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Understanding Left Wing Extremism and how can it be tackled

  • Category
  • Published
    13th Apr, 2021

GS-III: Security

  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • Challenges to internal security


At least 22 jawans were killed and 31 sustained injuries in the deadly encounter between security forces and Naxals in Tarrem, along the Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh.


  • The recent attack has raised questions on the claims that left-wing extremism in the country is on the decline.
  • Since a crackdown on Maoists started in 2005 in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states, many states have largely tackled the problem.
  • The implementation of a socio-economic agenda, coupled with effective police action and field-level intelligence, led to the decline in Maoist activity in those states.
  • The number of districts declared LWE-affected is today just 90, down from over 200 in the early 2000s.
  • However, Naxals still have a stronghold in many tribal areas of Chattisgarh.


Understanding Naxalism

  • The word ‘Naxalism’ has been derived from a village named Naxalbari of West Bengal.
  • The Naxal rebellion started in 1967 in West Bengal. Its aim was the rightful redistribution of the land to working peasants.
  • The movement began under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal and Jagan Santhal.
  • Today, it has become one of the biggest internal security threats faced by India.
  • Modus-operandi of Naxals:
    • To create conditions for non-functioning of the government and actively seek disruption of development activities
    • To spread fear among the law-abiding citizens.
  • Naxalism is concentrated in Eastern India, particularly an area known as the Red Corridor spread across the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Some districts of Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, etc. are also impacted by Naxalism.
  • The inequality and feeling of relative deprivation that persists in India, has become the root cause of Naxalism. This feeling among people had given rise to a commitment to take revenge on the people, who are supposedly the cause of the inequality.
  • Currently, the movement is largely supported by marginalized groups of India including Dalits and Adivasis, who have a feeling that they have been constantly neglected by the Government.
  • Further, Naxals support Maoist political sentiments and ideology.

Causes of Naxalism

  1. Development deficit
    • Evasion of land ceiling laws by politically and economically stronger classes
    • Encroachment and occupation of Government and community lands
    • Disruption of the age-old tribal-forest relationship
  2. Social exclusion
    • Unemployment and Poverty
    • Infrastructure deficit
    • Lack of education and Poor health facilities
  3. Governance deficit
    • Violation of human rights
    • Abuse of dignity of life
    • Disconnect with mainstream society
    • Discontent against government
  4. Exploitative Deficit
    • Incompetent, ill-trained, and poorly motivated public personnel
    • Mismanagement and corruption.
    • Poor implementation of laws and schemes

Steps taken by Government

  • The Government has tried to deal with the challenge in a holistic manner, in the areas of
    • security
    • development
    • ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities
    • improvement in governance
    • public perception management with a targeted focus on relatively more affected areas
  • Since 'Police' and 'Public Order' are State subjects, the Central Government works to enhance the capacity of the State Governments to tackle the Maoist menace in a concerted manner.
  • Naxals have to be differentiated from terrorists. A hardline approach that works against the terror outfits cannot be applied to Naxalism.
  • The approach to deal with Naxalism can be understood by classifying them under ‘Hard and Soft’ approaches.
  • While the ‘Hard’ approach involves the use of Force against violent elements, the ‘Soft’ approach involves a focus on bridging developmental gaps in Naxalism-affected areas.

Steps taken for Hard Approach

  • Police Modernization Scheme and fortification of police stations in areas affected by Naxal movements. Central assistance in the training of State Police.
  • National Policy and Action Plan 2015: a multi-dimensional strategy in the areas of development, security, upholding rights & entitlement of local communities, etc
  • Special Infrastructure Fund Scheme to the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha to set up a Special Task Force to combat LWE.
  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended recently to strengthen the punitive measures.
  • Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme: Under the scheme, the Central Government reimburses any expenditure related to LWE affected areas to the State Governments.
  • SAMADHAN approach is need of the hour for ‘Hard’ approach:

S – Smart Leadership

A - Aggressive strategy

M - Motivation and training

A - Actionable intelligence

D - Dashboard Based key performance indicators

H - Harnessing technology

A - Action plan for each theatre

N - No access to financing.

Steps taken for Soft Approach

  • Interaction: Bridge the gaps between security forces and locals through personal interaction.
  • Aspirational District Program: Monitoring of Aspirational districts in 35 LWE affected districts.
  • Media Plan: Activities like Tribal Youth Exchange programs are organized and radio jingles, documentaries, pamphlet distribution, etc. are being conducted.
  • Schemes & Policies: Various schemes like Roshni have been used to improve skill development.
    • Universal Service Obligation Fund supported the Scheme of Mobile Services to increase mobile connectivity.
    • Effective implementation of provisions of PESA, 1996 on priority.
    • Surrender and Rehabilitation policy for Naxalites in affected areas.
    • Facilities of residential schools to children – (e.g. Choolo Aasman, Pota Cabins, Nanhe Parinde) as well as focus on sports infrastructure.
    • National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGA) is being implemented in 330 districts affected by Naxalism for demand-driven wage employment.

Drawbacks in the Present Strategy

  • Inefficient Service Delivery: Naxal-affected areas remain deprived of basic services, justice delivery, and community participation among others.
  • Lack of coordination among the states – States have not done satisfactorily in joining hands for better synergy in their plans.
  • Lack of coordination between State police and Central forces – Results in security voids which are exploited by the Naxals.
  • Lack of streamlines way of intelligence sharing between states and regions.
  • Inability to maintain created infrastructure- It hampers the trust of locals and disrupts channels of communication for security forces.
  • Inability to curb sources of financing for Naxals – Demonetisation also proved to be insufficient.
  • Inadequate use of Technology- The use of drones, ground sensors, smart guns, AI, etc. has been inadequate in Naxal areas.

Way Forward

  • Good governance – Analyzing the drawbacks in the present strategy and developing a coherent national strategy to end the menace.
  • Dialogue - Between the Naxal group leaders, and the government officials help to work out a solution.
  • Employment generation - livelihood insecurities in the remote areas have left the people with the feeling of hopelessness, which drives them towards Naxalism
  • Working on empowerment of weaker sections - Socially and Economically weaker sections, the scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes still face discrimination from the upper class making them easy targets for the Naxals.


Though the country has made significant success in containing Naxalism, its root cause has not been addressed yet. The current two-pronged strategy of the central and the state governments that use ‘hard’ and ‘soft ’ approaches simultaneously, will go a long way in solving this problem. Furthermore, lessons can be learned from previous success stories like the ‘Operation Greyhound’ of Andra Pradesh. This will help India in fighting one of the biggest Internal security challenges.


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