduled areas of India. The gram Sabha was given more power concerning local issues, including land acquisition, mining, access to resources etc.
  • Forest Rights Act, 2006: The FRA gave title rights, producer rights, and developmental rights so that their livelihoods are protected. The Gram Sabha has been given the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR).
  • National Policy and Action Plan in 2015: It consists of a multi-pronged approach that includes security measures, development initiatives and ensuring rights & entitlements of local communities. Funds are provided to state governments under Modernization of Police Force (MPF), Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme and Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS) for modernization and training of State Police.
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA) scheme: This scheme has been able to fill critical gaps in public infrastructure and services. Projects such as road repair, improvement in health infrastructure, education related projects, rural infrastructure projects etc. have been undertaken under this scheme.
  • Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs): EMRS is a scheme that aims to develop model residential schools for students belonging to Scheduled Tribes. These schools will not only provide them with quality education but also promote all round development.

Counterinsurgencies across LWE areas

  • Salwa Judum: Salwa Judum (peace force) was launched by villagers angered by Naxal interference in the local trade of tendu leaves. It recruited local tribals and former Naxalites and made them Special Police Officers (SPOs).
  • Grey Hounds: It is the elite commando force of combined Andhra Pradesh state, created to fight left-wing extremists. It is considered the best anti-Naxalite force in the country. It follows the guerrilla approach, which is near similar to that of the Maoists, making them effective.
  • Operation Green Hunt: It was an unofficial term used to describe the “all-out offensive” launched by the government of India’s paramilitary forces and the state’s forces to defeat the Naxalites.

Way Forward

  • A one-dimensional approach, focusing excessively on security aspects, is not enough to effectively tackle LWE in India.
  • There must be an empathetic approach to address the conditions of the poor and the tribals so that their dissent is checked and not diverted into a movement such as this.
  • Creation of road and rail infrastructure will not just enhance economic growth and development but will also help in countering Maoist propaganda against the state.

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