Naxalite Movement in India: Causes and Solutions | UPSC

Naxalite Movement in India: Causes and Solutions


  • India’s remarkable economic development in the last 30 years has earned it the rank of the fastest growing democracy in the world.
  • However, three major issues in the country have threatened its advancement on the international scene, its development and its national unity.
  • These are: the Jammu and Kashmir conflict (as old as independent India itself), the separatist movements in the North Eastern states (which date back to the early 1950s) and the Naxalite insurgency.
  • The Naxal movement in India, originating from the Naxalbari uprising in 1967, persists as a significant challenge to governance, security, and socio-economic development in affected regions.

Who are Maoists and Naxals?

  • Maoists are the group of people who believe in the political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong.
  • They strongly believe that the solution to social and economic discrimination is to overthrow the existing political system.
  • The largest and the most violent Maoist formation in India is the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
  • On March 2, 1967, Naxalites, as they are generically known in India, who were then members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), led a tribal peasant uprising in Naxalbari village, Darjeeling district, West Bengal.
  • Since then, all those who subscribed to the idea of an armed over-throw of the state have been generically referred to as Naxalites, the term having its origins in Naxalbari village. Naxalism and Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) are used interchangeably.
  • On the other hand, the term Maoists refers exclusively to cadres and leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). All Maoists are Naxalites, but all Naxalites are not Maoists.

Left Wing Extremism affected region in India and the Red Corridor

  • The States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala are considered LWE affected, although in varying degrees.
  • Red Corridor or the critically affected areas of the Maoist influence represent approximately 30-32 districts. Most of this falls in the Dandakaranya region which include areas of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This further includes the core area of Abhujmad (See the map given below).

Red Corridor

The origins of Naxalism

a) Phase I: 1967-1971

  • The birth of Naxalism is pinpointed to the Naxalbari uprising of 1967 in West Bengal. Naxalbari, the village that gave its name to the movement, was the site of a peasant revolt, instigated by communist leaders against land owners of the State.
  • While at this point, India had been independent from the British for 20 years, the country had retained the colonial land tenancy system.
  • Under the British imperial system, indigenous landlords were granted pieces of land in return for their collection of tax revenue and as in Medieval European feudal systems, these landlords subleased their land to peasants for half their yield.
  • As shown by the 1971 census, nearly 60% of the population was landless, the lion’s share of land being owned by the richest 4%.
  • In 1971, the Union government commenced Operation Steeplechase and sent the army and members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) into West Bengal.
  • The operation lasted 45 days from June to August, and ultimately crushed the Naxalite movement. Following the retaliation by State forces, the movement saw a decline in activity for the following two decades.

b) Phase II: 1990-2004

  • However, the insurgency resurfaced in the 1990s, during the liberalization of the Indian economy when the government began granting licenses to private and multinational mining corporations, when splintered Naxalite groups began dialogues and negotiations to recycle the original movement, only this time in a more structured fashion.
  • One of the most famous results of these negotiations is the merger of two of the biggest and most active Naxalite groups, the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Center in 2004. This merger resulted in the Communist Party of India-Maoists (CPI-Maoists).

c) Phase III: Modern Maoists

  • The merger of the People’s War Group and Maoist Communist Center in 2004 resulted in the creation of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), and an upsurge in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) related violence.
  • The return of this insurgency forced the Indian Government to implement policies that would contain and eventually eradicate the Naxalite threat, resulting in the creation of The Left Wing Extremism Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs in October 2009 to tackle the various Naxalite factions spread throughout the country.

Chief reason for the spread of Naxalism in India

  • The Bandyopadhyay Committee (2006) highlighted the lack of governance, economic, socio-political and cultural discrimination against the tribals as the chief reason for the spread of Naxalism.

a) Socio-Economic Factors:

  • Land Ownership and Distribution: Historically, India has faced issues of landlessness and unequal distribution of land. Many rural areas have seen the concentration of land in the hands of a few landlords, leading to exploitation and disenfranchisement of the landless laborers.
  • Economic Exploitation: The exploitation of the rural poor by landlords, moneylenders, and other influential figures, often leading to debt bondage and perpetuation of poverty.
  • Lack of Basic Services: Many rural areas lack basic amenities such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, exacerbating poverty and inequality.
  • Failure of Land Reforms: Despite efforts to implement land reforms post-independence, progress has been slow and often ineffective, leading to continued concentration of land in the hands of a few.

b) Political Factors:

  • Marginalization and Alienation: Historically marginalized communities, such as tribal groups and Dalits, have often faced discrimination and neglect from the state. This alienation has fueled resentment and a sense of injustice.
  • Failure of Governance: Inadequate governance, corruption, and inefficiency in addressing the needs of rural populations have eroded trust in the government and its institutions.
  • Repression and Violence: Heavy-handed tactics by security forces, including human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings, have alienated communities and pushed them towards insurgency.

c) Geographical Factors:

  • Remote and Resource-Rich Areas: Naxalism has found fertile ground in remote and resource-rich areas, where state presence is often weak, and grievances among local populations are high.
  • Forest and Tribal Areas: Forested and tribal regions, with their historical marginalization and lack of development, have become hotspots for Naxal activity, as they provide both cover and a sympathetic local population.

Aims and objectives of the Naxalite Movement in India

  • The CPI-Maoists, which was declared a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in 2009, aims to bring about a communist revolution as was seen in China in the 1930s and 1940s, while being oblivious to the fact that the political context of modern-day India cannot be compared to the civil-war inflicted China of 80 years past.

Political and military strategy of the Naxals

  • Both the political and military strategy of the CPI-Maoists are centred on civilian masses. The political strategy is to exploit the existing class inequalities in India to the Maoists’ advantage, as unequal income distribution, socio-demographic disparity, poverty and deprivation are issues that plague the underdeveloped areas of the country.
      • Maoists draw on this to mobilize socially and economically marginalized populations, such as the Adivasis.
  • The military strategy aims to create revolutionary ‘base areas’in the countryside where the State has little reach and cannot enforce the rule of law. The weakness of the State in such areas, combined with the support of alienated Adivasis, allow the Maoists to sustain their operations.
  • The nature of the Maoist’s ideology translates into using guerrilla tactics against the State. As their base areas are distributed in dense forests and hilly territories, where the State is relatively weak, they are able to maximize the use of the terrain in their favour.
      • The size of the Maoist army and its resources render it unlikely to succeed in a full blown confrontation with the Indian forces.

Impact of the LWE on socio-political and economic sphere

  • They threaten the locals before the conduct of elections and prevent them from voting. Violating the principle of participative democracy.
  • They resort to violence through their guerrilla tactics and attempt to setup their own government in the local villages.
  • They destroy the roads, transport system and government resources, thereby creating hindrance in governance and connectivity.
  • They resort to extortion, abduction of important personalities like Politicians, bureaucrats, police etc. and put up their demand.
  • They attack the police, government and collect weapons, technological devices to fight against them on technological front.

Current Trends of Left Wing Extremism

  • Union Home Minister has recently commented that violence related to Left Wing Extremism (LWE) had come down by 76% in 2022 as compared to 2010, owing to the Centre’s three-pronged strategy — a “ruthless approach to curb extremist violence”, better coordination with the affected States and development through public participation.
  • The Naxal violence in India has decreased by 77 per cent over the past 12 years and the number of deaths in related incidents has also reduced by 90 per cent during the same period, the government said in Lok Sabha.
  • There has been a decline in geographical spread of violence is also reflected in the reduced number of districts covered under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme.
  • 126 districts were covered under the SRE scheme in 2010 but that number came down to 90 in April 2018 and further to 70 in July 2021.

Reasons for the decline in Left Wing Extremism

  • Greater presence of security forces across the LWE affected States.
  • Loss of leaders on account of arrests, surrender and desertions.
  • Rehabilitation programs by the governments.
  • Better monitoring and shortage of funds and arms.
  • Intelligence sharing and raising of Indian Reserve Battalions (IRBs), COBRA battalions etc.
Counter-insurgencies across LWE areas

Operation Green Hunt: It was started in 2009-10 and massive deployment of security forces was done in the Naxal-affected areas.

Salwa Judum (Peace Force) is group of tribal persons and former Naxalites mobilised for resistance against outlawed armed CPI (Maoist). While the group was reportedly backed by government machinery in Chhattisgarh, it faced backlash from left wing extremists.

  • On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court of India banned Salwa-Judum and directed Chhattisgarh government to disband any militia force founded to combat Maoist guerrillas.

CoBRA Teams

• The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) was raised under the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in 2009 for undertaking intelligence-based jungle warfare operations.

• It has both male and female contingents.

• The majority of CoBRA teams, whose commandos are expected to have tough mental and physical attributes, are deployed in various Maoist violence affected states while a few are based in the northeastern states for undertaking counter-insurgency operations.

• The CRPF, with a strength of about 3.25 lakh personnel, is designated as the lead internal security combat unit with its maximum deployment in three major theatres of Jammu and Kashmir, Left Wing Extremism affected states and insurgency-hit areas on India’s northeast.

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.

Government’s approach to deal with Left Wing Extremism

  • The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. 
  • The government first aims to retake the territory held by Naxalites and hold it securely, and re-establish relations with the local population before carrying out development projects.
  • Furthermore, in order to counter the “land-grabbing”narrative of the Maoists, the government has adopted laws that aim to decrease poverty rates and reform land acquisition.
      • As such, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) of 2005 (one of the largest poverty-eradication programs in the world), provides a legal guarantee of 100 days of public-sector employment to rural households, in order to decrease the urban/rural disparities and to reduce recruitment opportunities for Maoists as rural populations would have less incentive to join.
      • In regards to the prevention of land acquisition, the government implemented the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act in 2013 and the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
      • While on paper, the laws aim to provide security against forcible land acquisition and allow indigenous tribes to live in forest areas, an estimated 10 million Adivasis have been displaced due to development projects.
      • This challenges the government’s aim to re-establish ties with populations who work with and support the Naxalites. Indeed, the deeply rooted mistrust of authorities has to be overcome, which explains why the Indian government has included “public perception management”in its approach.
  • Aside from improving public perception, the government has included development strategies in the implementation of its counter-insurgency policies.
Government initiatives to fight LWE

Aspirational Districts Programme: Launched in 2018, it aims to rapidly transform the districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas.

SAMADHAN doctrine encompasses the entire strategy of government from short-term policy to long-term policy formulated at different levels.

  • SAMADHAN stands foro S- Smart Leadership, o A- Aggressive Strategy, o M- Motivation and Training, o A – Actionable Intelligence, o D- Dashboard Based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and KRAs (Key Result Areas), o H- Harnessing Technology, o A- Action plan for each Theatre, o N- No access to Financing.

ROSHNI is a special initiative under, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (Formerly Ajeevika Skills), launched in June 2013 for training and placement of rural poor youth from LWE affected districts.

• In a bid to provide better education facilities to the children of the Maoist affected districts, the Centre has decided to set up Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) in these areas also.

Conclusion and the way forward

  • Seizing land from oppressors and redistributing it amongst the peasants has been the aim of the Naxalites since its creation. Today, they are no longer fighting against imperialist landlords but the State and its development industries.
  • Hence, India’s advancement as a world power, and its integrity, remains challenged by the Naxalite insurgency. By attacking development and infrastructure projects, Naxalites directly impede the development of India’s economy, while themselves perpetuating the cycle of poverty and marginalisation of rural populations.
  • As such, the Indian government has had to adapt to this unconventional warfare. While their counter-insurgency has shown successes, they have also led to human rights violations.
  • The Maoists’ suspected connections to organised crime further shows that the group has evolved from its original ideology and has become more profit motivated. These sources of funding should be explored by counter-insurgency units in order to evaluate the situation and adopt appropriate policies to counter this.
  • Furthermore, the connection with other insurgency groups, as well as the involvement of the Pakistani ISI, in being the middle-man for these groups, India could be faced with a security threat that extends beyond the Red Corridor.
  • While the erstwhile Maoist ideology is losing its appeal, hard counter-terrorism strategies coupled with an efficacious population-centric campaign by the State, aimed at winning over hearts and minds, seems the answer.


Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims:

Q. Which of the following are among the important initiatives for the Left Wing Extremism affected states?

1. National Policy and Action Plan

2. ‘SAMADHAN’ Strategy

3. Eklavya Model Residential Schools

4. Aspirational Districts Programme

5. Creation of Left Wing Extremism Division in NITI Aayog

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 1, 4 and 5 only

(c) 1, 2, 3 and 4 only

(d) 2, 3, 4 and 5 only

Answer: (c)


Important Initiatives for 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. (Hence, point 1 is correct)
  • The Home Ministry has enunciated an operational strategy ‘SAMADHAN’ to fight Left Wing Extremism. (Hence, point 2 is correct)
  • In a bid to provide better education facilities to the children of the Maoist affected districts, the Centre has decided to set up Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) in these areas also. (Hence, point 3 is correct)
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has been tasked with the monitoring of Aspirational Districts Programme in 35 LWE affected districts. (Hence, point 4 is correct)

Left Wing Extremism Division

  • This Division was created in the Ministry of Home Affairs to effectively address the Left Wing Extremist insurgency in a holistic manner. (Hence, point 5 is not correct)

Therefore, option (c) is the correct answer.

Relevance: 29 Maoists killed in a clash with security forces.

Subject: Current Affairs | Geography

Level of Difficulty: Moderate | Factual

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC Mains:

Topic: Role of External State and Non-state Actors in creating challenges to Internal Security (GS Mains Paper 3)

  1. What socio-economic, political, and historical factors have contributed to the persistence of the Naxal movement in India, and what are the implications for governance, security, and socio-economic development in affected regions? (Answer in 250 words)


  • The Naxal movement in India, originating from the Naxalbari uprising in 1967, persists as a significant challenge to governance, security, and socio-economic development in affected regions. Its endurance can be understood through a multifaceted analysis of socio-economic, political, and historical factors.

Chief reason for the spread of Naxalism in India

a) Socio-Economic Factors:

  • The persistence of the Naxal movement is deeply rooted in socio-economic inequalities prevalent in affected regions.
  • Land Disputes and Rural Discontent: Historically, landownership issues and disputes over land distribution have fueled agrarian unrest, with landless peasants feeling disenfranchised and exploited by landlords.
  • Economic Marginalization: Poverty, lack of access to basic services, and economic exploitation exacerbate grievances among marginalized communities, providing fertile ground for Naxal recruitment.
  • Failure of Development: Inadequate development initiatives and neglect from the state have perpetuated socio-economic disparities, leading to a sense of alienation and resentment among local populations.

b) Political Factors:

  • Political dynamics contribute significantly to the persistence of the Naxal movement.
  • Governance Deficits: Weak governance, corruption, and inefficiency in addressing grievances have eroded trust in state institutions, creating space for Naxal influence.
  • Repression and Violence: Heavy-handed tactics by security forces, human rights abuses, and lack of accountability further alienate affected communities, fueling support for the Naxals.
  • Ideological Appeal: Naxal ideology, advocating for social justice and armed struggle against perceived oppression, resonates with marginalized groups disillusioned with mainstream politics.

Implications for Governance, Security, and Socio-Economic Development:

  • The persistence of the Naxal movement poses multifaceted challenges.
  • Governance: Weak governance exacerbates grievances and undermines state legitimacy, hindering effective conflict resolution and development initiatives.
  • Security: Naxal violence threatens stability and security in affected regions, necessitating a delicate balance between counterinsurgency operations and addressing root causes.
  • Socio-Economic Development: Persistent conflict impedes socio-economic development, perpetuating cycles of poverty and hindering efforts to address underlying grievances.


  • The Naxal movement’s persistence is a complex interplay of socio-economic, political, and historical factors. Addressing these root causes is essential for effective governance, security, and socio-economic development in affected regions.
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