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The threat of Maoism

Published: 10th May, 2019

In one of the worst retaliatory attacks on the anti-naxal security forces, Maoist insurgents blew up an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing 15 jawans and a civilian in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district recently.



In one of the worst retaliatory attacks on the anti-naxal security forces, Maoist insurgents blew up an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing 15 jawans and a civilian in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district recently.


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  • A unit of the Quick Response Team (QRT) of the Gadchiroli police was on its way to provide reinforcements to a police station, when the blast was triggered six kilometres from the police station.
  • The attack occurred in spite of beefing up of security by Maharashtra police in the taluka following an attack the previous night in which naxals had torched 36 vehicles meant to assist road construction work.
  • This latest ambush on police seems to be in retaliation for the killing of two senior women cadre of the rebels by the anti-naxal forces during an encounter in the forests of South Gadchirolia few days earlier.
  • 100-150 Maoists from a neighbouring Chhattisgarh village entered Gadchiroli.They asked drivers hired by contractor of road construction to hand over the keys. The diesel was pilfered and the same was used to set them ablaze.
  • A quick response team (QRT) was sent to help police station in the panchanama formalities into the arson case. A team of 15 men jostled and sat in a private vehicle.
  • When the vehicle was navigating through a culvert, the Maoists who used the tree cover as an ambush detonated the explosives, killing all 16.
  • This was a classic Maoist trap — first carry out arson and then compel the police to reach the spot and place landmines on the route for maximum casualty.
  • IEDs at this culvert weren’t the only one that the Maoists were planning to plant. Maoists had planted IEDs at two other locations, basically on all the routes that could have been taken by the police stations.


Similar attacks conducted by Maoists earlier:

  • 2009: The Maoists set on fire some vehicles at a road construction site in Dhanora tehsil. The police, aware of the possibility of an ambush, waited a couple of days before setting out on foot for the site of the arson. On reaching near the village, however, they came under fire from all directions, and lost 15 men.
  • 2012: The Maoists set off a landmine again in Dhanora, killing 13 CRPF personnel, and injuring 29. The CRPF men were travelling in a vehicle to a village which their then Director General of Police was to visit. No road-opening operation had been carried out to ensure safe passage for the vehicle, and the CRPF personnel proved easy targets for the Maoists.
  • 2014: The Maoists set off an explosion under a vehicle carrying policemen in Chamorshi tehsil. The men were returning to Gadchiroli from a combing operation, and had chosen to get on the vehicle on the assumption that the area was safe. Seven personnel were killed.

Rise of Maoist insurgency in India:

  • The first Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed in 1920 under the aegis of the Soviet regime.
  • After India’s independence in 1947, the Soviet supported both the centrist Indian National Congress and the left CPI.This led to abitter split, from which the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was formed 1964.
  • The CPI(M) declared its distance from the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) as well.But within three years of the split, the CPC managed to cause a split. Led by a man named CharuMajumdar, this new group rejected elections and opted for Mao Zedong’s “protracted people’s war” doctrine.
  • The group’s first altercation with police took place in a small sub-Himalayan hamlet called Naxalbari during a violent protest of peasants against a landlord said to be extracting heavy rates of interest from them.The 1967 Naxalbari uprising was quelled quickly. Majumdar was captured and killed in police custody in Calcutta soon after.But the movement had electrified hundreds inside the ranks of the party and soon groups emerged across the country pledging themselves to the Naxalbari path.
  • Following Mao’s death and China’s abandonment of sponsoring international revolution, the movement broke down into a chaos of splinters and factions.As many 149 Naxalite parties functioned independently, with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of the Naxalbari legacy.
  • Two major groups which were most organized and best-armedwere: the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in areas adjoining Nepal and the People’s War Group (PWG) in the areas that made up the princely state of Hyderabad (modern day Andhra Pradesh and Telangana).
  • A bloody territorial feud between the two parties, combined with a state crackdown, kept them apart, and each occupied their own territory.This situation lasted until September 21, 2004, when the two groups merged and formed the new Communist Party of India (Maoist). The combined force is now the single largest armed group operating inside India.

Causes of spread of Maoism:

  • The fight in Naxalbari in 1967 was about who had the right to farm produce. The same is the essence for Maoism–farm produce has been replaced with minerals and the landlord with mining corporations.
  • The land, the forests, the rivers have been exploited for resources.The Chota Nagpur and Orissa plateaus are loaded with 93 percent of the country’s iron ore, and 84 percent of its coal have become home to mining behemoths turning up every square mile of the plateaus hills, forests and rivers.And it is these exact areas that form the core zone of Maoist conflict.
  • There has been no development for the tribal.At the behest of the mining corporations, the government takes away the land and the forests of the tribal people and thereby their livelihoods away from them. But when the corporations set up shop, they don’t even employ the local people.


  • As a workaround, the government sponsored counter-militias and split tribes into those for and against Maoists. Those willing to fight the Maoists were offered guns, money and an honorary rank of special police officer.
  • SalwaJudum (meaning purification hut) militia, headed by tribal leader Mahendra Karma, was a result of this move.Karma had been a former member of the Communist Party of India but had rapidly risen through the ranks of power by switching sides and going over to the centrists, the Indian National Congress.
  • Before long, violence spiraled out of control and the SalwaJudum came under international scrutiny for gross violations of human rights and employment of child soldiers. Acting on a petition moved by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties in India, the Indian Supreme Court declared it illegal in 2011.

Way forward:

  • The mining industries which are using the resources of the region have moral responsibility for the development of the local people there. They should provide them with employment opportunities which will raise their standard of living and they should also develop the region with good infrastructure.
  • It is seen that there is rising aspirations for urban life among the younger generations of the tribal people. This has in turn catalyzed the shedding of past cultures in favor of the more homogenized, pan-Indian one. We should use this opportunity to bring the tribals in mainline society.
  • Tired of an itinerant life in the jungle, scores of mid-level leaders and fighters have deserted their brigades in the past five years and chosen salaried wages and family life instead. This alienation and disillusionment can be gauged from the rising number of surrenders among the Maoist fighters. We should plan to accommodate these tribals.
  • Besides the above soft approach we should also have some hard approach as elements of last resort. We should press in more battalions of CRPF in these regions to maintain peace and order. We should train personnels specialising in Maoist areas.
  • The forces should strictly follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) which performing any action. This will put control in casualties.
  • The forces should learn from the earlier attacks and improve their skills.
  • The intelligence agencies should be more proactive. They should always be ahead of the Maoists.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Several efforts have been taken by government to control the violence by Maoists but the recent IED attack on C60 commandos killing 15 personals shows more need to be done. Discuss the causes of continued Maoism and what efforts need to be taken to curb it.


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