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Left-Wing Extremism in 2004: An Assessment

Dr. Sanjay K Jha was Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • February 03, 2005

    While cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and multiple insurgencies in the Northeast remain the focus of India’s internal security planning, left-wing extremism (LWE) is gradually becoming another major source of concern. An assessment of the developments during the current year reveals their continuously expanding sphere of violence — both in terms of scale and intensity. The widening network of violence through linkages with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), increasing lethality of Maoist groups due to easy availability of small arms, and the open India-Nepal border have far reaching implications for India’s internal security.

    From 55 districts across nine States in the country in November 2003, Maoists have been able to expand into as many as 156 districts spreading across 13 States by September 2004.[1] Although Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh remained the worst affected States, the activities of LWE groups were also reported from Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In terms of fatalities also, the LWE violence registered an upsurge in 2004. Speaking in Parliament on December 14, 2004, Minister of State of Home Sriprakash Jaiswal said that Naxal violence claimed 518 lives, including 420 civilians and 98 security force personnel between January and November 30, 2004, compared to 513 deaths in the calendar year 2003.[2]

    Though the intensity and scale of LWE activities vary from state to state, a closer examination of the developments in the calendar year 2004 reveals certain broad patterns and trends. These are as follows:

    • Despite the ongoing ceasefire and peace negotiations in Andhra Pradesh, there are indications that the Maoists remain committed to expanding their area of activity and influence.
    • The merger of the Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist (People’s War), CPI-ML (PW), and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) — into a single party, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), CPI-M is likely to make the LWE movement more focused, widespread and lethal.
    • Indian Maoists continue to maintain deep linkages with the CPN-M to further expand, consolidate and unify Maoist movements in India and across South As
    • The growing relationship of Maoists with insurgent groups operating in eastern and northeastern parts of India has become an additional cause of concern with serious implications for internal security.
    • The border areas — both inter-state borders and India-Nepal border — remain more vulnerable. Taking advantage of the peace process in Andhra Pradesh, the lack of proper co-ordination among law enforcement agencies of the two Maoist-affected states and the difficulties in managing the open India-Nepal border, the Maoists have consolidated their presence in these areas.
    • Several front organizations such as the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) and the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), remained active during the year to provide greater coherence and focus to Maoist movements in South Asia.

    Consolidation and Expansion

    Apart from a host of internal factors such as poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment, existence of traditional structures of exploitation, poor performance of civil administration in rural areas and an ill-equipped police force, the dramatic expansion in Maoist influence has been, to a considerable extent, facilitated by greater ideological coherence provided by the perceived success of Maoism in Nepal and also due to the activities of several front organizations in the last few years. Prominent among such organizations which remained active during the year are: the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), the World People’s Resistance Movement, South Asia (WPRM South Asia), the Krantikari Jansangarsh Ekjutta Samiti and outfits involved in the Mumbai Resistance 2004.[3]

    This ideological synergy is evident in the unification move among Indian Naxalite groups, the most significant being the merger between the CPI-ML (PW) and the MCCI in September 2004. These were the two most powerful groups, responsible for more than 85 per cent of the LWE violence in the country. The merger is likely to result in the end of ‘turf wars’ between the two in Bihar and Jharkhand, thereby increasing their ‘fire power’ and ‘battle ability’. Outlining the agenda of the new party, one of its prominent leaders Ramakrishna said in Hyderabad on October 14, 2004 that the thrust of the new party would be to build up the ‘people’s army’ and base areas by intensifying the ongoing ‘agrarian revolutionary guerrilla war’ throughout the country.

    The merger could well be the beginning of a new phase in the history of LWE movement in India. In fact, statements by senior leaders of these groups suggest that they have been making concerted efforts to consolidate all revolutionary splinter groups into a unified and formidable force. This has put a serious question mark on the Andhra Pradesh government’s move to find a negotiated settlement with CPI-M and the CPI-ML (Janasakthi), another Maoist group operating in parts of the State.

    Peace Process in Andhra Pradesh

    The peace process began with a number of reconciliation measures by the Chief Minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy soon after he assumed office on May 14, 2004. This gesture of the Congress-led government did not come as a surprise, for during the campaigning for the State Legislative Assembly elections held in April 2004, the state Congress party had made it clear that, if voted to power, it would review the policy of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Government towards Naxalites. In fact, Naxalism was one of the important issues during the elections. After the October 1, 2003 attack on Chandrababu Naidu by the PW, the former recommended dissolution of the State Assembly and opted for early elections hoping to exploit the perceived ‘sympathy wave’ in his favour. He alleged that the Congress was hand in glove with the PW and is “conspiring to gain from the extremist issue and help them later.” The PW had also made its preference clear by selectively targeting the leaders and supporters of the TDP and its ally the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

    Expectedly, soon after assuming office, the Congress-led government announced a host of unilateral concessions to the PW. On June 16, 2004, the government declared a three-month long ceasefire. On July 21, the government allowed the ban on the PW to lapse, which had been first imposed in 1992 by then Congress party Chief Minister N Janardan Reddy on the PW and its seven front organizations.

    Available evidence suggests that the Naxal group has exploited the ‘favourable context’ provided by the government. Reports of armed Naxalites roaming free in villages, holding public meetings, carrying out recruitment drives, extortions and training of new recruits and strengthening of organization appeared regularly in media. Moreover, the outfit has shown no indication of any attempt to revisit its core ideology of capturing political power through armed struggle even if all of its demands are met.

    In the given context, it should not come as a surprise that the first ever direct talks between the Maoist groups and the Andhra Pradesh Government, which concluded on October 18, 2004, did not produce any significant breakthrough. Though the government extended the ceasefire till December 2004, both sides could not sign a formal ceasefire agreement due to Maoist insistence on carrying arms saying that weapons have a symbolic value for their ideology and struggle.

    Though it would be premature at this juncture to comment on the prospects for a negotiated settlement, there are indications that the peace process has run into trouble and there are uncertainties over the second round of talks. Speaking to media persons in Hyderabad on December 6, 2004, State Home Minister K Jana Reddy said that the present atmosphere is not conducive for a second round of peace talks with Naxalites in view of the incidents of extremist violence in some parts of the State.[4] A number of reports since the conclusion of the first round of talks suggest that the Maoists have been roaming around freely with arms and indulging in such illegal activities as extortion and illegal occupation of lands.[5]

    The trajectory of peace negotiations in Andhra Pradesh demonstrates that a peace process based on an unrealistic assessment of the motivation, capabilities and activities of insurgent groups can prove to be counter-productive. Moreover, the logic of negotiating with Maoist groups in one State while the group is active in other States is questionable. In the past also, the Maoists have used the peace process as a tactic and an opportunity for recovering, consolidating and expanding themselves. For example, during the failed peace process in 2002, the PW used the opportunity to regroup itself and enhance its operational capabilities. And earlier, during the regime of Chief Ministers N T Rama Rao[6] and M Chenna Reddy (1989-90) also the PW utilized the respite provided by State Governments to revitalize its organisation. This is evident when we examine the pattern of Maoist violence in other States during the current year.

    Spread of LWE Violence in Other States

    In affected States, the Maoist ambition is manifested in an escalation of violence and overt mobilization. For example, Jharkhand remained one of the worst affected States where Maoists are active in approximately 18 out of its 22 districts. During the current year also, the Maoists continued with their systematic attack on security force personnel, common public, government buildings, railway stations and private sector installations. Similarly in Bihar, where approximately 30 out of its 38 districts are under their control, Maoists continued with their violent campaign, both in their traditional strongholds and in areas bordering Nepal. Chhattisgarh also witnessed a similar intensification of Maoist violence. The impact of the ceasefire in Andhra Pradesh was visible all along the Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border. Speaking in Raipur on December 5, 2004, Chief Minister Raman Singh said, “After the peace talks, Naxalites are openly moving in Andhra Pradesh and because of that the activities of the ultras have increased in the areas of Chhattisgarh close to Andhra Pradesh border.”[7] The same has been the case with border areas in Orissa and Maharashtra.

    However, what has caused considerable concern within the Indian security establishment is an escalation of Maoist activities beyond their traditional strongholds in Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, 17 security force personnel were killed in a landmine blast in Chandauli district on November 20, 2004. Similarly, a number of Maoist-related incidents were reported from Uttaranchal, which has five districts bordering or proximate to Nepal. On September 6, 2004, police recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition at a Maoist training camp believed to have been set up by the MCCI in Champawat district. Earlier, on August 30, 2004, five suspected Nepalese Maoists were arrested from the Saufutia forests of the Udham Singh Nagar District.

    West Bengal too has seen an upsurge in Maoist violence. On December 4, 2004, approximately 150 armed Maoists blew up two excavators and a forest guesthouse at Kakrajhore village in West Bengal, bordering Ghatsila in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Earlier, on October 16, 2004, six personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) were killed in a landmine attack in the Ormara forest in West Midnapore district. In another major incident on February 25, 2004 eight security force personnel, including five from the EFR, were killed and four injured, when a powerful landmine exploded at Golabari in Midnapore district.

    Activities of Maoists were also reported from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In September 2004, the Tamil Nadu Government banned the PWG and its affiliated outfits.

    Beyond the above mentioned affected states, there is a much wider network of covert mobilization across the country including Haryana and Punjab in the north and Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west, far from the current areas of concentration in India’s east and south.

    External Linkages

    The Indian Maoists continued their linkage with Nepalese Maoists with increased coordinated activities in areas along the India-Nepal border particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttaranchal. The expansion of Maoist activities in border areas has certainly facilitated the use of Indian territory by Nepalese Maoists. Many Maoist cadres and leaders hiding in India were arrested on a number of occasions and handed over to the Nepalese authorities, or detained in Indian prisons. Apart from this, a number of incidents in the recent past have suggested that Maoists injured during encounters with the security forces had been treated in Indian hospitals. Besides, the India-Nepal border is also being used for supplying logistics to the Maoists.

    In this context, reported apprehensions about the CPN-M and Indian Naxalites forming what is known as the Revolutionary Corridor or the Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ) are not entirely misplaced. The purpose of the CRZ is to facilitate easy transportation of arms across their areas of influence and quick retreat to safe havens during times of intense security force operations in any part of the CRZ. The pattern of Maoist violence in the last few years suggests that the expansion of Naxal violence in the Indian hinterland and along the border areas is broadly in conformity with the concept of the CRZ. The creation of this ‘Red Corridor’ will have serious internal security implications, as this would not only result in an area of disorder from Nepal in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, but would also have the potential to cause instability in other areas in the Indian hinterland.

    Another dimension to the Maoist use of Indian territory is their attempt to establish a network in certain border areas and areas populated by Nepali population in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh. In these areas, the Maoists already enjoy the support of a section of people of Nepal origin through outfits such as the Akhil Bhartiya Nepali Ekta Samaj (ABNES).

    As far as linkages with other terrorist groups to procure arms are concerned, the links with the LTTE was reported during the current year as well. Quoting Coast Guard sources, media reports on June 18, 2004 said that the LTTE regularly supply PWG cadres with gun and munitions. The landing happens on the coastline in Krishna and Guntur districts in Andhra Pradesh.[8] In the past also, the LTTE supplied arms and imparted training in using IEDs to the PWG.

    As far as linkage for mutual benefits are concerned, reports of Maoist connection with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) have added new dimensions to the Indian internal security scenario. On March 24, 2004, a senior Nepalese Maoist leader, Mohan Kiran Vaidya, was arrested near Siliguri town in West Bengal. Subsequent interrogation confirmed linkages between the Nepalese Maoists and these groups. According to media reports, the relationship assumed significance after the Royal Bhutanese Army launched an offensive on December 15, 2003 to flush out the ULFA, KLO and the NDFB. After the crackdown, a number of senior Maoist leaders reportedly met top leaders of the ULFA in north-western Bhutan and extended an invitation to them to set up camps in Nepal. The ULFA, in turn, agreed to train the Maoist cadres and provide arms.

    The situation is further complicated by the apprehension that the ISI and other Pakistan-backed entities might incorporate the Maoist and Naxalite groups in their larger strategy to destabilise India. On November 25, 2004, media reports said that police have unearthed Maoist links with "contacts" based in Karachi in Pakistan, from an encounter site at Kukkalagondi Thanda in Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.[9] It assumes significance in the light of reports of increased ISI activities in Nepal, and use of the unprotected India-Nepal border to infiltrate terrorists, arms and fake currency into India in the past. If the security situation in Nepal continues to deteriorate and the government is unable to maintain effective control, then the possibility of an unstable Nepal being used as a sanctuary or a staging ground by anti-India terrorist groupings cannot be ruled out.


    • Given the trajectory of left-wing extremist movement in India in the year 2004, a further escalation in violence remains a reasonably high possibility.
    • Apart from the traditional strongholds of the movement in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, further consolidation and expansion of Naxal activities in newer areas in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh are likely to pose additional challenges to security forces and the government.
    • In view of the merger of Naxalite groups and greater ideological coherence provided by the CCOMPOSA, RIM and other front organizations, any further consolidation of the idea of the CRZ would give a boost to LWE groups and could make the Naxalite movement in India more violent than what it currently is.
    • The networking of Maoist organisations presents a challenge for individual states to find a way to contain or eliminate such networks beyond the boundaries of specific theatres of conflict. Disruption of such links would be effective in countering insurgencies if there is a common understanding both within India and with Nepal on the nature and trajectory of this violence, the group dynamics, their support structure, and external linkages and initiation of a series of coordinated responses.
    • Such joint responses must come as part of a comprehensive strategy, which objectively addresses the underlying economic and socio-political issues that give rise to and sustain such movements.

    The views expressed are personal.

    1. See Ajai Sahni, “Bad Medicine for a Red Epidemic,” South Asia Intelligence Review, vol. 3, no. 12, October 4, 2004, at Also see, “About 45 percent of India under terror shadow,” The Times of India (New Delhi), December 8, 2004.
    2. “Maoist violence claims 518 lives: Jaiswal,” see Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Annual Report 2003-04, at
    3. Mumbai Resistance 2004: Against Imperialist Globalization and War, was an event organized on January 17-20, 2004 in Mumbai by several front organizations of Maoist outfits. The event was a good illustration of the networks in place between the Maoist guerrilla outfits, as well as their fronts, in various countries for political mobilization and expansion of its support base. It was organized parallel to the World Social Forum, 2004, held in Mumbai during January 16- 21, 2004.
    4. “Andhra Govt rules out second round of naxal talks,” Hindustan Times (New Delhi), December 7, 2004, at,000900020004.htm.
    5. PV Ramana, “Informal Peace In Andhra,” at
    6. NT Rama Rao was Chief Minister from 1983 to 1989, except for a brief period between August 16, 1984 and September 16, 1984 when N Bhaskara Rao was Chief Minister. During his second tenure, from 1985 to 1989, he was forced to take a tough stand against the PWG in view of an escalation in Naxalite violence.
    7. “Spurt in naxal activities in AP-Chhattisgarh border areas,” at
    8. “LTTE, Naxal tryst on high seas”, The Times of India, New Delhi: June 18, 2004
    9. “Links of Naxals with contacts in Pak unearthed: Andhra Police”, at,000900020004.htm