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India
03 May 2017

Anti-feudal to anti-capitalist: Changing face of Maoism in India

The Naxalist/Maoist violence has been termed India's biggest internal threat. Starting in the 60s as an agrarian uprising against feudalism, the violence has acquired a new dimension, targeting symbols of capitalism including corporate houses and mining companies.

In a sense the nature of conflict has transformed in terms of end goals, tactics and targets.

Let us know more on the evolution of Maoist strategy!

In context

Left Wing Extremism in India: A primer

What is Left Wing Extremism?

The Ministry of Home Affairs classifies the acts perpetrated by Maoists under Left Wing Extremism. LWE can be understood as extremist acts intended towards overthrowing capitalist societies, intending to replace them with a communist system. Maoist strategy follows Mao's prescriptions on guerrilla warfare.

History

Maoist movement in India

The movement took shape when Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal formed the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967.

CPI (Maoist), a terrorist organization was formed in 2004 when the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) merged with People's War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre of India, two largest armed Maoist groups in India.

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Objectives

What does LWE aim at?

LWE in India draws inspiration from philosophy and strategy propounded by Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. The ultimate aim of LWE is to orchestrate "the armed overthrow of the Indian state."

CPI (M) documents on strategy of the Indian revolution talks about building people's armies and establishing bases in order to wage a war of attrition, to acquire a decisive victory of the army.

How has the strategy evolved over time?

Tactics

How has the strategy evolved over time?

The Naxal movement's key strategy is to engage in massacres and counter massacres against private armies of upper caste farmers.

Maoist tactics currently focus on waging a forceful campaign for "jal, zameen and jungle". They have resorted to using indigenously built arms including rocket launchers and use of explosives.

They have further tactfully moved across state boundaries, gaining ground in hills and jungles.

Details

Geographical spread

LWE has spread across 106 districts in 10 states including Maharashtra and UP.

Originating in the interior regions of West Bengal and Telangana, LWE spread to newly formed states Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and in areas of states with an administrative vacuum.

Initially ambushing the plains in these states, they later moved on to forests in Orissa and southern WB.

The Red Corridor

"Red Corridor" refers a stretch of territory in the east of India stretching from West Bengal to Karnataka covering districts including MP, UP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. 44 districts in the Red Corridor are said to be worst affected making them a special focus for centre.

Trends

Strengthened attacks

In the initial years, Maoists resorted to using landmines built from explosives procured from coalmines; and guerrilla attacks killing hundreds of security forces and disrupting railway lines.

The period since 2010 has seen ambushes on security convoys and police stations resulting in high casualties and civilian deaths.

The most recent attack in Sukma in Chhattisgarh in April killed 25 CRPF Jawans.

Analysis

Threats from within

Indian security establishment is under overwhelming pressure from growing internal security threats including LWE and civilian protests in Kashmir.

Fighting forces similar to professional armies on both fronts, the Indian establishment is fighting a large scale conflict, significantly draining its resources.

While it would be impossible for Maoists to upstage Indian government for many years, security forces need to plan ahead for such contingencies.

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