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  • Maoist Movement in India: An Overview

    The paper sketches the trajectory of the Maoist movement in India, keeping in view the CPI (Maoist)’s history (including organisation and proliferation), ideology, strategy and tactics.

    August 06, 2013

    Maoists Link in Odisha: Case of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh

    The Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), an association of peasants, bonded labours and the tribal, is a classic case of a popular movement being hijacked by the Maoists to get their foothold in Koraput, Malkanagiri and Rayagada districts of Odisha.

    August 05, 2013

    Amit Rathee asked: What is the difference between Left Wing Extremism, Naxalism and Maoism in the Indian context?

    P.V. Ramana replies: Naxalism and Left-Wing Extremism are used interchangeably.

    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, Siliguri sub-division, 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.

    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.

    Amit Rathee asked: Considering the fact that arms of foreign origin were used in recent Naxal attacks, what is the current state of arms trafficking in India? What specific measures are being taken in this regard?

    Vivek Chadha replies: The terrorist and insurgent groups operating in India get arms and ammunition essentially from two sources. In the first instance, weapons are moved from across the border. These can be pushed in as a result of state sponsorship, as seen in the case of Pakistan in J&K. It could also be smuggled along with drugs and fake currency as composite loads, as is common along the borders of Punjab and Rajasthan. Finally, it is trafficked from countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal for profit. This is a major source of weapons for insurgent groups in the Northeast. Most of these weapons are of Chinese origin and reach the clandestine Southeast Asian arms markets. These are then bid for and bought with the aim of trafficking. The Naxals can potentially procure these weapons from groups in the Northeast, given their comfortable financial position.

    The second source is indigenous. It needs to be reinforced that most weapons used by the Naxals are of Indian origin and are snatched and looted from the police and central police organisations. Given the large scale of looting that has been in progress, there has not been a very critical need for weapons from outside for the Naxals.

    One of the steps initiated for reducing arms trafficking is the establishment of a border fence, which has brought down incidents of smuggling. The deployment of border forces has also been augmented and made more dynamic to improve anti-smuggling measures. The positioning of electronic surveillance devices has helped in keeping an eye on the borders. Improvement in scanning of people and vehicles has also taken place, which has helped reduce trafficking. However, having said this, there is a lot more that needs to be done to stop trafficking of arms, especially in areas which have difficult ground conditions or where borders are porous, as in the case of Nepal.

    Meeting the Maoist Challenge

    A well-deliberated and finely calibrated response strategy with matching operational doctrines is essential to deal with the Maoist challenge.

    June 03, 2013

    Chaitanya Mungi asked: What are the steps taken by the government to tackle Naxalism or to end it?

    Reply: Refer to the text of lecture by former Home Secretary, Mr. G.K. Pillai, on “Left-Wing Extremism in India” at IDSA on March 5, 2010

    Also, refer to the following IDSA publications:

    Measures to Deal with Left-Wing Extremism/Naxalism
    By P. V. Ramana, IDSA Occasional Paper No. 20, 2011

    Rockets in Maoist Arsenal

    Rockets in the Maoist arsenal may seem, presently, to have nuisance value. However, the possibility of the Maoists acquiring greater capability to fire the rockets with accuracy cannot be ruled out. Many strategic and static locations would come under threat with disastrous consequences.

    May 10, 2013

    Nishant Turan asked: How do Naxalites financially sustain their movement? What are their sources of funding?

    Vivek Chadha replies: Financing of terrorism usually fits into three categories. The first is state sponsored, wherein an external state sponsors and funds terrorism to facilitate the achievement of its strategic aims. This is essentially the case in J&K. The second is globalisation of terror finance, where a group raises funds employing the power of modern day inter-connectivity which links the financial systems of the world. It makes funds raised in Europe as convenient and accessible as those raised locally. The LTTE exploited this mechanism in the past. The third category is privatisation of terror finance. In this case, a group raises funds locally and essentially on its own. The Naxalites fall in the third category, as do most insurgent groups in the Northeast.

    The Naxalites are known to have a very elaborate taxation system, wherein every produce in the area is taxed, from tendu leaves to agricultural produce. They also resort to extortion from vehicles, businesses and households. Every type of vehicle has a fixed rate, which is systematically collected in the region. A very large percentage of their income also comes from extortion of large business houses which have their business interests in the region. These could vary from mining companies to manufacturing units. Reports have indicated that illegal mining carried out by locals is also taxed. There are also reports, though yet to be verified, regarding raising of funds through taxation of opium farms. The extent and scale is still a matter of speculation, however, given the inaccessibility of the area, it does pose a serious threat to the state agencies. The funds collected are sent to the Central Committee, with a small percentage allocated for the operational and administrative support of the local cadres

    India’s Maoists: The Party shall be over!

    Although there has been little change in the influence of Naxalites across the country over the past couple of years, patience and concerted effort shall no doubt make the Maoists irrelevant.

    September 07, 2012

    Nishant Turan asked: How and from where do the Naxalites procure their weapons?

    Anil Kamboj replies: The Naxalites procure weapons from different sources and by different methods. There are numerous reports that link Naxalites to a number of militant and criminal groups throughout South Asia. These groups have interacted with Maoists from Nepal, insurgent groups of India’s Northeast, ISI-backed Islamists from Bangladesh and criminals from Myanmar. Weapons flow among these groups without much check. The details of Naxalite’s sources of weaponry are as follows:

    1. Initially, the Naxalites collected weapons from the local people. These were old vintage type muzzle loader guns and locally made shotguns used for killing animals and hunting. Some of them also used bows and arrows. Their main weapon used to be their human strength, that is, their large numbers. Later they started looting arms and ammunition from the local police outposts in the Naxalite infested areas. After gaining confidence, they stared raiding the armoury and ambushing the police and security force patrol parties to loot/snatch their arms, ammunition and equipments, like bullet proof jackets, night vision devices, communication sets, etc.

    2. The Naxalites also obtained weapons by bribing or coercing members of the security forces to sell or give their firearms and the ammunition along with their equipment.

    3. Naxalites also have their own local arms factories. The manufacturing of arms demonstrate a wide range of craftsmanship, right from assembling makeshift weapons from discarded parts to more advanced forging process. These factories also produce homemade mortar rounds and components for improvised explosive devices. As reported, they even have laboratory to test the improvised explosive devices, land mines, claymore mines and other sophisticated explosives/ammunition.

    4. It was initially the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that had provided the Naxalites the training in the handling of weapons, mines and grenades at a camp near Bastar in Chattisgarh State. Later when the LTTE fighters fled Sri Lanka after their 2009 defeat, it is suspected that a few Tamil fighters began providing training of all types to the Naxalites in exchange for safe haven.

    5. The Nepalese Maoists have not only exchanged training and weapons with the Naxalites, but also their strategic planning.

    6. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) has helped Indian Maoists to procure weapons and ammunition through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    7. There is a relationship between the ULFA and Naxalites to smuggle drugs through Bangladesh border in exchange of weapons and ammunition.

    8. There is no shortage of explosives with the Naxalites. They are able to procure the same from the mining contractors operating in the Naxalite -controlled areas, including fertilizer distributors and mining companies that maintain stocks of explosives, blasting caps and detonators.

    9. The Naxalites have also procured foreign weapons, ammunition and explosives from external militant and criminal groups operating within and outside of India. Such shipments are traded for smuggling services or purchased with funds from banditry, extortion or revolutionary taxes. Purchasing weapons from the outside is very expensive. According to an article published in 2009 by India Daily News, Naxalite expenditure reports seized by police showed that, over a six-month period, one zone command spent more than three-quarters of the unit’s budget on weapons. Such evidence suggests that their effort to procure weapons from outside have certain limitations; obtaining them locally is far cheaper and can be done by virtually any Naxalite fighter. The Naxalite arsenal is thus vast and diverse, consisting of arms and ammunition manufactured in China, Pakistan and India. How many weapons are held by the Naxalites is anybody’s guess.