India’s Left-Wing Extremists

Maoists in the rural areas of India continue to threaten and recruit as they prepare for revolution.

By Animesh Roul.

Despite the end of the Cold War, left-wing extremism remains a threat to global stability. Under a Maoist banner, such extremists continue to threaten, murder, and conquer in central India. They are known as the Naxal insurgency, or Naxalites, after the place they emerged, Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The left-wing extremist movement has plagued India since the mid-1960s and was once called the greatest threat to the country’s internal security. It has declined in recent years, but it has not abated. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs estimates that in the decade between 2005 and 2015, there have been 4,748 civilians and 1,896 security personnel killed in Naxal-led violence. The majority of the civilians killed were from pro-state tribal populations who face the wrath of Maoists for being “police informers” or “government agents”. Government figures from 2016 suggest that from January to November, 196 civilians and 64 security personnel have been killed by the Maoists and their supporters.

At the peak of their insurgency, Indian Maoists indiscriminately targeted legislators, security force officials, civilians, and infrastructures in their so-called Revolution Zone or Red Corridor, which comprises swathes of territory including parts of central and eastern India. The Maoist extremists once controlled nearly 40,000 sq. km spread across 20 states. Over the last ten years, nearly 70 districts in nine states have been affected by Naxal violence to varying degrees, according to a modest assessment by India’s Internal Affairs Ministry. Several more states still unofficially consider themselves a target.

The goal of the Maoists remains to take over the Indian state by armed violence or struggle. Though born in India, their movement was inspired by the revolutionary ideals of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution that emerged in China during the mid-1960s. Their immediate objectives are to achieve military strength and geographical consolidation to trigger …

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